59. Mr. De la Bère
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the exceptionally short notice of three months in which poultry keepers throughout the country had to readjust their plans as a result of the decrease in rations of poultry feeding-stuffs recently announced, he will put forward a scheme of compensation, using the W.A.E.Cs. as agents for his Department, to operate, verify and make the necessary payment in cases of proved financial loss.
§ 66. Mr. Turton
asked the Minister of Agriculture what compensation will be given to poultry keepers in respect of loss occasioned to them through the Government's change of policy with regard to poultry rations.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Much as I regret the necessity for the recent decision to reduce feeding-stuffs rations for pig and poultry keepers from 1st May next, I would remind the hon. Members that the decision was forced on the Government by the world shortage of cereals and was not dictated by any change in Government policy. I could not accept the view, therefore, that a case for specific compensation exists. The position of egg producers will, however, receive full consideration in the review which is now taking place of the financial position of agriculture as a whole, as a preliminary to the fixing of prices of the main agricultural commodities, including eggs, for a further year.
Mr. De la Bè re
Is the Minister aware that many of the poultry keepers are small men of modest means, and that the financial loss they have suffered will be 27 a disaster? It is not just a question affecting rich men. These men literally cannot afford the loss which they have had to suffer through no fault of their own. Cannot the Minister do something to relieve this very great hardship?
§ Mr. Turton
Is not the Minister aware that the statement of the Minister of Food made last December encouraged many of these men to spend a great deal of money which now they will have to lose?
§ Sir Waldron Smithers
Would it not be a much better policy, from the point of view of the foreign exchange, to import feeding stuffs and produce eggs in this country?
§ Mr. Williams
Yes, Sir, and if the hon. Member can tell us whereabouts abroad the feeding stuffs are to be found we will buy them tomorrow.
§ 62. Major Niall Macpherson
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to enable commercial poultry-keepers to keep their contracts with hatchers for day-old chicks, which they placed some months ago relying on the Government promise of feeding stuffs.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Under present arrangements there will be no reduction in the allowances of rations of feeding stuffs this spring for chick rearing.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is not the Minister aware that much good feeding stuff is being used for the maintenance of pheasants for the purpose of sport, and could not this be taken for the use of pigs?
74. Mr. De la Bère
asked the Minister of Agriculture if poultry farmers can be given any indication of the length of time for which the recently announced reduction in feeding stuffs is likely to last to enable them to plan for the future.
§ Mr. T. Williams
As I informed the House on 5th February, as soon as more feeding stuffs are obtainable commercial pig and poultry keepers will have strong 28 claims to a better share. I cannot, however, forecast when this will be.
Mr. De la Bère
But is the right hon. Gentleman aware, not only in regard to this question but also a previous one, that these people are suffering very great hardship and that something will have to be done in order to assist them?