HC Deb 21 January 1924 vol 169 cc491-2
23. Mr. MORSE

asked the President of the Board of Education, as representing the Minister of Agriculture, whether he is aware that a large amount is still owing to farmers in Somerset who grew flax at the invitation of the Government during the War; whether he has received any claims on this account; and whether and, if so, when the claims are likely to be settled?

Colonel GIBBS

As the answer is rather long I propose, with the hon. Member's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

My right hon. Friend is aware that a considerable sum is due to farmers in Somerset and the neighbouring counties under contracts which they entered into with Wessex Flax Factories, Limited, a private company which purchased in 1920 seven flax factories in Somerset and Dorset which had been established during the War by the Flax Production Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture. There are no sums owing in respect of any contracts made with the farmers by the Government. The financial position of the company has not altered since the reply of the 23rd July, 1923, to a question asked by the late Mr. Aubrey Herbert. Its affairs are in the hands of a receiver and manager, who has been unable, so far, to dispose of the greater part of the assets. No payment has yet been made to either of the debenture holders (viz., the National Provincial and Union Bank of England, Limited, who hold considerably more than half, and the Ministry), and the amount of any ultimate return to them, and to the grower creditors, who are unsecured, is wholly dependent upon the receiver and manager being able to find purchasers for the land, buildings and plant at the various factories. When the assets of the company are realised, it may be possible to consider whether some relief cannot be given to the growers out of the Government's share as debenture holders, but at present no such action is possible. A few claims have been received at the Ministry and have been forwarded to the receiver and manager.