HC Deb 03 February 1947 vol 432 cc1397-8
60. Mr. Hare

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken by his Department in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport and the British Beet Sugar Corporation to indemnify farmers for loss of value in sugar beet which is damaged in transit whilst on rair' from local stations to factories.

Mr. T. Williams

By the terms of the farmers' contract with the British Sugar Corporation it is the responsibility of the grower to protect his beet from frost and to deliver it in good condition to the factory, except in certain cases when beet is diverted. Farmers are aware of these conditions at the time of contracting, and the question of compensation, therefore, does not arise. Traffic is accepted by the railway companies subject to standard conditions which are well known to farmers. Where it is alleged that sugar-beet has been damaged or its value reduced owing to delay, detention, or unreasonable deviation, farmers should advise the company concerned without delay so that the case can be investigated.

Mr. Hare

Is not the Minister aware that thousands of tons of sugar-beet have been lying in railway trucks on sidings throughout the country this season, and that much of that could have been avoided if there had been proper liaison between the railway companies and the factories, and the beet had not been called forward from the. farms until the railways were in a position to clear the lines and have the beet taken to the factories concerned?

Mr. Williams

I would remind hon. Members that the growers are aware of all the conditions relative to transport.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is not the Minister aware that even in cases where farmers had taken all the precautions recommended by the Minister, their beet was ruined by the frost, and that certainly in the case of one factory, it was unable to take all the beet that was available and waiting, and that happened to be in the middle of the frost?

Mr. Williams

I would remind hon. Members that the current contract pro- vides that the Corporation accepts responsibility for loss due to delay in transport when beet is diverted from the contracting factory to another, if the time in transport exceeds seven days and if the beet was properly protected from frost before loading. These are the terms of the contract, and every producer understands them.

64. Mr. Gooch

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will inquire into the many cases of sugar-beet grown under orders and refused by the factories because of the frozen condition of the beet, which is now left to rot on Norfolk farms; and if any compensation is available to enable the farmers in question to meet their losses.

Mr. T. Williams

It is the responsibility of the grower to protect his beet crop from frost, and to deliver to the factory only beet which is in good condition and suitable for sugar manufacture. I appreciate that the delivery of beet this season has been spread over an unusually long period, but this is a direct result of the excellent crop. No question of compensation arises.

Mr. Gooch

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that a solution would be to put another factory in the county?

Mr. Williams

It may be.

Professor Savory

Will the Minister make inquiries as to how frozen beet are dealt with in North-West France, where they have methods of dealing with the matter?

Mr. Williams

Certainly, I will do so.