HC Deb 14 November 1938 vol 341 cc483-5
38. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the low prices that are this season being offered for good quality malting barley; and whether he has any measures in contemplation with a view to remedying this serious situation?

41. Sir Thomas Cook

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has any statement to make upon the present prices obtainable for Norfolk barley?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am aware that the prices of barley are considerably lower than those ruling a year ago. The barley harvest this season has been abundant, and the heavier production has naturally been reflected in a fall in prices. I am not in a position to make any general statement on the position, but I would remind my hon. Friends that assistance to barley growers who do not elect to receive deficiency payments under the Wheat Act is available under the Agriculture Act, 1937.

Mr. Turton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Act has been of no use at all to the growers of malting barley, and only to those who are growers of feeding barley, and is he also aware that large imports of malting barley are coming in from overseas at the present time, and that the price of Yorkshire malting barley has been down as low as 20s. per quarter?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware of the fall in barley prices. The hon. Member must be aware that the assistance under the Agriculture Act is designed primarily for those producers who can produce only feeding barley. As regards imports, the figures show that there has been an increase, mostly from countries which normally supply the feeding variety and not malting barley.

Mr. Levy

Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to restrict the imports of malting barley so as to enable our Yorkshire farmers to haw a fair crack of the whip?

Mr. Morrison

There are difficulties in separating malting barley from feeding barley at the ports. It is a question of its destination.

Miss Wilkinson

Will the Minister take into consultation His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions as to the way in which they have managed to deal with the variations in agricultural prices?

Mr. Morrison

I am always willing to take into consultation any sources of information which will help agriculture in this country.

54. Mr. De Chair

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it would be practicable to place a high tariff at the ports on all imported barley, other than that which has been bruised, kibbled or stained, in order to give protection to the barley industry in this country, which is now in a critical condition, while ensuring an adequate suply of cheap barley for animal feeding purposes?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Import Duties Advisory Committee after full consideration of proposals for an increased duty on malting barley, came to the conclusion that an arrangement with the brewers under which they undertake to purchase a certain quantity of home-grown barley each year, would be preferable. I understand that the de-naturing of barley might not necessarily prevent its use for malting purposes while, on the other hand, the compulsory de-naturing of feeding barley is likely to increase its cost and reduce its keeping quality. It is doubtful, therefore, whether my hon. Friend's proposal would achieve its purpose.

Mr. De Chair

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the barley growers in Norfolk have been for a long time trying to keep the wolf from the door, that they have now given up the struggle, bolted the door and left the wolf out; and if the animal conies up here and chaws up the right hon. Gentleman, will he bear in mind that I have given him a fair warning?

Major Braithwaite

Have the Government any new proposals at all?

55. Mr. De Chair

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether brewers in Great Britain are taking a fair proportion of home-grown barley, or whether they have greatly increased their purchases of imported barley?

Mr. Morrison

The agreement made by the Brewers' Society with the Import Duties Advisory Committee was that brewers collectively would purchase certain minimum quantities of home grown barley in any year ending 30th June. The season has but recently begun, and there are, of course, no figures yet available to show what quantity of barley is being purchased by brewers this season.

56. Mr. De Chair

asked the Minister of Agriculture what assistance is afforded to the barley grower, under the Agriculture Act, 1937, when the price received by the grower is as low as 14s. per coomb; and whether he is satisfied that this is sufficient in the present circumstances?

Mr. Morrison

The scale of assistance to barley growers under Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1937, is determined by the average price of oats in the United Kingdom during the seven months ending 31st March, and by the acreage under barley in the United Kingdom in relation to the standard acreage. I am accordingly unable to state what would be the rate of subsidy in the particular circumstances suggested by my hon. Friend.