HC Deb 04 February 1942 vol 377 cc1210-2

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £69,000 be granted to his Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1942, for sundry grants in aid of scientific investigation, etc., and other grants.

Captain Crookshank

This Vote covers two different points. First, there was the decision by His Majesty's Government to give a new, a more important and an independent status to the Agricultural Research Council and, in fact, to bring it up to the status of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Medical Research Council. The need for research into many agricultural matters is so great, that if a change of status in that way helps to accomplish what is required, I am sure hon. Gentlemen will not see any objection to it. Those recommendations are being put into effect. One of the results of that is to change the source from which this council has been financed—the Development Commissioners have previously found the money—and to put it directly upon the Votes. That does not make much difference because, by and large, Parliament finances the Development Commissioners by grants in aid and this is merely putting this particular expenditure on to another Vote. It is a purely technical matter which arises as a result of raising the status of the Council.

There is also a deficiency in appropriations-in-aid which appears under sub-Head "Z". Under the first sub-Head "M" there is an increase on the original Estimate of £26,000. That additional sum is required in order to meet the growing needs of the Agricultural Research Council for research stations and administrative expenses and research purposes generally. Therefore, what this Vote really means is, first, that we are raising the status of the Agricultural Research Council and we are for the rest of the year giving it a larger sum than had been anticipated in the main Estimates. In any case, it will be getting those moneys not through the Development Commissioners but directly from the Vote, though that last point, in itself, as I have explained, does not make any real difference.

Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)

May I ask whether these grants or any part of them will go to the agricultural colleges to assist them in carrying out their functions in connection with agricultural research?

Captain Crookshank

Of course, there is an enormous number of grants and technically they come under the Department of the Lord President of the Council, as do other scientific grants, and I am merely answering for him at the moment. I do not know whether any of the sum which is dealt with in this Supplementary Estimate is going directly to the colleges. But these are, I understand, largely grants for work done through or by agents of the colleges—for instance, the School of Agriculture at Cambridge, the School of Animal Pathology at Cambridge, the Institute of Agricultural Parasitology, grant to Rothamsted, grant to Reading University and many others. I think this is the normal procedure under which the financing of this work is carried out, and if there are any specific or detailed questions on which hon. Members require information, I think it would be more convenient if they were put down at Question time and dealt with by the Minister concerned.

Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)

In the Class VI Vote in these Supplementary Estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture I find there are grants for agricultural research purposes involving an additional sum amounting to about £29,000. Do these grants not come under that head also?

Captain Crookshank

The hon. Member is referring to another Vote, and I am afraid I cannot answer for that. The Minister of Agriculture will deal with that Vote. What I am dealing with now is what is being done directly under the auspices of the Agricultural Research Council and the hon. Gentleman can rest assured, if this is what he has in mind, that these bodies do all work together.

Mr. Price

Into which class—the Vote we are dealing with now or the other Vote of the Ministry of Agriculture—do the grants to universities or research stations come?

Captain Crookshank

I think it will be clear from what I have said that they come into both. The instances which I quoted to my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) were grants which come out of this Vote. Obviously there are many, other moneys provided for these purposes through the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr. David Adams

In view of the growing importance of agricultural development as a result of the war and other causes, is the Minister satisfied that the amount now provided is sufficient to meet all these expanding purposes? I ask this question because, to my knowledge, scientific research generally in this country has been far behind that in other leading countries. That was certainly the case in pre-war days. It is a position which should be rectified and the present may be an opportunity of doing so, as far as agriculture is concerned.

Captain Crookshank

I think the Agricultural Research Council can be trusted to bring forward any proposals which are within its field and which it considers necessary at the present time. But this is a Supplementary Estimate and I am dealing only with the excess for which the House is being asked. I understand that the matters dealt with in this excess are largely research work on animal diseases, nutrition, and plants and soil.

Mr. Adams

Have we agreed to the Agricultural Research Council's Estimate?

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £69,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1942, for sundry grants in aid of scientific investigation, etc., and other grants.

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