HC Deb 21 September 1948 vol 456 cc681-2
26. Mr. Niall Macpherson

asked the Secretary of state for Scotland why the Electricity and Water Supply September Census, 1948, Form A.R. 9/1948, dated 2nd September and sent out to farmers by the Department of Agriculture to be completed by 15th September, need contain 56 questions regarding electricity and water supply and 87 regarding labour, livestock and crops, of which 50 questions have to be answered twice; why it is necessary to take the census in September; and why so short a time was allowed to complete the forms.

28. Colonel Gomme-Duncan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the cost to the taxpayer of the recent additions to Form A.R. 9/1948; what is the object of the 56 new questions; how many extra staff are required to deal with them; how long it will take to collate the information called for in the form; and to what practical use it will be put.

Mr. Woodburn

In view of the great interest taken by the farming community in the provision of electricity and water supplies it was considered advisable to bring up to date information obtained in 1943. To do this a questionnaire identical to the one used then was incorporated in the September census. Because of harvest difficulties the date by which this census must be completed has been postponed until the end of this month. There will be some additional printing cost as yet unknown, but no additional staff will be required to deal with the returns.

Mr. Macpherson

Was it really indispensable that this very detailed questionnaire should be sent out just at the time when all the farmers had their hands full 'dealing with the harvest?

Mr. Woodburn

I must confess that my Department did not anticipate the calamities that have come upon the farming population any more than did the farmers. Of course, it could not be known that they would have these special difficulties this year.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Has the right hon. Gentleman ever known the harvest in Scotland to take place at any other dates than those of this year, and, in view of the fact that the answers to these Questions when they are collated in St. Andrew's House will already he out of date, it is really worth while to put the farmers to all this trouble?

Mr. Woodburn

One part of the form is necessary in order to know whether a farmer requires rations for his poultry and farm stock. If we do not get the return, we cannot know whether the farmers require rations. The other part is to find exactly what is the position of the farmers in regard to their needs for water and electricity. The House has been most interested in trying to supply water for agricultural purposes. Naturally, particulars are required if these services are to be given. While the form may look formidable, one farmer has pointed out that it was quite a simple thing for him to say "Yes" to 16 questions. It caused him no trouble at all.

Mr. Snadden

Is not the real answer that the Socialist Government are preparing for the nationalisation of land?

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

While agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman that if there were only 16 questions to answer it would be easy, is he not aware that there are more than 100 questions—nearer 200—and that one question asks whether water is laid on to a water closet, which seems to be perfectly obvious, otherwise it would not be a water closet?

Mr. Woodburn

That is just the trouble—some houses have been built with water closets installed without the water.