HC Deb 25 January 1940 vol 356 cc769-71
46. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Prime Minister whether, with a view to preventing confusion and ensuring adequate supplies of feeding-stuffs for poultry keepers and pig breeders; he will consider ending the dual control of the two Ministries of Agriculture and Food, whereby the Ministry of Agriculture are responsible for production and the Ministry of Food are responsible for controlling the raw materials for this production?

The Prime Minister

The volume of supplies of feeding-stuuffs available for pig and poultry keepers is governed by considerations of broad national policy for which the Government as a whole is responsible. There is no confusion arising from the respective functions of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, who is responsible for the supply and distribution of food and animal feeding-stuffs, and of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, who is responsible for home food production. They work in the closest collaboration and I see no reason to make any change in the existing arrangements.

Mr. De la B¸re

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there really is no system at all at present, and that this haphazard middle permits the Minister of Agriculture to ride off on the Minister of Food, and vice versa, and that the Minister of Agriculture is responsible but has no power; and is it not vitally urgent that some steps should be taken to rectify this wholly unsatisfactory position?

47. Lord Apsley

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the large stocks of food stuffs and feeding-stuffs that have accumulated, and are accumulating, both in this country and overseas; and what steps he will take to protect arable farmers in this country against the sharp fall in prices which is bound to occur when they are released?

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

It would not be in the public interest for me to accept or refute the statement in the first part of the Question. As regards the second part, I would remind my Noble Friend of the specific assurances that I gave on behalf of the Government on 14th December last in respect of the level of prices for home agricultural products and a reasonable measure of security for the industry.

Mr. T. Williams

Did I understand the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that he accepts or rejects the statement in the first part of the Question, namely, that feeding-stuffs are accumulating?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I said it was not in the public interest for me either to accept or repudiate the statement.

Mr. De la Bère

Are there not adequate stocks available in Chipping Sodbury for Sodbury Vale? Why should the agricultural population be treated in this way?

51. Sir J. Smedley Crooke

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the effect of the present restriction of imported poultry feeding stuffs is having a serious effect on a large number of disabled ex-service men who are obtaining a livelihood by keeping and rearing poultry and selling the eggs; and what steps he proposes to take to help these men under the circumstances?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I am aware of the position to which my hon. Friend refers and I have every sympathy with these disabled ex-service men in the difficulties which they are experiencing owing to the reduced supplies of feeding stuffs that are available for their poultry. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer him to the reply on this subject that I gave on 18th January to my hon. Friend the Member for Ton-bridge (Sir A. Baillie) and others.

Sir J. Smedley Crooke

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware of the pitiable plight of these disabled ex-service men and can he not do something to relieve their difficulties?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

We are doing our best to relieve their position and to enable them to get over this period of transition but the question of compensation, I am afraid, is one which cannot be considered.

Mr. De Chair

Is not the present plight of the poultry industry a good example of the Government's pre-war chickens coming home to roost?