HC Deb 10 November 1949 vol 469 cc1392-3
49. Mr. Stokes

asked the Minister of Agriculture how much sand has been removed from Constantine Bay, Cornwall, since 1st January, 1949; how much subsidy has been paid for it by his Department; and what method of checking the quantity removed and its ultimate disposal he has instituted.

Mr. T. Williams

Between 1st January and 30th September this year about 44,000 cubic yards of calcareous sand were taken from Constantine Bay for agricultural purposes and the subsidy, including a contribution towards the costs of spreading the sand, amounted to approximately £16,250. I have no power to control the quantity of sand removed from the beach but my local officers carry out inspections to ensure that the material on which subsidy is paid is delivered to farms and used for soil improvement.

Mr. Stokes

What form of check has my right hon. Friend? Is he really satisfied that there are not grave irregularities which are referred to locally, whereby his Department is bilked of a lot of money? What is the system of checking?

Mr. Williams

The system of checking is very largely that of surprise visits by my inspectors both to farmers and hauliers, when they inspect their records. Adequate check is kept by that means.

Mr. Stokes

Have my right hon. Friend's inspectors gone down there on Christmas Day, at midnight or on Sundays—at all those extraordinary times when these hauliers are making these big hauls for themselves?

Mr. Williams

I understand that a constant watch is maintained by my inspectors on the sand which is removed.

Brigadier Head

Will the Minister say why he is putting a subsidy on sand? Is it perhaps to bring down the price of sugar?

Commander Agnew

Is it not a fact that sand removed from this bay is playing a very valuable part in improving the fertility of the soil? Cornish farmers value it very much.

Mr. Williams

I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Commander Agnew) will have a word with his hon. and gallant Friend about it.