HC Deb 23 February 1939 vol 344 cc570-2
Mr. T. Williams

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is in a position to make any further statement regarding assistance to growers of cereals in respect of the 1938 crops?

The Minister of Agriculture (Colonel Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith)

The Government have given further consideration to the proposed additional subsidy to be paid to growers of barley of the 1938 crop which was announced on 9th December last. Since then a general review of the agricultural situation has been undertaken and is now the subject of discussion with representatives of the farming industry. This general examination has included the review of the degree of assistance afforded to feeding barley and oats under the Agriculture Act, 1937, mentioned in the concluding portion of the announcement of 9th December.

As a result of this review the Government have reached the conclusion that it is necessary to give additional assistance to barley and oats, and they propose that when the long-term policy has been finally settled it should be applied retrospectively, as far as is practicable, to both these cereals in respect of the 1938 crops. Although details of the policy are still under discussion, it is proposed in the forthcoming long-term legislation to remove the restriction contained in the Agriculture Act under which the receipt of deficiency payments for wheat renders growers ineligible for subsidy in respect of barley and oats, and to provide that assistance should, in principle be available concurrently for all three cereal crops.

No temporary legislation authorising an increased rate of subsidy for the 1938 crop of barley will, therefore, be introduced, as was originally contemplated, and in the meantime growers of barley and oats whose applications have been accepted will, at the appropriate time, be paid the subsidy to which they are entitled under the provisions of the Agriculture Act, 1937. The sums so paid will be treated as advances of whatever revised subsidy payments are finally decided upon under the proposed retrospective provisions of the long-term legislation for these cereals.

Mr. Williams

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House what are the changed circumstances since 9th December, apart from the fact that there has been a new Minister of Agriculture?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

A review, a very detailed review, has taken place, and certain things have come to light during that review which have led the Government to come to this decision.

Mr. Williams

Are we, then, to assume that the £400,000 granted to barley growers on 9th December was granted without the Government having reviewed the position at all? May I ask, further, whether, since the 1938 crop was a record yield, the contemplated subsidy will be given for the whole of the barley output in that year, and whether no more than a similar subsidy will be granted when nature has not been quite so kind as it was then?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

Perhaps the hon. Member will be content to await the Bill before we go into all the details, but I would point out that the review was started by my predecessor and has been going on for some time.

Mr. Williams

As we have been having instalments of the Government's long-term agricultural policy annually during the past seven or eight years, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea as to when the whole policy will be before us?

Mr. J. Morgan

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea as to what the total amount of the additional subsidy will be, and also whether any conditions will be introduced in connection with this assistance for the purpose of seeing that the farm worker is included in any benefits arising from this additional subsidy?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I must ask hon. Members to await the Bill before asking me to go into details.

Mr. H. Morrison

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication to the House of the total cost to public funds involved in the Government's efforts to retain the support of the agricultural constituencies?

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are we to regard the retrospective nature of this assistance as a precedent; and can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in future, in connection with such matters as workmen's compensation any increase will be made retrospective?

Forward to