HC Deb 29 March 1949 vol 463 cc1088-90

6.6 p.m.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond)

I beg to move, in page 4, line 23, to leave out subsection (3).

In Committee we had considerable discussion on Clause 4 of this Bill and the right hon. Gentleman said that he would look at the position again before we came to the Report stage. Accordingly, I move this Amendment in the hope that the Minister may have had second thoughts and that he will now see his way to delete subsection (3). In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary, in replying to the Debate, said: It is not our intention to use these powers, and, in fact, we never shall."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 3rd March. 1949; c. 60.] It is this kind of legislation which we on this side of the House find so objectionable. First, power is taken for the express purpose of accomplishing certain things, and then we are told by the Minister that he has no intention of using the powers conferred by the Bill. We feel that the powers given here are much too wide. They give the Minister of Agriculture, for example, the power to direct a farmer on what kind of bull he should use. They also give him power to give directions to the artificial insemination centres, whether aided by the State or otherwise, so that a private insemination centre which caters for the most part for dairy cattle may be directed by the Minister, under subsection (3), to bring into that centre, possibly at great expense, a beef bull. We hope the Minister has seen fit to review the position and, although the Parliamentary Secretary has told us that it is not the Government's intention to use these powers at all, we feel that it would be better if this subsection was deleted from the Bill.

Mr. Hurd (Newbury)

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

It is true that during the Committee stage I promised the right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) that I would look at this subsection again. I was not sure at that time just what the position would be with regard to the original purchase of the bull, or the provision for depreciation, and so forth; but I am now satisfied that there is ample room for this subsection in the Bill. It was, in fact, included because of a statement I made in August, 1947, when announcing the expansion programme, to the effect that there would be maintained a free service from beef bulls at artificial insemination centres, at least from 31st March, 1949.

The preceding subsections of the Clause provide that the Minister shall defray all expenses in providing such a service, and the present subsection has been included in order that there may be something on the Statute Book indicating that such a service shall be provided in centres where reasonably practicable. The safety valves for those who run centres are contained in Clause 4 (la), where it is clearly pointed out that whatever fee may normally be charged, that fee will be paid by His Majesty's Government.

Clause 4 (1, b) provides for a supplementary grant to be paid should that be necessary. Depreciation, the original cost of the bull, and the amount allocated for depreciation are, I think, on generous lines, but in any case those who run the centre could not by any stretch of the imagination be forced to lose money. The arrangement is that when those in charge of the centre purchase the appropriate bull for this purpose, depreciation is allowed at the rate of 40 per cent. for a two-and-a-half-year life of activity, and subsection (1, b) makes it quite clear that should those running the centre be involved in any expenditure in excess of what a 25s. fee would cover, then the Treasury will be responsible for it.

The services so far run by the Milk Marketing Board have been very successful, and the general policy has, I believe, proved more than worth while, since we have well over 360,000 more one-year-old calves than we had when the announcement was made in August, 1947. Therefore, as there is no possibility of inflicting injury upon any section of the community, even by direction, I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) will not feel disposed to press the Amendment.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to a direction being given as to the extent and nature of the service to be provided by beef bulls. The three breeds already chosen—to which I referred in Committee—are Aberdeen Angus, Galloways, and Herefords, because they are animals which clearly mark their progeny. That is the only service referred to in the Bill. I repeat, therefore, that I hope the hon. and gallant Member will not feel disposed to press this Amendment.

Amendment negatived.