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Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 8 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many acres of land are now in the Charge of his Department; and what are his plans for a further reduction of this acreage.

Of 154,000 acres in my charge, 74,000 acres are being sold. Thirty-one thousand acres are held by my Department for research, experiments and other Departmental purposes. This leaves 49,000 acres which will be sold or transferred to the Forestry Commission as opportunity offers.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress that has been made in the last two years, but may I ask whether he will continue to get rid of land that is surplus to his requirements and that of the Forestry Commission?

Yes, Sir. It is our intention to proceed with this as is right and proper in the appropriate circumstances.

Will the right hon. Gentleman resist any doctrinaire approach from his back benchers—an approach which could do harm to land like Forestry Commission land which is held for good public reasons?

There is nothing doctrinaire about the approach to this. It is merely that we wish to return those areas of land which Departments have no good reason for holding. I do not see anything doctrinaire in that.

As good agricultural land is continually lost, much of it to essential development, will my right hon. Friend keep a careful eye on that and which is held by other Ministries and try to persuade his right hon. Friends in those Ministries to keep their requirements down to a minimum?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was not accusing him of being doctrinaire, but some of his hon. Friends who support him from time to time?

Grey Squirrels


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to check the continuing increase in the number of grey squirrels since the bonus scheme for tails ended; and what conclusion was reached by the Forestry Commission as a result of this assignment of an additional officer to study this problem in 1959.

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

I have nothing to add to the full Answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) on 8th December, 1961. The conclusions in that Answer were based on the studies of the officer employed by the Forestry Commission on grey squirrel research.

Is my hon. Frend aware that this is becoming a major problem in hardwood plantations? It is all very fine for the Forestry Commission, which is planting almost entirely soft woods, but this is becoming such a severe problem that it is almost getting to the stage of owners having to plant hardwoods for these grey squirrels to eat.

I understand the severity of the problem in certain areas, and it is for this reason that the Timber Growers' Organisation and the Forestry Commission are making a special effort this year.

Meat Inspection


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that the salaries and conditions are sufficient to attract enough meat and food inspectors to deal adequately with meat inspection; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend has no responsibility for the salaries and conditions of officers employed by local authorities on meat inspection. As to the rest of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) on 5th February.

The hon. Gentleman says that his right hon. Friend has no responsibility for the salaries of meat inspectors, but has not he a responsibility to make representations to the Treasury that they should get a much better salary than they do at present because of the 28 per cent. shortage of inspectors in large cities and the need, in the interests of health, for there to be adequate inspection of meat?

We are in touch with my right hon. and learned Friend's Department. The result of the recent recruitment together with the steady reduction in the number of slaughterhouses is having an effect.

Can the Minister give us more information—not now, perhaps, but at some time—about this reduction in the number of slaughterhouses? We have the impression that more slaughterhouses are being opened. Will he bear in mind that it is five years since we had a categorical promise that there would be quick developments towards a 100 per cent. meat inspection?

There is definitely a downward trend in the number of slaughterhouses. I will send the hon. Member details.

Quarantine Restrictions (Dogs)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are his regulations in regard to the applicability of quarantine restrictions for dogs entering the United Kingdom from Eire.

No quarantine restrictions are imposed on dogs entering Great Britain from the Irish Republic, where quarantine arrangements identical with ours are maintained.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Eire officials are strictly enforcing the quarantine regulations? Is he aware that dogs have been known to enter Eire from various parts of the world without being subject to quarantine restrictions, and have then come into the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend may have information about a certain case which I certainly have not. I understand that the Government of the Irish Republic are as anxious as we are to maintain a clean record, because of the serious risks to man, as well as to dogs, which rabies presents.



asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in the interests of the taxpayer, the consumer and the producer, he will set up a meat working party.

No, Sir. I have considered the possibility of arranging to give guidance to consumers about retail meat prices, but have concluded that the difficulties are overwhelming. Retail prices vary very widely from district to district and from shop to shop. I have discussed with the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations how to keep consumers better informed. During recent months they have instituted a weekly news service in which they issue to the Press statements indicating the best buys in the butchers' shops each week in different parts of the country.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the steps that he has already taken. Does not he agree, however, that consumer resistance plays a very important part in helping to prevent the sort of muddle we had during last year over meat prices? Will he put this point to the new committee on meat marketing which he is setting up?

The differential between wholesale and retail prices will certainly be one of the factors which the new committee will be considering. I know what is going through my hon. Friend's mind. I sympathise with his aim, but as the price of meat varies so much throughout the country it would not be possible to stipulate an overall price.

Horticulture Improvement Scheme (Fork-Lift Trucks)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now consider making fork-lift trucks eligible for grants under the Horticulture Improvement Scheme.

This suggestion, together with a number of others, is being considered by the Ministry for possible inclusion in the Horticulture Improvement Scheme.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that news, as I am sure the whole industry will be, but may I ask my hon. Friend whether he would agree that this equipment plays a vital part in the work of packing stations, and that the prosperity of the industry depends upon the efficiency of pre-packing and marketing? I hope, therefore, that there will be a favourable decision in the matter. Secondly, if and when we reach agreement upon entry into the E.E.C., does my hon. Friend agree that there will be a need to review the whole grant scheme, with a view to ensuring that our growers are in a position to compete on equal terms, especially with our Dutch competitors?

Groundnut Meal


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he proposes to take about the reports which he has received from his Veterinary Laboratory during recent months, describing the poisonous properties of certain batches of groundnut meal fed to farm animals; and what steps he is taking to ensure that such contaminated batches of groundnut meal are not being used in foodstuffs for consumption in this country in the form of margarine, peanut butter or coconut oils.

It would be difficult to answer briefly all the matters raised in the hon. Member's Question. I will therefore, with permission, circulate a detailed reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I can, however, assure the hon. Member that groundnut meal is not used in the manufacture of the products mentioned in the second part of the Question. It is refined groundnut oil which is used in making margarine and cooking oils and I am advised that the toxin is not present in it. With regard to peanut butter, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for Science gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) on 27th February.

In view of the serious nature of the article which appeared in the British Medical Journal a short time ago, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that every possible step is being taken in order to avoid the possibility of toxic effects from the use of these materials?

Yes, Sir. Considerable research has been carried out on this question, and it is continuing at present. An inter-departmental working party has been set up by the D.S.I.R., the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council, the Department for Technical Co-operation and my Department, to keep under review all the current research relevant to this toxicity.

Following is the information:

The work on toxicity in certain batches of groundnut meal which has been done by the Ministry's veterinary staff at Weybridge, in collaboration with the Tropical Products Institute of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, has been described in a series of articles in the Veterinary Record starting last April.
A great deal has been done by the Ministry's Veterinary Service, with the co-operation of the feedingstuffs trade, to reduce losses in livestock. Turkeys and ducklings are notably more susceptible than other species, but the incidence of the reported attacks among poultry has fallen from 410 cases in the first twelve months from the spring of 1960 to 69 cases in the nine months up to 31st December. Some of the younger farm animals are also susceptible, but during the twenty-one months for which records have been kept there have only been about 90 incidents.
The toxic factor is not inherent in the groundnut itself and it has been shown that it is produced by a strain of the mould Aspergillus flavus. The conditions under which this develops are being studied in producing areas, with a view to recommending methods of cultivation, handling and storage which will avoid contamination. Research has produced a method of detecting the toxic factor, and sampling and testing are being carried out to ascertain the incidence of the toxin in imports.
There has been the fullest co-operation in the necessary research and investigatory work among the Ministry's research staff at Weybridge, the Tropical Products Institute of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the laboratories of the commercial firms concerned.

Fowl Pest


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give detailed reasons for the increase in the Supplementary Estimate by almost 100 per cent. of the original estimate for compensation for fowl pest; and if he will make a statement.

The subhead referred to by my hon. Friend covers compensation payments to farmers for animals and birds slaughtered on account of all diseases and also covers related expenses, such as those for disinfection. The original Estimate was about £3·2 million, and this included £1 million for fowl pest compensation. The Supplementary Estimate increased the provision to about £6·2 million, of which fowl pest compensation accounted for £4·5 million. The increase in the provision for fowl pest compensation was necessary because of the continued heavy incidence of fowl pest during most of the financial year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a very authoritative source in his Department said, as recently as 1961, that £1,250,000 was normal and tolerable for such compensation? Can he confirm that in January payment of compensation for fowl pest reached almost £750,000?

In 1958–59 the total expenditure on fowl pest compensation was £1 million. It is very difficult to estimate ahead what compensation for a disease of this nature is likely to amount to during the year. Hitherto we have followed the practice of putting in what I might call a floor estimate—a figure below which we have thought it unlikely to go. As a result of a recommendation of the Estimates Committee we have now tried to make what I might call more realistic assumptions, and we are putting in for a higher figure this year.

In view of the fact that these figures show the seriousness of this disease, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that enough research has been done on the question of eradication?

The question of fowl pest has been given great attention by the Plant Committee, whose report will be published during the course of this month.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Plant Committee is taking a long time over its investigations? Is it not possible to expedite its investigations? While it has been cogitating millions of pounds have been spent. Secondly, is my right hon. Friend aware that many scientists believe that the present form of fowl pest is less virulent that the old form, and can be effectively dealt with by inoculation? In view of those two facts, is it not clear that a lot of money may have been wasted by the slow progress of this and many other scientific committees which are constantly being set up by Government Departments?

It is difficult to estimate what time, in a perfect world, a committee ought to take to report on any particular subject. This is a very complex matter. I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that the Plant Committee was anxious to give as authoritative, effective and useful advice as it could to Her Majesty's Government. This it has done, and it has taken the time it thought right to do so.



asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the average price per dozen for eggs of standard grade received by producers in the month of January, 1962; and how the figure compares with that for January, 1961.

The minimum price to producers declared by the British Egg Marketing Board for eggs of standard grade averaged 2s. 10·8d. in January, 1962, and 3s. 4·1d. in January, 1961.

As the February figures must have become available since this Question was first put down, would my right hon. Friend care to give me them? In any case, will he continue to work closely with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on the question of importation from Poland? Despite the favourable answer given by the Minister of State, Board of Trade in a Written Answer on Monday, a great deal of misgiving still exists about the possibility of this importation affecting the British egg price.

My hon. Friend asked specifically for the January figures in his Question, and there is a later Question on the Order Paper asking for the figures for the first quarter of the year, or the first two months, which will cover my hon. Friend's point. As to the levels of imports, it is most important that we should keep the matter in proportion. The figures for January, 1962, show that 2,032,000 boxes of home-produced eggs went through the packing stations, compared with 1,879,000 in January, 1961. This is an increase of about 8 per cent. in home-produced eggs going through the packing stations. During the same period total imports amounted to about 72,000 boxes, compared with about 125,000 boxes last January.

Is the Minister aware that the position is even worse than has been stated, because the current packing station price for standard eggs is now half-a-crown a dozen? Will he explain how an egg producer with, say, an overhead charge of 37s per cwt. for pellets, can possibly produce eggs at the present price without subsidising production out of his own pocket?


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on current egg supplies and the measures being taken to prevent a repetition of the market collapse which occurred last spring.

During the first nine weeks of this year ending on 3rd March, packing stations in the United Kingdom handled 3,867,000 boxes of eggs, accounting probably for about two-thirds of home production. This figure is 11 per cent. higher than that for the corresponding period of 1961. According to trade sources, imports to 3rd March were 133,000 boxes, which is slightly less than half the total during the corresponding period last year.

Although prices fell at the end of February this year the average price for the month was little lower than usual. There was a fall at this time last year too, but it was by no means a collapse. Prices compared favourably with previous years. Some fall in prices in the spring is to be expected.

Will my right hon. Friend recall that the real trouble last year came in March and April and at that time the British Egg Marketing Board was in funds, which enabled it to cushion the home producer to quite a useful extent, whereas this year I am afraid that its funds are not so good? Will he keep that in mind as home production will increase in the next few weeks and we cannot afford to take seasonal surpluses from other countries at this time?

As my hon. Friend knows, representations have been made to the President of the Board of Trade on this matter by the Egg Marketing Board and he has already told the House that he is considering these facts.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now explain how it is possible for a British egg producer to sell eggs at half-a-crown a dozen to the packing station and make any profit on the transaction in view of the very heavy overheads he has to bear at the moment?

The rate of increase of home production of eggs does not lead one to believe that it is an unprofitable venture for the efficient producers who produce in large numbers.

I am sorry, but I called another hon. Member. I did not in fact see the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) rise.

Sugar Beet


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cases are known to him where the contract acreage of suger beet allocated to a farm exceeds one quarter of the arable acreage of the farm.

The British Sugar Corporation has agreed to supply as much of this information as it can but it will take some time as there are over 30,000 sugar beet growers. I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

I appreciate the difficulty of obtaining this information fully in a short time. Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that this is a guaranteed price crop and that it is bad husbandry to grow sugar beet more than once in four years on any land? Will he try to ensure that the British Sugar Corporation does not issue contracts where a high proportion of sugar beet is grown on farms, and thus make the contract acreage available? Is he aware that there are many small growers in my district and elsewhere who would like to participate in one of those contracts?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Minister does not allocate contracts. The British Sugar Corporation makes its contracts with farmers within certain totals. The hon. Gentleman also knows that for many small farmers the most economic way of growing sugar beet is for them to plant a large part of their acreage in one year and then plant other crops for the requisite number of years until the growing of sugar beet is again permissible in order to avoid eel worm infestation; so that it is a different rotation on a small farm.

Dairy Industry (Profitability)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the profitability of the dairying industry.

Some indication of the profitability of dairy farming is given by the National Investigation into the Economics of Milk Production carried out by the University Departments of Agricultural Economics. The latest results, for 1960–61 as compared with 1956–57, show that the increase in production costs per gallon was negligible but this has been accompanied by a reduction in the pool price due to increased national production. Although the profit margin per gallon has consequently fallen, yields per cow and the average size of the herd in the country generally have risen.

Is the Minister aware that the latest cut of 1d. a gallon in the February price of milk makes it the lowest final average price for milk for this month since decontrol, and what does he intend to do about the unabated flood of milk? Is he aware that the latest available figures show that the profitability of the industry was down by 19 per cent. compared with last year?

I feared that the hon. Member had put down this Question in order to ask what I was proposing to do about it. We are in the middle of the Annual Price Review the results of which I shall be announcing, and it would not be in order to comment on it at present.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the value of milk in real terms to the farmers is less now than it was twenty-five years ago, and that, relatively, the cost of distribution has increased?

I should like notice of that supplementary question before answering in detail. But I think my hon. Friend would agree that the price fixed for the standard quantity of milk is one which would ensure a very reasonable return to the farmer.



asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the incidence of brucellosis amongst cattle in England and Wales during 1961.

Information collected during a recent survey of this disease in dairy herds is being assembled and it is hoped that the results will be available in about three months.

In the meantime would my hon. Friend consider giving some information of the extent to which the germ brucellosis is found in T.T. milk, in view of the fact that the disease can be communicated to human beings, in which event it is rarely, if ever, correctly diagnosed by the medical profession, as was the unhappy experience of one of my unfortunate constituents?

Brucellosis is not present in heat-treated milk, which forms the greater part of the country's milk supply. I should not like to guess the result of the survey. It is likely to show great differences between different parts of the country, and even between different herds in the same district.

Sea Defences, Suffolk And Norfolk


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied that the sea defences in Suffolk and Norfolk are strong enough to withstand a flood like that which recently hit Germany; and if he will make a statement.

The sea defences in Suffolk and Norfolk have almost entirely been brought up to the standards recommended by the Waverley Committee, which reported after the coastal floods of 1953.

A report on the recent disaster in Hamburg, prepared after consultation with the German authorities, will be considered by the Ministry's Advisory Committee on Oceanographic and Meteorological Research. We have other steps in mind, including a visit to Hamburg by drainage experts, to make sure that we learn all the lessons we can from this disaster.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that it is reported that the surge of flood water was 5 ft. higher in Hamburg than in 1953 on the Suffolk coast? Is he aware, further, that one of my constituents has twice had his land flooded in the last year and that only last night there was a breach in the sea wall in North Essex? Is he satisfied that these walls are up to the right standard?

I never said I was satisfied because that would be a rash statement to make in regard to sea defences. I did say that we had done a great deal of work in this country since 1953 to improve coastal defences, and we intend to learn all the lessons we can from what has recently happened.

Will my hon. Friend say not only whether the defences are strong enough but whether they are high enough? The Waverley standards were arrived at a long time ago. In view of recent incidents abroad, would not it be a good thing if the standard height for sea defences were reviewed again now?

These things are constantly under review. My answer was intended to cover both height and strength. The Waverley Committee was considering what one might take as the worst case.

As there was a breach in the sea walls in my constituency, this morning, Mr. Speaker, may I be allowed to ask a supplementary question?

I am sorry, but we are making very bad progress with Questions, and there are quite a lot of breaches in sea walls in the constituencies of other hon. Members.

Meat Marketing (Committee)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now give the name of the chairman and members of the committee of inquiry into the marketing of fatstock; when the committee is expected to meet; and whether he will request it to expedite its report, in view of the urgent need for a thorough reappraisal of the whole system of meat marketing.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has now appointed a chairman for the committee to inquire into meat marketing; how many other members he intends to appoint; and if the committee will report by the end of this year.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now announce the personnel of the committee to investigate meat marketing

Sir Reginald Verdon Smith has agreed to become Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry. I shall make an announcement about the composition of the Committee as soon as I can.

I welcome this reply. May I ask why there has been such a long delay since the debate on agriculture before making the announcement? May we have an assurance that the Committee will report before we have to face another Supplementary Estimate this year for a further £78 million.

I do not accept that it has been a long time. The formation of a Committee of this standard and importance inevitably takes some time.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us what kind of people he proposes to add to the Committee? Are they to be experts or outside business men? Will he keep in mind that this is a most important and urgent problem to which members of the farming community are directing their minds, and that they would like to know what is in the mind of the Minister?

As to the composition of the Committee, it is our view that it should be a small and completely independent Committee.

Is the Minister aware that he should bear in mind what has been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) and that we desire to know what is in the Government's mind? It is all very well to have a Committee, and we should like it to act quickly, but is the Minister aware that the Government must take the initiative at some time?

Calf Rearing (Broiler System)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the result of the investigations carried out at his experimental centre into the rearing of calves by the broiler system, referred to in his Parliamentary Answer on 16th May, 1960; and if he will make a statement.

Early in 1960 a small-scale observation study was carried out at Great House Experimental Husbandry Farm. Satisfactory results were obtained in this case by allowing the calves reasonable freedom of movement in small groups in ordinary accommodation, and keeping them not in darkness but in a subdued light. There was no evidence to suggest that the special milk substitute used in this method of rearing was detrimental to the health of the calves, to live weight gain, or to the quality of the final products.

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply. Can he state with confidence that he has equal assurance that the methods being used on many private farms are not leading to cruelty in the rearing of calves? Is he aware that this is a matter which has roused very great public interest? What assurances can he give that he is satisfied that on private farms there is no abuse?

One cannot say that one is satisfied that nowhere is an animal kept in domestic conditions subjected to any form of cruelty. But there is a law in this country to prevent cruelty. I did try to show that when calves are being fed for veal there is no reason why it should be under unpleasant conditions.

Flood Prevention Work, North Lewisham


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what plans he has for expediting flood prevention work in the Manor Lane area of North Lewisham;

(2) when he will reply to the letter of 2nd February from the Deputy Clerk of the London County Council about flood prevention work in the Rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne.

Since the London County Council wrote on 2nd February, we have received the plans promised in the letter and other details. These are being considered in conjunction with the council's comprehensive proposals for the River Ravensbourne. A reply has now been sent to the council explaining that we hope to be in a position in two or three weeks' time to say whether or not we can approve the proposals for the Manor Lane area in isolation from the comprehensive scheme.

While I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he realises that this matter is extremely urgent? Many people in this area are not able to get insurance cover because the flooding has been so long and so severe. Will he realise that it is in the spring that this flooding has always occurred, and that if no action has been taken within the next few weeks his Department will be about as popular with my constituents as the mud which will then flow into their basements.

Apart from the last sentence of that supplementary question, I appreciate that this matter is urgent, but I hope my hon. Friend realises that this scheme is extremely difficult and extremely costly compared with many other schemes in different parts of the country. We hope, however, to make some progress shortly.

Veterinary Surgeons


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the fact that in this country there are only 103 qualified veterinary surgeons for each one million animals as compared with France where there are 194 and Denmark where there are 186, what steps he is taking to encourage the expansion of the teaching facilities in veterinary colleges and an increase in the number of students in those colleges.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has told me of its anxieties about the number of veterinary surgeons likely to be available in the future and I intend to have a study made of the steps we could take to improve the position.

Can the Minister tell us the reason for this disparity in the figures and for the inferiority we have to accept compared with France and Denmark? If he does know the reason, will he tell us?

I do not think it is necessarily right that the number of veterinary surgeons per million animals in one country which perhaps has a large acreage but a scattered population would be the same as the figure appropriate for a small country with a concentrated population of animals.

Horticultural Produce (Marketing)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will institute further research into the marketing of horticultural produce and in particular into the development, design and operation of packing houses and mechanical aids to facilitate standard packs.

This is one of the objects for which the Horticultural Marketing Council has been set up under the Horticulture Act, 1960. It is already studying a variety of subjects, including the standardisation of grades and containers. If the hon. Member has in mind any particular line of research or development, perhaps he will let me know.

Although I am grateful to the Minister for making that statement, may I ask him to bear in mind that there is a measure of urgency in this matter, particularly in view of the dangers to the horticultural industry in the event of our entering the Common Market?

Yes, a great deal is being done in the way of research by the Horticultural Marketing Council.

European Economic Community


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now make available an English translation of the regulations, decisions and resolutions adopted by the Council of the European Economic Community on 14th January, 1962.

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, said in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) on 26th February.

Is not the Minister aware that, despite statements by himself earlier and also by the Lord Privy Seal, there is still a feeling that hon. Members are not supplied with proper information about the agreement in Brussels? Hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that more information should be given and that there should be available to every hon. Member at least the English translation of the recent Brussels agreement.

I think the hon. Member knows full well that this is a matter over which we have no control inasmuch as this is a document which has been prepared by the European Economic Community and it has not yet been made available. As soon as it is made available the French version will be placed in the Library of the House and a translation will be made available to hon. Members.

In view of the promise made on 29th January that very soon something would be put in the Library, is there not an obligation on my right hon. Friend to put information in the Library for the use of hon. Members studying this subject? Surely he must have some information in the Department?

The important thing is that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal spoke of information "which is reliable." Reliable information will be the final text which comes from Brussels, from the Community. We do not think that it would be useful to place in the Library any document which is not a final document emanating from Brussels, the timing of which is not within our control.

The right hon. Gentleman and his Department must have some official documents. They must know what they are negotiating about. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask that hon. Members should be informed? At present hon. Members have to rely on second-hand information from other organisations. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter?

We have a lot of provisional information. So has the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and others. We find it possible to get a lot of information which is provisional, but when the Government officially have to make a document available to hon. Members, it must be a full and final text.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Lord Privy Seal stated in a recent reply that the Government could proceed in the negotiations upon the information that has so far been received? Why, therefore, cannot hon. Members have the information so far received?

The negotiations have not been in any way held up in the very broad field which they cover by lack of a final document, but when Her Majesty's Government are concerned officially in giving information to hon. Members it must be the final version which they make available.

As this information must be in the Department, cannot the Minister put in the Library what is known so far? We shall understand that it is provisional and not official, but at present we have to rely on information from the National Farmers' Union.

The hon. Member is very understanding, but he would agree that it should be the final text which should be published by the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and it might well be misleading—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—if a text were published which in the event did not coincide exactly with the final text.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that this matter is of considerable importance to the House of Commons and that yesterday the Lord Privy Seal on a larger aspect made an interim statement, surely it would be in order for the Government to make an interim statement on this position?

The hon. Member rose to a point of order. What is the point that he desires to make?

It is to request the Government to make an interim statement on this subject.

Every day I have to appeal to hon. Members to abandon the practice of rising to bogus points of order.

Sea Defences And Coast Protection


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will consult the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs with a view to making sea defences and coast protection a joint national responsibility.

No. Sir. The Exchequer already makes very substantial contributions towards the cost of coast protection and sea defence works, but the Government take the view that there should also be some local contributions.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a far greater significance in this Question than there was two days ago, because of the happenings in the last two days? Is he aware that in parts of Cornwall, once again, there has been great destruction and loss of life? This happens year after year. How long are we to wait before we get some national action from his Ministry and his right hon. Friend so that this distress is prevented?

Regarding the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is, I understand a Private Notice Question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government concerning the floods in Cornwall. On the broad question of the present arrangements, the Government are supported by the views expressed by the Waverley Committee and they regard the recommendations of that Committee which they have put into effect as being the best possible steps that can be made.

In view of the loss of a considerable acreage of agricultural land, apart from the loss of life, and so on, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) mentioned, will the Minister keep this matter under review?

In view of the quite unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible date.