HC Deb 08 December 1949 vol 470 cc2079-81
49. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he can give an estimate of money owing to county agricultural committees; and what proportion of this is written off as bad debts.

Mr. T. Williams

The debts owing to county agricultural executive committees at 31st March, 1949, the latest date for which figures are available, totalled £3,352,000. I cannot say what proportion will be written off as bad debts, but of the total charges to fanners of £96½ million from the commencement of the committees' operations to 31st March, 1949, only £22,200, or rather less than one-fortieth of 1 per cent., had been written off by that date.

Sir W. Smithers

In view of the enormous losses by these county committees and the enormous amount of money involved, and in view of the fact that these committees are the thin end of the wedge for the nationalising of the land, will the Minister scrap them?

Mr. Williams

No, Sir.

54. Mr. De la Bé re

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement in connection with the recent resignation of some of the chairmen of the county agricultural committees; and what steps he proposes to take to ensure that men of experience are retained.

Mr. T. Williams

Three chairmen of county agricultural executive committees have resigned since 1st January last; one on the grounds of age; another because of ill-health; and the third through difficulties of an administrative nature. I am sure that the chairmen and members of county committees appreciate that the work they are doing in the national interest and for the good of the industry is as important as ever.

Mr. De la Bé re

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that I am a seeker after truth? Can we have an assurance from him that men in responsible positions will be retained and will not be allowed to resign because there has been unnecessary disagreement between them and Whitehall officials?

Mr. Williams

I am glad to be able to say that we always have people who are willing to accept these great responsibilities.