§ 46. Rear-Admiral SUETER
asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider passing before the House rises emergency legislation to assist early next year the agricultural industry and to prevent the increasing quantities of tomatoes, cucumbers, new potatoes, grapes, cut flowers, rose trees, etc., coming into this country?
§ 50. Viscount WOLMER
asked the Prime Minister if he is now able to make 493 a statement of the agricultural policy of the Government and the steps he proposes to take this session to carry it out?
§ 51. Mr. BOOTHBY
asked the Prime Minister when he will be in a position to announce the policy of the Government with regard to agriculture?
§ 118. Sir H. CROFT
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the decline in the sales of malting barley during the last two months; and whether it is intended to take any steps to assist barley growers, barley merchants, and others connected with this branch of agriculture?
§ 119. Major CARVER
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the reduction in the amount of beer being drunk as a result of the increased beer duties, he will take steps to ensure that so far as possible the reduced demand for malting barley shall not involve a reduction in the amount and price of that supplied from home sources?
§ 123. Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he can now make a statement as to agricultural policy to meet the present winter situation?
§ At end of Questions—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
During the short time it has been in office the Government has given earnest consideration to the agricultural situation. The problems to be solved are many and complex, and time will be required for the full development of a comprehensive policy, the success of which must depend in a great measure on the extent to which agriculturists themselves are prepared to develop the most efficient methods of production and marketing. Recognising, however, the special importance and urgency of the cereal situation, the Government has decided to apply the principle of a quota to home-produced wheat of milling quality and to introduce 494 legislation in time to enable a scheme to become effective for next year's crop. The scheme will be designed to secure for producers a certain market and to enable them to obtain an enhanced price, subject to a statutory maximum, for wheat of milling quality. No contribution from the Exchequer by way of subsidy will be involved, and it is not intended to encourage the extension of the cultivation of wheat to land unsuitable for that purpose. It will be necessary to discuss the details of the scheme with the industries concerned, and I am initiating these discussions forthwith.
The Government fully recognise that there are other aspects of the arable situation which demand attention, and problems relating to other crops, including barley, are under close investigation.
The Government have also decided to introduce a Bill directed to the reduction, through the operation of tariffs, of imports into this country of certain nonessential agricultural and horticultural products which, in many cases, owing to early maturity, anticipate the home crop. I propose to introduce this Bill early next week.
Other aspects of agricultural policy are receiving close attention with due appreciation of their importance. The Government, however, fully alive to the present anxiety of agriculturists and to the desirability of an early interim announcement, put forward these proposals in the hope that they may assist in restoring that confidence in the countryside which is a necessary preliminary to the revival of the industry, to which the policy as a whole will be directed.
§ Sir Douglas NEWTON
Arising out of the very important statement which has just been made by the Minister of Agriculture, I desire respectfully to ask him if he will possibly be able to make a further announcement in respect of sugar-beet? Farmers, agriculturists, and workers alike will be particularly gratified if the National Government will be prepared to make a statement.
§ Sir D. NEWTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to let us know when the Government will be able to make a statement on sugar-beet?
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
When considering the other interests involved, will the Minister consider the milling interests and the interests of the master bakers?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The answer I have given clearly indicates that I am in consultation with those interests.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
I should like to be permitted to say that the statement that the Minister has just made will be received with very great satisfaction and relief not only by agriculturists, but by a great number of industrialists who still believe that agriculture is one of the essential industries of the country.
§ Major MILNER
Will any provision be included with regard to minimum wages for those engaged in the industry, or any other safeguards to ensure their getting some benefit from the scheme?
§ Mr. MAXTON
Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the Government have decided to apply a quota to home-grown wheat, and that, having made that decision, they will proceed to discuss with the interests concerned whether it can be done or not?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The announcement was that the Government had decided to introduce legislation in order that it may be available for next year's crop. I shall consult with the interests concerned, and we shall decide how the matter can be solved.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Is my right hon. Friend aware that very important contracts in regard to sugar-beet have all to be signed very shortly, and may we have a date to discuss the whole agricultural question generally before the House rises, after the Bill has been introduced?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The latter part of that question obviously should be addressed to the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. HARRIS
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the price of bread has already gone up, and that other foodstuffs have risen, including milk, during the last few weeks, and will he secure that the quota is conditional on no further increase in the price of the necessaries of life?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Is it the Government's considered policy to apply tariffs first and think about marketing afterwards?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
Do the Government intend to take no action to assist the cereal producers of Scotland?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am not satisfied that we are not doing so under this scheme. As I have indicated, other problems will have to be considered by the Government.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
Would the right hon. Gentleman state whether the proposed legislation has received the approval of the Lord Privy Seal?