HC Deb 14 November 1950 vol 480 cc1594-611

5.13 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

I beg to move, That the Draft Petrol-driven Agricultural Machines (Grants) Scheme, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st November, be approved. This draft scheme is designed to give effect to the undertaking announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget Statement on 18th April last when he said we would put forward a Measure which would go far to offset the increased Petrol Duty in regard to certain agricultural operations.

The House will recall that we discussed this matter at length on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill during the summer and about the way effect should be given to the announcement. I shall try to deal with some of the points raised in regard to the scheme about what should be and should not be done. I do not propose once again to go over the general grounds of policy, except perhaps to remind the House of the broad lines of the arrangements then proposed. Grants were to be made with the object of offsetting, broadly, the additional cost of petrol for farming arising out of the increase of 9d. per gallon in the Petrol Duty. The grants were to be annual and to be related to particular machines. They were to be based on the average annual petrol consumption on agricultural operations. The particular kind of machine and agricultural operations for this purpose were not to include allied operations, such as road haulage, recreation grounds and matters of that kind. The draft scheme gives effect to the broad lines of policy announced.

During the passage of the Bill, hon. Members expressed their desire that any scheme should be laid before the House for their final approval. I was ready to agree that that should be done and I assume that the House will expect me to explain the arrangements now worked out, which appear in this scheme. They are necessarily complicated, owing to the nature of the problem, but we have tried to make them as helpful and simple as we can for the farmer, as well as to provide proper safeguards for public funds. I think that on the whole a good workmanlike job has been done. In the working out of the details of the scheme we had the best technical advice available. We have had full consultation with the National Farmers' Union, two associations of agricultural contractors and the Agricultural Engineers' Association, representing machinery manufacturers. I should like to take the opportunity of expressing our indebtedness for the assistance they so freely gave.

The Act left it to the scheme to determine the machines which would qualify for grant, the particular uses to which the machines should be put as a condition of grant, the amounts of the grants and any other qualifications for grant. As hon. Members will see, the Schedule to the scheme provides that information. The list of machines is a comprehensive one and covers not only machines using petrol as their primary fuel, but also tractors using it as a secondary fuel simply for starting purposes. The Schedule covers, in Part I, machines used normally throughout the year, and, in Part II, machines, such as harvest machinery, with only seasonal use. Machines covered are agricultural tractors of all kinds, horticultural tractors, certain four wheel drive vehicles, such as the Land Rover or the jeep and a variety of other vehicles, but not lorries or other purely transport vehicles. It also covers stationary engines used for driving milking machinery or pumping apparatus supplying water for livestock, or irrigating crops, or driving agricultural machinery in barns and so forth including, of course, combine harvesters, forage harvesters, pick-up balers, and so on.

The grants are based on the average petrol consumption of each class of machine. It will be appreciated that there is a wide variation in the use of machines on different farms and for different agricultural purposes and there may be a wide variation in the actual petrol consumption. Any scheme of annual grants in this form must be based on the average annual petrol consumption and I repeat what I said on the Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill: the scheme gives justice in full to the industry, but only a rough justice to those who, perhaps, use more petrol than they will be recouped for by the grant they will receive. But, to the extent that some farmers may get less than they may feel they are entitled to, other farmers will get more. The National Farmers' Union readily agree that in the circumstances it is the best subdivision of the money we could find.

The machines have been grouped as far as possible into reasonably homogeneous categories. To make this as fair as possible the machines have been placed in groups according both to type and use of petrol. The latter will depend on the size of the engine and the use to which the machine is put each year. All these factors have been taken into account in arriving at the rate of grant. It will be seen from the Schedule that the grants range from £22 10s. for some tractors using petrol only, to 16s. for diesel tractors using only a small amount of petrol for starting purposes. Invariably however, and this is our experience throughout the country, the owner of a diesel also owns several other machines, and we do not, therefore, expect having to pay many small amounts to owners. Although there are about 500,000 machines which will qualify for grants, the number of farmers who wilt qualify will be considerably fewer than that.

The total cost of the scheme for the current year we estimate to be about £2½ million. The Chancellor, in his Budget speech, gave an estimate of between £2½ million and £3 million a year. We believe, after careful consideration, that the lower figure will be the right one. It would, of course, increase as the number of machines in use increased, but that is inevitable. The grant year runs from 18th April, when the Chancellor made his statement. The main qualifications for grant are set out in Clause 3 of the draft scheme. They are ownership on 1st January of the machines specified, and regular use of such machines in agricultural operations.

The applicant will be required to provide reasonable assurance that the machine has been used regularly, and the Minister—this is important—must be satisfied on this, and he can and will, use his discretion to ensure that the grant is not paid on machines that are not being used. For this purpose operations which would not be regarded as agricultural under the Agriculture Act, 1947, have been excluded. This means, as I explained in the summer, that machines used only on private gardens, pleasure grounds, etc., will not qualify. Nor will machines used only for forestry, road transport, land drainage or electricity generation.

The estimate of the annual consumption of petrol is related to farm use, including haulage on the farm but not on the road. Machinery used for agricultural operations but also for excluded purposes will qualify for grant in virtue of their use for agricultural operations, provided, of course, that this is regarded as regular use within the meaning of Clause 3 of the scheme. It is my intention that the work involved in making payments shall be undertaken by the county agricultural executive committees.

Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)

Will the use of machines for forestry purposes be taken into account? The Minister said that those used only for forestry purposes are not to qualify. I understand that, but if they are used extensively for agricultural purposes and for forestry purposes also, will that use be taken into account?

Mr. Williams

A machine partially used for forestry, but more generally used for agricultural purposes, can qualify for a grant if it comes within the meaning of the words in Clause 3. If it is used for forestry only, no grant will be paid.

Mr. MacLeod

I understand that, but will a machine's use for forestry purposes be taken into account?

Mr. Williams

If the hon. Member will look at the Schedule he will find that his question is answered there.

For the convenience of farmers, a copy of the application form for grants will be sent during the last week of December to all occupiers of agricultural land. Others, such as agricultural contractors who may qualify for grant, will be able to obtain copies of this application form from the office of the county agricultural executive committee. No limit is set for the period of the grants, because it is not possible at present to foresee how long they may need to be continued. As I explained to the House at midsummer, the question of some alternative long-term solution is being considered. The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which made provision for these grants, also provided that the scheme shall be varied or revoked only by affirmative resolution. Therefore, if after a review it is decided to make any change, we can do so only by bringing another affirmative Resolution before the House.

As I said earlier, we have, in working out the details of this scheme, had the benefit of the best technical advice available. We have had consultation, and, I ought to say, agreement, with the representatives of the various interests concerned. I accordingly commend this scheme to the House as perhaps the most workmanlike scheme that could be devised within the framework of our general intentions.

5,25 p.m.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond, Yorks)

I think all hon. Members on this side of the House are very sorry this evening for the Minister of Agriculture in having to stand up and explain to the House this scheme, which he has managed to hatch six months after our discussion of 30th June, on the Second Reading of the Bill to which he referred. I say that because we then tried—I shall not repeat the arguments we used at that time—to impress on the Government at that time that the right way to deal with this problem was to deal with the amount of petrol which was used for agricultural machines. But the Minister, no doubt through consultations he had with others of his colleagues, was compelled to accept the view that he could not introduce a scheme on those lines.

He had to introduce a scheme, as he explained to the House, whereby certain specific agricultural machinery was to be given a definite grant to make up for the increase in the Petrol Tax from 9d. to 1s. 6d. a gallon. We do not like this method any more today than we liked it then when we debated the Second Reading of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act at the end of June. The Minister warned us, in his Second Reading speech then, that it would mean rough justice, but he hoped it would not be unreasonably rough justice. When we look at this scheme we are filled with dismay when we see the rough justice in the form of this Order. I say that because it tends, so far as one can see, to help the inefficient farmer more than the efficient farmer. Let me give the House one or two examples of this.

The Minister has gone to great pains to see that if a farmer buys his tractor after a certain day in the grant year, his grant will be reduced. I refer to paragraph 4. It states: Provided that where a new machine, being of a kind specified … was acquired after the thirty-first day of May of the grant year by the person making application for a grant, the grant shall be reduced as follows—

  1. (a) by one-quarter for a machine acquired during June, July or August;
  2. (b) by one-half for a machine acquired during September, October, or November; and
  3. (c) by three-quarters for a machine acquired during December, January or February."
If any farmer chooses to buy his tractor before 31st May in the grant year and does not use it at all before the winter ploughing, no one minds in the least, and he can apply for the full grant. I cannot see how the Minister can have any check to enable him to say that the tractor had not been used and would therefore not be entitled to the full grant. That must be inefficient. That is just one point.

I turn to the Schedule. Has the Minister or anybody else ever heard farmers discussing tractors or agricultural machines—and they discuss them a great deal—when they intend to buy them, in terms of cubic capacity? Has anyone heard a farmer talking about a pick-up baler the engine of which has a cubic capacity of 910 c.c.; or a tractor with a piston displacement of 1,599 c.c.? Motorists who specialise may be conver- sant with this technical engineering jargon, but when the Minister says he has tried to make this scheme helpful and simple for the farmer, hon. Members on this side of the House are amazed that he should think that this kind of jargon will be understood very readily in the countryside.

Perhaps the Minister is able to tell us exactly how many horsepower go to one c.c.; or how many c.c. go to one horsepower? The ordinary talk about the capacity of a tractor is in terms of horsepower and not c.c. I believe that there will be many hundreds of thousands of anomalies in this scheme and that by and large it will help the inefficient more than the efficient farmer. There is a tendency today for farmers to have more tractors than are really required on their holdings. Those farmers who have more tractors than they really want, and who run them at a low capacity, will benefit a great deal more than the very efficient, hard-working small farmer, who can afford only one tractor and who has to work it "all out" all the time. He will get only one grant, while the fellow with the same kind of acreage who is in a position to have two or three tractors will have two or three times more grant at the end of the year.

We still believe and maintain that it would have been best to have worked out a scheme to achieve the object desired, to recoup the industry for the increase in the Petrol Duty, on the amount of petrol actually consumed by the individual farmer. However, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, the Minister of Agriculture was an unhappy man in having to introduce this scheme this evening. He was forced to do it in this way. He has had consultations with all those interested in the agricultural industry and the agricultural machinery manufacturers and by and large they have performed a very difficult task, and produced a scheme. It is necessary that this recoupment should be given to the industry, and we do not propose to oppose this scheme; but we would like to reassert once again that we believe the right way to do it would have been on the basis of the amount of petrol used in individual machines.

5.33 p.m.

Mr. Henry Hopkinson (Taunton)

When the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was under discussion in this House. I raised with the Minister on one or two occasions the question of one of the small branches of agriculture, namely the willow-growing industry. It is a small but important part of the agricultural industry. It provides the raw materials for baskets which, particularly in the event of an international crisis, would become extremely important having regard to the provision of panniers for the Royal Air Force, and so forth.

I asked the Minister to what extent tractors, cultivators and sprayers used in the willow beds would be covered by this scheme when it was produced. I also asked him how it would affect stationary willow-stripping machines operated by the growers. I understood from what he told me at the time that tractors and cultivators would be covered and I think they are covered by this Order. But I am not clear about the stationary willow-stripping machines. I do not know whether they fall under category 4 (c) of Part 1 of the Schedule, and I should like to ask the Minister whether they are in fact covered.

If they are not covered, it will be a great hardship to the operators of those machines who use petrol as opposed to paraffin, or in some cases electricity. I would make a further comment on what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend. The amount given for these stationary machines, namely, £3 a year, represents, according to my calculations, the tax on some six-and-a-half gallons of petrol and that bears no relation whatever to what is in fact used.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that six-and-a-half times the ninepenny increase equals £3?

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)

That is what he said.

Mr. Hopkinson

I would merely like to ask the Minister if he will give a reply to the particular question I asked him.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

The benefits conferred by this Order may be rough, but I am sure they will be welcome so far as they go. I like the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond. Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale), have been a little confused by the quotations being made in cubic capacity. At first sight it would appear that the payments proposed for the smaller ranges are on the inadequate side. I do not know on what figures they were based or how far the National Farmers' Union agreed to them, but at first sight they seem to be fairly small.

I am glad that the order allows for a considerable variety of agricultural implements, but I rather regret that implements for land drainage are explicitly excluded. I take it that equipment which has been hired out for agricultural purposes, as is the practise in some parts of Scotland, is eligible for these grants and that the equipment does not need to be the property of the farmer or smallholder. I appreciate the statement that if a tractor or other agricultural equipment is used for other purposes than purely agricultural purposes, that does not mean that it would be excluded from grant, because certainly in the crofting counties the tractor is a maid of all work; particularly the small tractors and iron horse, which does a great deal of work and may well use more petrol than is allowed for under this Order. They are in continual use by the farmer, crofter and small holder; but I take it from what the Minister said that these will receive the grant such as it is, that is given by this rather rough Order.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. Nugent (Guildford)

The range of machines, and the total amount which this Order sets out to recoup, is certainly right; but the justice of it would seem about the same as if the Front Bench Members of the Government were paid according to the space they took up on the Front Bench instead of by the usefulness of the work they do.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham)

Are they not?

Mr. Nugent

Perhaps they are, but it would seem that a right hon. Gentleman with a sylph-like figure would come out very badly. Within the terms of the Order it is the best one can do, but when we see that there are no fewer than 17 different types which the small farmer has to try to differentiate and find out whether they apply to him, one realises how very complicated it is.

I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman said he is still considering a long- term scheme. I hope he will get rid of this one, which is really a ridiculous scheme to put before a small farmer. As the Minister knows there is to be about 80 per cent. of recoupment applying to tractors, and therefore there will be a very considerable disparity between one tractor user and another. The heavy tractor user will be out of pocket some £40 to £50 and the small tractor user by something of the order of about £10. Perhaps we shall find a small farmer with one tractor who gets recoupment of £20 when he should have £40 or £50, and a bigger farmer who perhaps does not make the same use of his tractor and who gets over-recoupment. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will press ahead with his long-term scheme which I hope will be on a gallonage basis.

5.40 p.m.

Captain Duncan (South Angus)

I start by protesting at the short notice we have had of this debate. I raised this question last Thursday on business, because at that time this Order was not in the Vote Office. As far as I know, it has not been adequately discussed locally by the farmers.

Mr. G. Brown

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not want to be unfair. He raised this matter on Thursday in the House. Immediately I said to him that I would take steps to see that the Order was put in the Vote Office. It was put in the Vote Office within one hour. Therefore, it was in the Vote Office on Thursday.

Captain Duncan

I agree. My point is that it was not delivered to the Vote Office until Thursday. It did not appear to receive adequate publicity in the local Press, and there has been no opportunity for local discussion with my constituents who are farmers and users of petrol. I have been unable to discover whether they are satisfied or whether there are any questions which they would wish me to raise. I think that I am justified in making that protest. The time between the public notice of this Order and its discussion has been short.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech on 18th April, after telling us about the 9d. Petrol Tax increase said: I propose therefore that an annual grant should be paid in respect of each such vehicle or machine based on a reasonable assumption as to the average amount of taxed fuel which each type consumes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 76.] At that time Sir Stafford Cripps obviously contemplated that there would be justice as between each vehicle or machine, and that the 9d. increase would be recouped, as far as possible, on the basis of the average annual consumption of a machine. Now we have the most complicated Schedule with 17 different types, and the Minister described that as rough justice. It is extremely rough justice.

In the short time at my disposal I have tried to make inquiries, particularly from the user of a Ferguson tractor, which is the main petrol-driven tractor. I got into touch with one farmer who uses three tractors. He keeps a close record of all the petrol which goes into each tractor. He told me that from October, 1948, to October, 1950, the average was 94½ gallons of petrol per tractor per month. He is what I would call a first-class, efficient farmer.

My mathematics are not 100 per cent. good, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will check me if I am wrong. I have worked out that that is equivalent, if we are to have justice, to £42 6s., instead of £22 10s., which is the figure in the Schedule. I have not got a Ferguson petrol-driven tractor myself, and I am not prepared to say whether the farmer in question uses more petrol than that consumed by the average Ferguson tractor. I give the figures as an indication of the enormous disparity between the figure in the Schedule of £22 10s. and the figure based on this man's consumption, which is £42 6s. This is rough justice.

What will be the effect on the manufacturers of the Ferguson tractor? If this becomes known they will have to stop making the petrol-driven tractor and make solely the T.V.O. tractor. It will be much cheaper to run the T.V.O. tractor which starts on petrol and runs on oil, even if one only gets £2 8s., rather than to lose by having to pay the difference between £22 10s. and £42 6s. for the petrol which one uses. I give those figures as I got them. They do not prove everything, but I think that they prove that the justice referred to by the right hon. Gentleman is very rough indeed.

I reinforce the plea made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale), that the Government should look at the matter again and see whether a fairer method can be introduced which would not upset the machinery manufacturers or cause a shift in the type of tractor used in agriculture.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

What puzzles me about the reception given to this Order is that it should be described as rough justice. The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan), has ventilated his grievances. It appeared that he had had a number of complaints. I represent a very large number of farmers in South Ayrshire; and if there is one section of the community which can be relied to convey its grievances to the Member for a constituency, it is the local branch of the National Farmers' Union. I am sure that if the Scots farmers had any grievances at all, they would by now have sent an elaborate memorandum to Members of Parliament. But I have not received one, and the farmers in my constituency usually send me detailed observations on any Measure, financial or otherwise, which affects their interests.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

Has the Order yet reached Ayrshire?

Mr. Hughes

That is a reflection on my constituents. The farmers of South Ayrshire are vigilant on matters affecting agriculture, and they are as keen about getting concessions for their tractors as the farmers of Yorkshire. I should like to ask what exactly we get out of this. I should like to know exactly what the concessions cost, and by how much the farmers of Scotland will benefit.

5.49 p.m.

Mr. Lambert (Torrington)

I disagree with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) has been saying. I hope that does not denote a coming split in the Liberal Unionist group. It has been said that this Order will give rough justice. I welcome the tendency that possibly it will encourage farmers to go over to T.V.O. or diesel-driven tractors. But it is very hard on a man who has bought a petrol-driven tractor to lose £20 a year on petrol merely because, possibly, he bought the tractor when no other was available. One would have liked to have seen the Minister giving some financial encouragement to the farmer to go over to T.V.O. or diesel-burning tractors. The reasons are that this type of fuel is more easily transported, cheaper and more efficient than petrol; also it is very dangerous for farmers to store large quantities of petrol on their farms. I would urge the Minister, when he thinks of amending the scheme, to give more inducement to the farming community to get away from petrol for their tractors and to go in for T.V.O. and diesel oil.

5.51 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Corbett (Ludlow)

I feel almost obliged to get up and say a word in defence of the Ferguson tractor, which is quite the most useful type of tractor. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether there is any limitation in the vehicles mentioned in Part I of the Schedule, where reference is made to four-wheeled vehicles of 30 cwt. unladen weight, which applies to practically all road vehicles. There are certain vehicles like the jeep which can be driven either on two wheels or four, according to whether the gears are engaged or not, as opposed to the Land Rover, which is driven on all four wheels. I presume that vehicles capable of being driven and used on land by means of four wheels are included in this part of the Order. Will the Minister also say whether there is any limitation imposed on these vehicles by the type of licence which is taken out for them?

5.53 p.m.

Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)

I am quite sure that farmers will readily welcome any relief that is given them today. I represent a far-flung constituency in Scotland, and I am sorry that the Minister could not have included in this Order farmers who live at great distances from their markets. Farmers in my constituency who live 30 or 40 miles from their local markets, and sometimes even greater distances, find that this 9d. per gallon increase is a great burden upon them. I should have liked the Order to include a concession to farmers who have to travel great distances to market. They have to travel over very rough roads and their running costs are extremely high already. This added burden will make them even higher. I am sorry that no concession could be given, were it only for a certain mileage once or twice a month, if it is thought that once each week is too often.

The other point, upon which I have had some correspondence, is that, in a rural area such as that which I represent, veterinary surgeons, who play such a very great part in agricultural production, have vast areas to cover, and some concession to them would have been very welcome.

5.55 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)

I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to say a word in reply to the points that have been raised. Generally, the refrain which we have heard this afternoon has been this continual one of "rough justice." That was the phrase used by my right hon. Friend in a particular context, but it is possible to keep on using the phrase and gradually shifting the emphasis from "justice" to "rough," so that by a process of reductio ad absurdum, one can arrive at a meaning which is something quite different from that which was intended.

I emphasise what was said by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), and would say that what we set out to do here was to recoup the industry that part of the guaranteed price arrangements of the February review which would otherwise have been whittled away by the extra cost which this Petrol Duty imposes. As the hon. Gentleman said, we have honoured the bargain completely, without any equivocation and without any attempt to get away from it, and I think that this continual shifting of the emphasis is a little unfair. The fact that, as between individuals and as between machines, it is impossible to get an absolute allocation of the cost of each particular machine to the extent to which it is used, does not seem to me to invalidate that particular doctrine at all.

What we have done, with the assistance of the National Farmers' Union, the Association of Agricultural Contractors and the association that represents the machine manufacturers, the engineers and so on, has been to endeavour to get as simple a scheme as we could; one which, without requiring a lot of detailed calculations, would divide the available money as fairly as we could between all the machines being used. Quite contrary to what some hon. Members have said, I do not think it is at all a complicated scheme.

If I might answer some of the detailed points that have been raised, the hon. and gallant Baronet who opened the discussion said he was sorry far the Minister of Agriculture. We have had a long experience in withstanding his sorrow, and, on the whole, we are bearing up quite well. The hon. and gallant Baronet's arithmetic also became a little faulty, since the Bill, which he referred to as having been introduced in February, was introduced in June, and, in fact, the time when we began to have all these discussions and work out a scheme was sufficiently in advance of the end of the year to prevent anybody from suffering any hardship. The hon. and gallant Baronet and others have said that they do not like the scheme. We have a little more faith in the people with whom we have had discussions, and the extent to which everybody has tried to produce a scheme shows that, on the whale, it meets the position.

The hon. and gallant Baronet made a point about machines being bought at a later period of the year and attracting only a pro rata grant, as against machines bought at the beginning of the year. Of course, in this state of human society, all sorts of people can get up to all sorts of rather clever little tricks to get round the regulations, and, though one wants to tighten them up as far as we can, I do not think these practices will occur very often. The chap who invests £100 in order to avoid losing a particular rate of taxation on machines which he does not intend to use, would be tying up capital that would earn much more if used in some more productive way.

I have a much higher regard for the standard of intelligence of the farming community than some hon. Members opposite. I believe that nearly every farmer today is pretty well able to calculate just how much a certain sum of money will earn for him if used in this particular way rather than another, and my experience is that there are always three persons on a farm who are capable of calculating what the machine will earn for them, and, therefore, all this talk about the small farmer not being able to understand the scheme seems to me to be beside the point.

On the question of cubic capacity, I hope that the hon. and gallant Baronet may come with me some time to a young farmers' club, perhaps in his own constituency, or in mine or anywhere else. He will find that they have a knowledge of "c.c." and can make their calculations about internal combustion engines in a way that will astonish him, and will show far more knowledge than he or I are likely to have. These people are becoming an engineering industry, as well as farmers under the old conception, and I do not believe that they will have any difficulty in working out the calculations for their own particular machine.

I can give the hon. and gallant Baronet some encouragement by saying that the 1,600 c.c. group will be those of 20 horsepower and over. Those in the 800 to 1,599 c.c. group will be those between 10 and 20 horsepower. The farmers will be able to do one of three things. Either the farmer himself, or his son or the tractor driver will know into which group his machine will come. Alternatively, he will know the horsepower, and the agricultural committee will be able to place the machine in its proper grade. Alternatively, again, he may ask the man supplying the tractor, who will be able to tell him, and so I do not think we will have any difficulty about that at all.

The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Hopkinson) asked about the stationary willow-stripping machine. The answer is that, whether the machine is stationary or otherwise, so long as it is used by the growers on their own holdings because of their own agricultural operations they will qualify for grant. We have excluded the non-agriculturist. I was asked about the number of gallons used and it is, I think, about 80.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) asked about the land drainage machines. These we have not included because they are not normally used for agricultural operations within the meaning of the 1947 Act. They do not come in the price review con- siderations. Therefore, nothing that was done in the Budget invalidated this, and we do not have to take care of that.

The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan), who was unable to find out whether his farmers are satisfied, can take comfort from two things. First, when farmers are not satisfied they nearly always take pretty good care to make us understand that they are not, and, secondly, the National Farmers' Union have in fact taken a full part in working out all these matters. I think that if the hon. Gentleman now takes steps to inquire, he will find that it has been accepted as a fair and workmanlike job. As to the allowance made to people who will only get £22 10s. as against a computation of £30 to £40 as their expenditure for the year, there are others who will get slightly more than they will regularly spend. The point is that we have to put the total sum of money taken out back into the industry.

The hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said that the cost is £2½ million for the whole of the United Kingdom and £300,000 for Scotland. I ought to qualify that, as my right hon. Friend did, by pointing out that it is the best estimate that we can make. At the present rates of current consumption, that is what it will be. Of course, if the number of tractors and other machines increases, it will go up accordingly.

The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Lambert) wanted me to become involved in an argument about T.V.O. versus petrol-driven machines, but I am not entering into that argument. We have done the best to set the thing out in the best way that we can. There was an attempt in this country before this Order came in for more T.V.O. machines. The manufacturer who has been referred to several times by name, and who was thought of as one who produced wholly petrol-driven machines, began to turn over to producing T.V.O. machines before this Order came into consideration, and at one stage a considerable portion of that firm's home market output was already T.V.O. I think that this question will be settled by the demands of the farmers, and, in turn, by the relative efficiency of the two things.

The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. J. MacLeod) pointed out that some farmers have a long way to go to market. The answer to that is: So do all sorts of other people. The increasing of the tax on petrol had an effect on all people who have to go long distances, any way. If we wanted to regulate this for the benefit of the farmers, we would have to regulate it for a whole lot of other people. We have in this industry to be careful not to seem to be making claims and demands that the ordinary sense of public opinion would reject as unreasonable, otherwise we shall be building up a store of ill will which it might be very difficult afterwards to get rid of.

I have tried to answer the detailed points as they were raised. I repeat what was said at the beginning, that we regard this as a measure of justice. We believe it puts the money back, and that it has been done on a very fair and, on the whole, a simple and easily grasped basis. Therefore, I hope the House will agree to the Motion.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft Petrol-driven Agricultural Machines (Grants) Scheme, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st November, be approved.