§ 64. Mr. WATT
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether the cause of the shortage of potatoes in the markets of the country is duo to the fact that farmers are asked to part at £9 per ton with their potatoes, while they have to buy feeding stuffs for their animals at £16 to £21 per ton; and whether, in these circumstances, the Food Controller proposes to put any limiting price on what can be charged for all kinds of feeding stuffs which the farmer has to buy; if so, when it will be done; and will it be before the stocks of potatoes are all consumed?
I cannot agree with the hon. Member in attributing the shortage of potatoes in the markets to the cause suggested by him. As I have already stated, this shortage must be attributed mainly, if not wholly, to the fact that the last potato crop was abnormally small. I may add that the price of at least one of the most important feeding stuffs, namely, wheat offals, is much below the figures quoted by him, and in any case the feeding value of potatoes is very low as compared with that of the more concentrated animal foods. The feeding of sound potatoes to live stock is strongly to be deprecated.
Is the price of feeding stuffsbeing regulated as promised recently by the President of the Board of Agriculture?
Yes; this matter is now in the hands of a Commission which is dealing with the matter.
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman think the solution of this all-important problem is for the Government to commandeer all the potatoes and pay the farmers at the market prices?
That question is being considered, but at the moment it is most undesirable to take that course, which would seriously disorganise the potato trade and possibly prove of no advantage to the consumer.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
When the Government fixed the price of milk in England as against the farmer, is there anything to prevent fixing the price of foodstuffs in the farmer's favour?
No; the price of milk in England was not fixed against the farmer, but after careful consultation with the representatives of the leading dairy farmers' organisations throughout the country, and the price eventually fixed was fixed with their assent, and in fixing it full account was taken of the cost of production.
§ 66. Mr. GEORGE FABER
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in view of the demand for potatoes both for seed and for food purposes, steps can be taken to prevent ignorant persons using seed potatoes for food and so diminishing the crops for the present year?
An Order was made in December last year prohibiting the use for any other purpose than seed of all the principal kinds of potatoes suitable for seed. Any person selling seed potatoes to anyone who is not a recognised dealer in such potatoes is required by the Order to obtain a declaration from the buyer to the effect that the potatoes are to be used for seed.
Certainly there is, and if my hon. Friend can bring any case to my notice in which this Order is not being observed, action shall be taken.
That is a very difficult question to answer. If all those who are looking to Scotland for the supply of their seed expect to be provided from that source, I am afraid they will be disappointed, and I strongly recommend growers to use their own seed, particularly if it has come recently from Scotland, rather than wait for a prolonged period in the expectation of getting Scottish seed which may not be available.