HC Deb 30 June 1949 vol 466 cc1508-10
47. Mr. Philips Price

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the Report issued by the Committee on Industrial Productivity suggesting that a 20 per cent. increase in meat production in this country could be obtained within the next four years if our grassland were developed by means of improved management and more intensive application of fertilisers, he will state what steps are to be taken to achieve that objective.

Mr. T. Williams

I assume that my hon. Friend intends to refer to the possible increase of 20 per cent. in the total yield of the grassland in this country, mentioned in paragraph 62 of the First Report of the Committee on Industrial Productivity (Cmd. 76665). As stated in the report, this was a recommendation of the Imports Substitution Panel which has been accepted as a basis for Government policy; and such an increase in yield is the aim of the Grassland Development Campaign initiated in January, 1948.

Mr. Philips Price

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the great difference between the prices of store stock, which are high, and finished cattle which are relatively low, and will he take steps to see that the policy increases the number of store cattle in the country in order to bring the price of store cattle down?

Mr. Williams

I am not at all sure that the price of the finished cattle is low.

49. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, if he has considered the view of the county agricultural executive committees on the effects of the proposed withdrawal of the grant paid on grassland ploughed for tillage cropping; and what action he proposes to take in this matter.

Mr. T. Williams

Yes, Sir. A number of agricultural executive committees have discussed with me the forthcoming cessation of the ploughing up grant. The Emergency (War Provisions) Act, 1947, only authorises continuance of the grant on land that is ploughed up to 31st December, 1949, and I hope that farmers will take full advantage of it in the time that remains by ploughing up the maximum amount of grassland, especially the less productive permanent pasture.

Mr. Hurd

Yes, but as the Minister has asked farmers to maintain and increase the tillage acreage up to 1951–1952, is it really wise to remove entirely the ploughing grant? Would it not be better to reduce it to £2 an acre under permanent grass?

Mr. Williams

That perhaps is arguable. Anyhow, as the hon. Member knows, we are recommending the ploughing up of old grassland as good farming practice, and there is not a good case that can he made out for making a grant where we know it to be good farming practice.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale

Will the Minister again seek the advice of the county executive committees on this point, because if we are to get the best people available on the county committees they must feel that the Minister will seek their advice on matters such as this?

Mr. Williams

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I never fail to consult my county agricultural committees on matters of this kind.

Mr. Snadden

Can the Minister say if the possible removal of this assistance will apply to the United Kingdom as a whole or only to England and Wales?

Mr. Williams

To the United Kingdom, as far as I understand it.