HC Deb 27 October 1947 vol 443 cc507-10
54. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the serious shortage of plough points; and what steps he is taking to remedy the situation

51. Mr. John Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to increase the number of plough shares which are in very short supply.

64. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that about 500 tractors have been standing idle in the Lincoln area for lack of ploughshares; and if he will take immediate steps to increase the supply.

65. Mr. George Jeger

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the shortage of ploughshares is retarding food production; and whether he will take action to increase the rate of manufacture of these implements.

Mr. T. Williams

My Department has for some weeks been assisting the manufacturers to increase their output. As a result of these combined efforts, there have been very substantial increases in output of the shares and points that are scarcest, although it will still take time for supplies to catch up fully with demand. Supplies coming forward from the main suppliers of Ransome type shares, together with a new source of supply that has been arranged, are now nearly twice as large as a few weeks ago, and further production capacity is expected to become available later. New capacity has also been found for the production of shares for an imported plough, which were particularly scarce owing to slow deliveries from overseas.

Mr. Turton

Surely, these steps were taken far too late and if they had to be taken, they ought to have been taken long before autumn began? Why were early steps not taken to deal with this matter?

Mr. Williams

We were not aware that the drought was going to last so long and the land was going to be so hard.

Mr. Baldwin

Is the Minister aware that the impression is abroad that too much of the steel allocated for machinery manufacture is going towards making new machines rather than spare parts, for which there is a great demand?

Mr. Williams

I do not think that is the case.

58. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Minister of Agriculture, if he will make a statement on the present situation regarding farming implements; and what steps he is taking to ensure that farmers are able to obtain adequate supplies to meet the call for increased production.

62. Mr. Derek Walker-Smith

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that serious delays have arisen and are likely to arise in food production owing to the difficulty of obtaining agricultural machinery; and what steps he proposes to take to improve this situation.

Mr. T. Williams

I am fully aware of the importance of increased supplies of agricultural machinery. Manufacturers have made plans for substantial increases in output, and I shall continue to do my best to help them in implementing these plans. Steel allocations have recently been much increased, but it is bound to take a little time before the effect of these larger allocations is seen in greater output of tractors and implements. Our own resources for agricultural machinery are already larger than ever before; but some special types of machines must still be imported to supplement them, and we are obtaining as many of these as oversea suppliers can let us have.

Major Legge-Bourke

In view of the enormous tonnage of agricultural implements which were exported last year, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance now that no home produced implements will be exported until such time as British agriculture has sufficient implements to carry out the 20 per cent. increase in production?

Mr. Williams

No, Sir. I believe that the allocation of steel given for agricultural implements during this fourth quarter of the year is nearly double what it was in the third quarter of the year, and we shall be able to meet both our home demands as well as continue our export drive.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Is it not a fact that Government action in this matter generally, and in the allocation of steel in particular, is another case of too little, and too late? Is it not rather discouraging that the Government are always acting too late?

Mr. Williams

No, Sir, that is one more figment of the hon. Member's imagination.

Mr. Hurd

Is the 2 per cent. allocation of steel for agricultural machinery to cover the requirements of the export market as well as the home market?

Mr. Williams

Yes, Sir, and if it is of any interest to the House may I say that the output of agricultural tractors for the second quarter of this year is three times the number in the full year 1938 and the allocation for the fourth quarter is twice as much as that of the second quarter.

Mr. Hurd

How much is for export?

59. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the Government will give an assurance that they will give every encouragement and facility for the development of the mobile garages to look after farming machinery, and to provide a specialised garage service for mending and repairing breakdowns to agricultural machines, and to prevent them taking place.

Mr. T. Williams

Yes, Sir, in suitable cases, where mobile units are provided in association with repair facilities of the normal type and are likely to be operated by qualified persons with knowledge and experience of both engineering and farming requirements.

Mr. De la Bère

When the right hon. Gentleman says "Yes," it sounds very convincing, but will he tell us the form this action will take? Sometimes the Government pay lip service to these matters, and nothing further happens.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman is by now aware that when I say "Yes," I mean "Yes."

Mr. De la Bère

Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman promised there would be no further exports of agricultural machinery and that he immediately altered his mind?

69. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture what quantity of steel during the current year has been allocated for the production of agricultural' machinery and spare parts.

Mr. T. Williams

As the hon. Member will be aware it has not been the practice to disclose the actual quantities of steel allocated for a particular purpose, but I can say that the allocation for agricultural machinery this quarter is nearly double that of the last quarter, and is in fact estimated to be as much as the industry is likely to be able to use, having regard to other limiting factors.

Mr. Turton

Owing to the Government's mismanagement, has not the time come to publish the figures?

Mr. Langford-Holt

While agreeing with the Minister that two times x is 2x, will he tell the House what the unknown quantity is?

Mr. Williams

The known quantity is double what it was last quarter.