HC Deb 17 November 1947 vol 444 c801
48. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the decline of the willow-growing industry and the consequent dependence of basket makers on imports; and whether he will encourage the industry by classifying willows as an agricultural commodity which shall benefit from minimum prices and an assured market.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

Yes, Sir; I know there has been a progressive decline in willow growing in this country, although a substantial proportion of basket makers' needs is still met from home sources. There is little doubt that for some considerable time the demand for homegrown willows will exceed the available supplies; but I cannot see my way to add willows to the list of staple commodities in the First Schedule of the Agriculture Act, 1947, for which prices and markets are guaranteed by the Government. As already announced, willow prices will shortly be increased, partly to offset increased costs of production and partly to provide a greater incentive for willow growing.

Mr. Bartlett

Is the Minister convinced that this increase in price will counteract the bad effect of the great number of people who are going out of this industry, which is of very great importance?

Mr. Williams

That is the intention of the new increased prices, namely, to provide an added incentive to give the fillip the industry requires.

Mr. Edward Evans

Is the Minister aware that basketry is one of the staple and traditional employments for blind people, and that in view of the great shortage of willow supplies many basket departments have had to close down? Is he aware that the price of the article imported is about 20 per cent. above the home-grown price offered to growers in this country?

Mr. Williams

There has been quite a considerable import—some 4,000 tons of willows—but unfortunately there has been a steady decline, for one reason or another. Prices have been increased in the hope that the tide may turn the other way.