HC Deb 03 April 1917 vol 92 cc1113-5
17. Mr. PETO

asked the Minister of Munitions whether orders placed in this country for the importation of agricultural tractors from America in the autumn of last year have not yet been delivered, although the machines have been awaiting shipment in America for several months; and whether he can state what arrangements will be made for the supply of transportation for these machines, so that they may be available for the autumn cultivation of the land?

Sir WORTHINGTON EVANS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions)

The circumstances referred to in the question are only to a limited extent within my knowledge. I understand that a certain number of agricultural tractors ordered in America some months ago have not been delivered, and that some have been awaiting shipment for some weeks. Facilities for shipping these machines, in so far as they: cannot be secured through the ordinary channels, could only be afforded by the Ministry if a request were made by the Board of Agriculture, and then only subject to space being available, having regard to other urgent national requirements.

18. Mr. PETO

asked the Minister of Munitions whether his Department have taken over for disposal all the agricultural tractors imported into this country by the Inernational Harvester company, of Great Britain; whether these tractors include machines ordered by individual, farmers for use for the spring cultivation of their own farms; and whether the Department are prepared to release the machines ordered by individual farmers, or, alternatively, what arrangements they are making to enable them to cultivate their land?


The Ministry of Munitions have not taken over for disposal all the agricultural tractors imported, into this country by the Internaional Harvester Company of Great Britain, Limited, but the Ministry have, on behalf of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, purchased from the company 186 agricultural tractors, which, it is believed, include machines ordered by individual users. The Ministry have no power to release any of these machines, as they have been and are being handed over? to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, on whose behalf the purchases have been made. The Ministry of Munitions have also diverted fifty 16-h.p. international harvester tractors to Ireland by the desire of the Department of Agriculture for? Ireland. The Ministry have made no arrangements for individual farmers to-cultivate their land. My hon. Friend' should recognise that the Ministry is acting in this matter merely as a supply department for the purchase of the machines, the disposal of which is under the control of the Board of Agriculture for England and Wales, the Board of "Agriculture for Scotland, and the Department of Agriculture for Ireland.


Am I to understand from the reply that the hon. Gentleman refers me now in this matter to the Board of Agriculture, and is he aware that the Board of Agriculture referred me to him?


I was not aware that the Board of Agriculture had referred the hon. Member to me. but, as I say, we are a supply department, and the disposal of the machines is not in our power, but in the power of the Board of Agriculture.


Can the hon. Gentleman say if the Ministry of Munitions refuse to issue licences for the import of these tractors?


I cannot say that without notice.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the hardship caused to the individual farmer who has ordered a tractor, and perhaps has sold his horses on the strength of getting one, and is now left without one or the other?


I know there may be cases of individual hardship, but, on the whole, the plain is intended for the better distribution of tractors in places where they are most required.