HC Deb 15 November 1950 vol 480 cc1802-34

7.20 p.m.

Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)

When a back bench Member of this House has the good fortune to be able to intervene in two debates on the same day and on the second debate is able to initiate an Adjournment discussion so early in the evening at a time when some hon. Members, if fortunate enough to catch your eye, may join in the discussion, he must reflect that "It never rains but it pours." The only additional reflection I would make is that it very seldom rains.

I am raising tonight the topic of Government agricultural experimental farms. I hope the Minister will welcome the occasion to discuss these farms. I should like to make quite clear that as far as I am concerned and, I anticipate, most, if not all, hon. Members on this side of the House we are heartily in favour of the type of work which is being undertaken. It must be obvious in present circumstances when our agricultural production is being forced to the highest possible pitch that research is more important than ever.

I think it must be equally evident that much of the research done on these farms is of a nature which could not today be undertaken from private resources. So I hope the Minister will take it from me that I am not in any way contesting the desirability of this work or impugning the efficiency with which it is, in general, conducted. I would also make it clear that I am not raising the problems of the individual farm which happens to be in my constituency, except in order to illustrate general points which I anticipate apply to the majority of these farms.

I have given the Minister notice of four of the main points which I propose to raise. The first point about which I want to ask some questions is how the funds allocated to these farms are distributed. It is very seldom that these farms get any national publicity. The best national publicity they have had for a long time was when the Lord President of the Council made a speech at Taunton, which was reported in "The Times" on 25th September this year. The Lord President said: A chain of 13 experimental husbandry farms is to be set up by the Ministry of Agriculture at which new methods of research can be tried out on a field scale under controlled conditions. He went on to say that in 1950 and 1951 the expenditure on agricultural research would be of the order of £3 million. It would be useful if the Minister could tell us what proportion of the £3 million he expects these farms to enjoy and, roughly speaking, what are the principles which guide the allocation of the funds as between one farm and another. Incidentally, I should be grateful if he would confirm that the Lord President's figure of approximately £3 million is a correct one.

The second point I would ask the Minister about is the allocation of functions between the different experimental farms. Our farm in the Winchester division, for example, is a chalk farm and I take it that the particular problems of chalk farming are the problems mainly under study there. I hope he will go further and give some kind of sketch of the coverage of research work at these 13 establishments.

The third question is about farm accounts. I put down a number of Parliamentary Questions to the right hon. Gentleman during the summer directed to eliciting information as to the manner in which the funds expended on these farms were laid out and subsequently accounted for. The Minister gave certain information on particular problems, but he denied that there was any necessity for the publication of the accounts of indivi- dual farms. It must be apparent to anyone who visits one of these farms that a very large amount of capital is sunk in them. I am not complaining of that; I think it is probably quite right. Certainly that amount of capital is much greater than that of many private concerns which are under an obligation to publish their accounts.

On the farm in my constituency, at least, there is a skilled accountant employed on the staff. Incidentally, he is not very comfortably housed; the cows, in my opinion, are considerably better off and it would be nice if something could be done to help him. These accountants are very competent people and from every point of view it is desirable that we should know the manner in which these funds are administered and the expenses of the various experiments undertaken.

This is not in any way to suggest that they are undesirable experiments, but as a matter of principle it is desirable that we should understand their financial basis. If the Minister is anxious, as I hope he is to disarm local criticism—criticism which has, for example, occurred in my division—much of it I think ill-founded criticism, about alleged extravagance on these farms. I suggest that the publication of accounts is one simple and sensible method of doing it.

In Parliamentary Questions the Minister made the response to my asking for accounts that these farms are comparable with ordinary farms and are not intended to be profit-making, and that therefore there is little point in the publication of accounts. I do not think that argument holds good. We all know that these farms are likely in themselves to be uneconomical. The whole point is that they should carry out research work which, because it might involve a loss, cannot be carried out by private individuals, but I hope the Minister will not advance that argument as a reason for withholding accounts. I hope he will tell me that he will arrange for accounts to be published for these farms so that we can study them and secure the maximum benefit of seeing how the money is allocated.

Another point I should like to be made clear is this. His Ministry is responsible for some of the things which are done on these farms, particularly for the work of sub-contractors. In the case of the Martyr Worthy farm in my division there was an incident where a sub-contractor made some bad mistakes, to which I will not refer in detail as I do not want to revive what has now healed. I asked the Minister some Questions about these mistakes and whether instructions could be given to see that they are not repeated. The Minister told me on two occasions that he had no power to give instructions. I ask him to make it clear where the final say in the matter rests. Is it in the committee, or does not the committee have an over-riding authority under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act?

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

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the point which caused the trouble there was the direction of the wind and it is difficult for my right hon. Friend to give instructions about that?

Mr. Smithers

I would not agree about that at all. What I asked the Minister to do was to have these sub-contracting operations take place sufficiently far from the edges of the farms to see that people's gardens were not sprayed with weed killer. His reply was not about the wind, or that he could not control it, but that he had no power to give directions. I have the quotation here if the hon. Gentleman wants it. I want the Minister to say who has the power to say to a contractor that he shall carry out his work in this or that manner. It is quite a simple point which I hope he will elucidate because I suspect that the Minister gave a wrong answer to this House.

My last and rather important point refers to the policy of the Ministry with regard to afforestation and sylviculture on these farms. Perhaps I may say that the farmers and the farming community are by no means the only people who live in the countryside, and what is the place of work for the farming community is also home to a still larger number of people. I am sure the Minister will agree that he wants to carry with him in the operations of the Ministry the approbation and support of those amongst whom these operations go on. The hon. Gentleman will be aware, from questions I have asked him, that in my part of the country, the Upper Itchen Valley, there has been considerable disquiet about afforestation and sylviculture.

It is not just a question of replanting. There is really no reason why these farms should not be run in such a way that, instead of arousing the antagonism of people who live near them, they should be models of good practice, not only in farming operations but also in afforestation and sylvicultural matters. For example, the very competent manager in charge of the farm in my Division says quite frankly that he is a farmer. I believe he is farming very well, but he does not know much, if anything, about trees. I suggest to the Minister that he should employ somebody who is knowledgeable about sylviculture to go round these farms and see that this loose end is properly tied up. I know there are plans for planting shelter belts and that in some places those are well advanced. That is admirable, but I am also much concerned about the maintenance of standing timber and specimen trees.

In our part of the country, as the Minister will perhaps know from a recent visit, we have scattered here and there yew trees of immemorial age, many of them 400 or 500 years old. We know that they are nuisance to the farmer. Nevertheless they are a nuisance which can be overcome without their being cut down. I hope the Minister will believe me when I say that when we see an ancient specimen tree felled it makes most of us very angry indeed. So I hope he will put on to the job of inspecting these experimental farms somebody who will make sure that everything possible is done to preserve the amenities of the countryside. If he does that, he will carry with him the goodwill and support of the neighbours instead of having a good deal of local trouble.

I have made my requests clear and specific. I hope the Minister will take any remarks coming from myself and my hon. Friends on this side of the House as intended to be helpful, as they are. Recently I applied to his Ministry for permission to visit the farm in my division and to take with me my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent). We had a most profitable morning, although I could have wished we had spent the whole day walking round instead of swishing round behind a tractor. Without forewarning us, the Minister came down the next day and made a separate tour around the farm. I see the hon. Gentleman looking surprised, Of course there was no obligation on him to warn us, but I suggest it would have been courteous and helpful to let us know, and we might have gone together to inspect the farm. I believe that a considerable benefit would have derived to both of us if we could have discussed this problem instead of the Minister behaving in that slightly shabby fashion.

Mr. G. Brown

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will develop this attack a little. The hon. Gentleman came to me—quite apart from the fact that I had to be in that part of the country for altogether different reasons, fixed up well in advance—after he had made a particularly ill-informed attack, and said he wanted to look around. As a matter of fact I think it was his hon. Friend who came to me. I gave full authority for him to go round, and I went to great trouble to see that those facilities were laid on when he chose to go. He gave me no indication of when he was choosing to go. Had he given me some indication of the date. I would have told him that I should be there the day after.

Mr. Smithers

That is all very plausible but it happens to be quite incorrect. I wrote to the Minister of Agriculture applying for permission and gave him the date on which I would like to go. So the hon. Gentleman knew precisely, and he himself turned up the next day—

Mr. Brown

Oh, no.

Mr. Smithers

That is perfectly correct. I should be glad to produce the letters to the hon. Gentleman, though I have not got them with me. He could very well have arranged, if he had cared, to go on the same day as myself and I am sorry he did not. I would have been glad to change the date to suit his convenience. I would not make too much of this point except that I am stressing the fact that we are anxious to help the Minister and I hope he will not—as I think he is inclined to do—take it in a bad spirit when we raise the matter in this House.

7.37 p.m.

Mr. Nugent (Guildford)

I am sure the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) for raising this matter, which is one of outstanding interest to the farming community in particular and, therefore by implication, to the community as a whole. I believe these experimental farms will do a valuable job, and although I do not agree with every detail of his speech, in substance we are indebted to my hon. Friend for bringing this subject forward for discussion. I do not take any umbrage because the Parliamentary Secretary came the day after us, though naturally I thought he had judged his moment well because he stole the local Press and we did not get it. But I would not hold the hon. Gentleman to account for that.

I hope we shall get full reports from these experimental farms, the purpose of which is to carry out on a commercial scale the work performed on a laboratory scale in the research departments. This is a link we have sadly missed up to date—the translation into practical form of the work done by our scientists in their laboratories. There is a tremendous value in bringing these experimental ideas into a commercial perspective before they are advocated for general use in the farming world. I am sure everybody appreciates that, and would welcome full reports of what is done.

Obviously if work is done in a laboratory on, say, nutrition, we want to try it out on a complete dairy herd for two or perhaps five years in order to see how the herd continues to milk and what the progeny appears like after we have given them that particular form of nutrition. Therefore, these farms are a valuable link in showing in practical form what the scientist is trying to show in the way of new ideas. We would much sooner see that work undertaken on experimental farms at the cost of the public purse than that the individual farmer should take the risk of trying new ideas without them being previously tried out on a commercial scale.

I hope that we shall get very full reports of what is done, but I would not expect to see accounts of the actual profit and loss operations of the farms, because that is not the experiment for which the farms were set up. If there is an experiment of trying out a particular kind of management to see whether it is more or less profitable than another one, we would of course expect to see a profit and loss account for that particular experiment. But I think that we should handicap the operations, particularly of an experimental farm, if it was thought they had to show a profit on the whole of their farming operations.

The kind of tests that we hope to see should cover the whole of farming activities. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are in some respects deficient especially in some of the livestock fields; particularly, perhaps, in the field of pigs and poultry. I would urge, and I think hon. Members on this side of the House would urge with enthusiasm, that we want to see all the stations, of which I think there are now seven or eight, set up and in full operation. We want to hear their reports and see the practical value of the various experiments which have been done in the laboratories about which we do not know much on the practical scale.

In a general way, while I feel I would like to see full and regular reports of their activities, I do not feel there would be any advantage in having accounts presented, but full and detailed reports would be of the greatest value to the farming community as a whole, and I hope they may even appear in a compiled form for this House to study.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South-West)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) for raising this matter. He has been fortunate in being able to raise it at a time when there is ample opportunity to give full consideration to experimental farms. But I am somewhat surprised that both he and the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent) are talking about these experimental farms as if they were something new; whereas, in fact of course, there have been experimental farms in the country for many years, and they have done good work. It is true that the Lord President mentioned in a speech quite recently that the Government had a big programme of experimental farms to cover the different aspects of agricultural production over the country as a whole. When it is actually working they will be able to try out and demonstrate new methods of farming, and there is a very wide field in which they can undertake work in that respect.

We have these experimental farms, particularly in Norfolk, at Sprowston, in connection with the sugar beet industry, and I think that they have now found just the right method of producing the greatest amount of sugar beet. Sugar is an essential item in the national diet, and one which we want to see increased. They have, therefore, done very good work indeed. There are other problems now confronting farming as a whole, on which we should like to see further experimental work carried out, and not only experimental work, but demonstrations as a result of which the farming community can quickly put new ideas into practice.

One of those problems must be the elimination of weeds among all growing crops. Surely we ought to have got past the experimental stage in this matter. It is very disappointing to go up and down the country and to see cornfields with poppies, charlock and other annual weeds, when it is known that they can be destroyed without causing any harm to the corn; in fact, it improves the crops. Could not these experimental farms demonstrate that fact, and also the fact that it is an economic proposition to eliminate these weeds?

Most of the work so far in this respect has been done by one or other of the big companies which have specialised in such matters. But I would look forward to the time when poppies, charlock and other annual and even perennial weeds are eliminated from our farmland. These experimental farms should take up that problem and illustrate how that can be done from the point of view of cost and the benefit which would accrue to the farmer and the community in general. I should have thought that was one of the lines on which we ought to concentrate a very big effort—the elimination of injurious weeds of all kinds from corn and other growing crops, and also from our grassland, so that we may get a much bigger production of grass, corn, beet and everything else.

I should like to see the National Advisory Service, together with our experimental farms, take up this problem in real earnest and try to demonstrate to the farming community that it is a reflection on them to have farms infested with weeds. In some small countries, such as Holland, a high standard of farming has been in operation for many years, and weeds are very scarce indeed. But as we look over parts of England it is a reflection on our farming ability that so many weeds are to be seen.

There is the ever-present problem of pests, rats and rabbits. Surely by now we ought to have found the answer to the problem of how to eliminate them, because they are a menace to our food production. Can the Minister tell us in what way these experimental farms have tackled this problem, or whether his officers of the National Advisory Service have carried out experiments on the actual farms with a view to mastering this menace to food production? In debates in this House we have heard in the past the extent of the problem caused by the destruction of food by these pests, and I doubt whether we could measure the spread of disease and other problems which arise from them. Yet we can go to parts of the country where there seem today to be as many rats as ever there have been.

We must study the problem of the destruction of these vermin. I hope those responsible for directing the operations of the experimental farms and stations up and down the country will direct their attention to this problem as one of the most important that can be tackled. I also hope that the Minister may be able to indicate whether they are setting out on this problem so that by 1960 we can look forward to the time when there is not a single rat in the country. We can manage very well without them. They make no contribution whatever to our welfare, and absorb a good deal of food, and we have spent a great deal of time and energy in trying to combat them.

There are other matters with which we are now confronted. One is how to increase our meat production in the country with the same, or perhaps a smaller labour force. The old method of feeding stock took a good deal of labour. Now we have to try to make the best use of what labour is available and at the same time to increase the amount of meat which we are producing on our farms. A few months ago there was a conference in Norfolk on this particular problem. They brought before us probably the best experts on animal husbandry. It seemed to me that they had not the answer to the problems of how we can increase beef production in the most economical way, from the point of view of labour as well as finance, and how we can meet the requirements of the consumer in this respect. Has the Minister, through the system of experimental farms, set out to demonstrate how we can produce greater quantities of beef, pork, mutton and poultry, so that we can show through our farming community that both from the point of view of quantity and quality, Britain can produce more food from her land?

I want to see a greater enthusiasm in this respect generated through the National Advisory Agricultural Service and through our experimental farms which would penetrate to every county and every farm. It is that enthusiasm which is needed in food production today. I would like the Minister to indicate, if he can, some of the ways in which these experimental farms will get on quickly with the task of leading the farming community along the lines of greater production in a more economical way.

7.54 p.m.

Mr. Crouch (Dorset, North)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) on bringing this matter forward, because while I welcome the experimental farms I am concerned that unless we are careful they are likely to develop into county research stations. I do not think that was the intention of the Minister when he started this programme of having a great number of experimental farms.

So far as research work is concerned, we are very well served by the research stations which have been in existence for some considerable time. I shall mention but three. At Cambridge excellent work has been done in the research on production of better varieties of cereals. At Aberystwith there is a tremendous amount of work going on for the production of better grass and we have been able in a large number of instances, as a result of that research work, to grow two blades of grass where only one grew before. If we go over to Berkshire, we find we have an excellent research station there for livestock. The time is not too far distant when it will provide us with the answer to the question that has been worrying livestock farmers for such a long time—the means of dealing with mastitis in our dairy herds. The work done at these research stations is carried on in what are sub-stations, and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye), mentioned the research that has been going on in sugar beet. If that research work is developed and transferred to the rest of the country, then experiments are duplicated at the Somerset Farm Institute.

Let me come to the experimental farms, because that is what we are discussing tonight. The idea of these farms has demonstrated to local farmers the best methods of making their production better. I do not think they ought to be bothered with the research side in running these farms. The people who will benefit most as a result of the work done on these farms are the small men. I believe that is the intention. If we have research stations of a minor nature in every county throughout the country, in which vast sums of money are spent irrespective of what the cost and ultimate return is, I do not consider that we are carrying out the intention of those who originated the idea of having experimental farms throughout the country.

I would ask the Minister to be very careful and keep a close eye on the work going on in the experimental farms, keeping it separate and distinct from the work in the experimental stations. As a practical farmer I say that what we want to try to do should refer only to one or two of the proven varieties or types of cereal or grassland management as decided at the experimental farms, and not carry out experiments as they are carried out at the research station. Small farmers will then derive greater benefit from this system of experimental farms in almost every county.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

In this discussion on experimental farms, apart from the slight reference by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch), who referred to the experimental farm in Aberystwith, very little has been said about farming operations in Wales itself. Is it not possible to get an experimental farm to deal with hill farming? It is all right to have an experimental farm where farming is easy, but the true experiment is to get a hill farm where hill farming is very difficult. Most of the farmers in Wales are small farmers, and it would be a good thing, in order to increase food production in our country, to get as many of our farm people to start with the hill farms themslves.

A great deal has been done by this Government under the Hill Farming Act, but I have yet to know whether all the 23 provisions in the First Schedule have been put into operation in all the schemes that I have seen in my own two counties and in other parts of Wales. I should like to see an experimental farm on some of the hillsides of Wales to try out a number of things which will be of benefit to the country generally. I am glad to find that there are three demonstration hill farms to be provided at Glanyllyn Estate under the auspices of the Festival of Britain Committee. That is very good, but I want to see actual experiments in practical farming on the hillsides.

What I find to criticise in the Hill Farming Act is that a comprehensive scheme is always required by the Ministry before approval is given. I should like to see experiments of what can be done with regard to electrification, particularly from the cascades which come down the hillside, or in respect of other things which are very essential to hill farming. This would be a great service to the country generally. In Wales, we have been affected a great deal by the demands of the Forestry Commission, and more often than not they take farms which belong to the small farmers.

It would be a good thing if the Ministry were to make some provision at an experimental farm, although it would take years to do so, in connection with shelter belts on the hillside. That would be something of a lesson to the Ministry themselves as well as experience to the farmers. If they were able to get farmers to have shelter belts in their own farms, such a provision would have a great effect, say, upon an area like Towy Valley near Llandovery.

An experimental farm well up on the hills would provide lessons in farm work for the Ministry and others. I also suggest that real typical hill farming can be demonstrated by means of experiment, though whether or not it can be economically handled on a given acreage of land is another thing. There have been reports that most hill farms are uneconomic, but it all depends on the acreage, and therefore a great deal can result from such experiments. Not only will such experiments give hill farming a new impetus, but I hope it will help marginal land. An experimental farm on marginal land would aid not only Wales but other parts of the country.

I could not resist the temptation to take part in this Debate when people on both sides of the House were talking about experimental farms in various places. I thought that I would raise the question of getting an experimental farm where it is difficult to farm, which is the reason why I have contributed to this Debate.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. Lambert (Torrington)

I hope the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) will forgive me if I do not follow him and make suggestions about what experiments should be carried out on experimental farms. I would rather confine myself to discussing how experimental farms can do their work as efficiently as possible. It is quite remarkable how science has enabled the English farmer to produce more food from the land. Looking the other day at some of the figures, I was amazed at the increase in the production of wheat and oats per acre during the past 50 years.

I feel, however, that one must not lose sight of the financial aspect. I have been reared in the old Liberal tradition, and I think it is essential that this country should get the very best value for each penny of public money that is spent. I personally think that the experimental farms would be more economically run—I am not going to say more efficiently run—if they were put under the control of the various agricultural colleges in the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) mentioned the various experiments being carried out by the agricultural colleges. I am proud of the fact that my predecessor, who was my father, should have taken the opportunity of founding the Seale Hayle Agricultural College. It might interest the House to know that the lawyer who was very much concerned with him in the negotiations for founding the college, was the father of the present Prime Minister.

This college as in the past is now carrying out very many experiments of different sorts, and possibly the most successful so far has been the growing of broccoli. Mr. Horne, who was a student at the college, carried out certain experiments, as a result of which it is no exaggeration to say that it was possible for the Cornish broccoli industry to be brought into being. At the moment the college is carrying out certain experiments, which I believe are of vital importance, namely the production of more and better grass per acre, and, having produced it, how to conserve it.

All the time the greatest attention is paid to the accounts. If any farmer wishes to go to the college and look over the farm he is welcome, and he can also see the accounts, because we who are connected with the college feel that having been convinced by the principal of the college that the farmer is not likely to be impressed by results if he can be shown not only the various methods that are followed but also that they are profitable. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether or not it would be possible to give this added responsibility of running experimental farms to the agricultural colleges, who by their work in the past have shown that they are well able to undertake this added responsibility.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)

I want to emphasise some of the points which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). It has always struck me as very significant in the past that the experimental farms are situated in areas where even the worst farmers could always make a success of farming, and they are left out entirely from those difficult areas where it is difficult for even the best farmer to make a success. When we consider that there are 17 million acres of marginal land in this country not contributing what they ought to contribute to the food supplies of the nation, it is time for some experimental work to be carried out by the Government on the development of this type of land and of the production of stock from such land. Therefore, I urge that experimental farms should be established and set up on the marginal and hill lands, in order to show how to develop these to a far greater extent.

The Ministry and the Government are pressing us very hard to develop the beef industry of the country. The beef industry in the hill land depends upon a good store of winter fodder; indeed, hill stock depends on winter fodder. We can produce the sheep and the beef calves in the spring, and we can run them through the summer without difficulty, but we are totally unable to carry that stock through the winter because we have not got the fodder to do it. How shall we obtain this fodder? The main stand-by, of course, is hay, and, although it may seem a strange thing to say, we want more experiments in the making of hay. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend says, how are we to get the sunshine? If the Government are to experiment in the production of sunshine, it would be a good thing.

The difficulty is that the grass-drying plants are of little use in the hills, because there is not a sufficient area in any one place of the meadows which grow the hay. Experiments have been carried out in the past in barn drying hay in bad weather. The hay is dried by blowing air through it by means of fans, and I do not think this has been developed as it ought to have been. In the West country this summer, there were thousands of acres of grass uncut, because it was impossible to obtain that grass and make it into hay. We have had rain day after day, and in my particular area, out of the 60 days from 5th June, we have had only five days which were completely dry. It was, therefore, impossible for us to dry the hay.

Many of us made as much silage as we could, but it is not every farmer who wants to make silage, and it is not every farm labourer who wants to cut it. If the Ministry would experiment in taking the smell out of silage, they would do a very good job, because I am confident that far more silage would be made if the smell could be abolished. Everyone knows that it is one of the worst evils with which we have to deal on a farm. One cannot go into a silage pit and then go into any form of society for 24 hours; it is an utter impossibility. Experiments in the drying of hay by different methods ought to be undertaken. If we can get the hay dried, if we can build up our stocks in the summer, then there will be a natural increase on the hills of both sheep and cattle, without the subsidies which the Minister is now giving.

I hope the Ministry will set up on this type of land these experimental farms that will concentrate upon the things that are now impossible for the farmer to work out for himself, and that the Ministry will give us a lead in facing these difficulties which might result in being able to overcome the labour of so many farmers which drives them down to the lower land.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) has drawn attention to the need for new methods in the treatment of hay, and I think that it is a very real need in a great many parts of Britain. I should like to emphasise what he himself said about the need for more silage, smell or no smell. I should also like to say, to him and to the Minister, that we have a certain amount to learn from Norway in these matters. There, on the hill land, there are various methods of drying hay which might, with advantage, be introduced into this country, on types of farms which meet with difficulties of climate.

What I really rose to do is to support the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) in the plea he made concerning the great need for experimental farms on hill or marginal land, and I would support almost everything he said on this subject. I should like to add that one matter, which I think is of great importance, is that further experiments should be carried out on the economic size of farm units in different parts of the country. We can have a farm of the marginal type, which is extensive, that is to say, on the ranch model. On the other hand, there are certain parts of the country where we have smaller holdings or crofts, with or without common grazing, and I think that there is a lot to be done by the Government in compiling information and statistics on how far it is possible today to make a decent living on holdings in marginal or hill country and as to what size these holdings should be.

The Hill Farming Acts have given enormous help to this country, but there is a great deal still to be done in the hill and marginal land in giving the right sort of help to the smaller land holder. The Hill Farming Acts have principally benefited the large estate which is in the hands of one proprietor. I do not know how far the Minister is in touch with his colleague in Scotland, but may I ask him to draw that point to his attention. There is, of course, an enormous amount of land which would be greatly improved by draining and I feel here that the Government, through their experimental farms can help. For instance, I suggest that it would be a great help if they could demonstrate methods of drainage and the enormous difference there is if a farm is well drained. If they could also experiment with machinery which the smaller farmer can use and which can be used to a great extent by unskilled or semi-skilled labour, that would be a great help in poorer and hill soils. I agree that the smallholder will have difficulty in paying for such machinery. He will need assistance. The Government should examine how far the returns will justify such assistance. I believe that they will justify it in time.

Next, there is the question of liming the hill land, and that is an enormous problem, in view of the acreage of hill land to be dealt with. The Ministry might even consider liming from the air. Then, there is the question of shelter belts, which again is most important if we are to improve the stock in these areas. Lastly, there is the question of experimental farms of a small type on the poorer land, and I reiterate that these experiments should be carried out on typical land, or on sub-typical land, and not on the very best land for the growing of fruit and vegetables. I think there are many farmers and crofters in this country, and certainly in Scotland, who have a tremendous opening for fruit and vegetable growing in areas where nearly all that produce is imported at great expense into the district from other parts of the country. I should like to finish by thanking the hon. Member who initiated this debate for giving us the opportunity of reviewing the subject and ask the Minister to look into the many points which have been raised.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)

I want to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend who initiated this debate, and also to congratulate him on having picked for it, or having been selected for it on a day on which a very useful debate could be developed. What we are debating this evening is of tremendous value and importance.

I want to support many of the speeches made tonight in regard to what has been described as an experimental farm, although I think hon. Members who so described it meant a commercial farm, run on commercial lines, which could demonstrate to a farmer on such farms in those areas that it was possible to run it and make a living. Farmers generally are somewhat sceptical about experiments, and they like to see experiments applied. I think the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) was quite right when he said that he wanted to see experiments demonstrated commercially. I think that is what we want. I should like to see these farms on the hills, on the marginal land, and on the west side of England, where the weather is somewhat difficult, taking advantage of the experiments conducted by the research stations, and then having their accounts published so that the Minister can say, "This is what can be done. Now you farmers in that area must get on and do it."

I am sometimes in doubt about some of the things done on experimental farms. The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, spoke about weed killing. I am a bit old-fashioned; I have an idea that the way in which to kill weeds is by properly cultivating the land. I am certain that the experimenters are not sure what they are doing when they kill the weeds on the fields. I have done it myself. As an experiment, I made a perfectly clean kill, but I could not make up my mind whether in killing my enemies I had not killed my friends at the same time.

I should like these experimental farms to go on with weed killing year after year and to demonstrate to farmers whether, in fact, they have sterilised the land. We have seen it tried in fruit orchards and in hop fields. As soon as we have killed one pest we find that we have raised two or three in its place. Therefore, experiments should be carried on over a longish period before we apply their results too enthusiastically.

I suggest to the Minister that instead of having quite so many experimental farms carrying out little experiments, or even carrying out the results of experiments at research stations, we should have a few farms run by managers whose salaries would be dependent on the profits they made, and let them demonstrate to the agricultural world that the experiments conducted in the research stations can be applied commercially and that farmers can make a living at the job.

My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent) is on the price negotiation committee. I am always a bit doubtful how those negotiations are arrived at. I sometimes think that the negotiators on both sides conduct their negotiations as the result of an economic battle between the economic experts on both sides. I quite appreciate that these economic experts are right in their figures for a certain volume of farms, but there is a great disturbance in the public mind whether the farmers are not doing too well in these price negotiations.

In the last six months we had an illustration from the other side in the famous "feather-bedding" speech. The hon. Member who made that speech was only voicing what a great many people think, and I believe that the way to prove to the taxpayers of this country that the farmers are not being feather-bedded to the extent they think, would be to run some of these farms on a commercial basis and to publish their accounts. I am prepared to accept the prices at which such farms can be run at a profit. I agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) that there should be experimental farms on the hills. Let them go on the hills and pay an economic rent; let them run those farms commercially, and let us see the results. I think it would be a surprise and a shock to the people of this country to see the financial results of such an experiment.

I hope that as a result of this Debate the Ministry will consider the turning of some of their many experimental farms into commercially run farms. Let us see the result in £ s. d. and then, I think, the public may not be so dissatisfied with these guaranteed prices which are negotiated. The public think that the farmers are doing too well. One hon. Member opposite said to me that the Ministry of Agriculture was only a stooge of the National Farmers' Union. Let us publish the accounts and clear the Ministry of that allegation. I believe that the public would then agree that the Ministry had made a pretty hard bargain with the farmers.

Mr. Gooch (Norfolk, North)

I should not have intervened in this Debate but for two points touched upon by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). Had this been a Debate on whether farming was profitable under a Labour Government or not, a pretty good case could have been made out from this side of the House in favour of the point that farming today is thriving under a Labour Government.

However, the point I really wish to refer to is the development of spraying for the killing of undesirable weeds. The hon. Member who raised this point laid great stress on the fact that this system must be further developed. I hope that in any further development of spraying for the purpose of killing undesirable weeds the human element will be kept in the forefront. We have had some very unfortunate cases in this country, and to my own knowledge at least five farm workers have died as a result of handling poisonous spraying material. In one case one of the farm workers did not even get outside the field after using the spray before he collapsed and died.

That is a state of affairs which ought not to continue. No property in this country is worth the life of a single farm worker. I hope that when it comes to destroying weeds on experimental farms, the experimenters will keep in mind the human element and will remember that though it is extremely desirable to make farming efficient and profitable, it is also absolutely essential to see that the dangerous elements sometimes found in this system of spraying are completely removed.

8.27 p.m.

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

We have had tonight a very interesting and, I think, useful discussion which could with profit have gone on a good deal longer regarding experimental farms and the value of Government policy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch), pointed out, this is but one of the many instances of the additional work which is now being done with great enthusiasm and with considerable Government support to help to overcome some of the problems of farming rather curious country, from a climatic and other points of view, and to help commercial farmers to make the best of their opportunities, and, indeed, even the best of their difficulties.

I should have thought that the answer to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) on the question of commercial farms and the publishing of accounts was that by the policy of this Government in this as well as in other fields, an enormous amount is being done to enable commercial farmers to make the best of their opportunities. If the hon. Member is so concerned that the public shall have the farm accounts placed before them, I suggest that is a job for him and his friends to do.

In so far as the hon. Gentleman wants a propaganda job done on behalf of the farmers, I am quite sure that the reaction of every farmer whom I know would be: "Leave that to us and don't you, as a Government, try to do that for us." We are not proposing to run these farms as commercial farms. It is no good the hon. Member for Leominster putting on a slight sneer. That is not the job we are asked to do, and it is not the job that any one of them would thank us for doing. What we are seeking to do is to establish farms of particular types, typical in make-up of a whole lot of that type, on particular soils, typical of a whole part of the country, under typical climatic conditions, and then to conduct particular experiments. I believe that is a job which probably no one else would do, and it is for the Government to step in and do that job. It would not be possible for the Government to step in and try to do propaganda work for the farmers or their organisations.

A good deal of discussion tonight has been, I think, a little in the "hockey," as it were, because we have not got quite clear what an experimental farm is and what we want it to do. I hope that I may have the opportunity of putting that right as I go along. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate complained at one stage in his speech that he thought that I had misunderstood the motive behind it. So long as every public speech which he makes on this subject includes a piece of gratuitous rudeness, either at the expense of the experimental farm or at the expense of myself, he must run the risk of being misunderstood. The only improvement in his speech tonight was that on this occasion he insulted me and not the experimental farm. That is an improvement, and I hope that he will keep off the experimental farm in the future.

Mr. Peter Smithers

I never attacked the experimental farm as the hon. Gentleman has suggested. On behalf of constituents who have wanted information, I have asked for details about it, and I have protested when I have not been given those details. It is an exaggeration for the hon. Gentleman to say that I insulted him. He really must not heave and puff in this manner.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman must not take himself so seriously. He cannot see himself as we see him from these benches—[Interruption.] The hon. Member talked about my being shabby, but if he thinks that I have misrepresented what he said in the past, he has only to read his own Questions and supplementaries, which I have had the pleasure of answering many times. He has only to ask the agricultural interests around his own constituency. When I was down there, they had quite a lot to say to me about the hon. Gentleman on this subject.

So far as his questions are concerned, like those of other hon. Members, they are very much to be welcomed. One wants to get the position clear and to have a full understanding. The fact is that Britain, I think, has always been very good at making discoveries and doing fundamental scientific research. One of the things, perhaps, which we have not done so well is in discovering the application of the results of this fundamental research. That is what we are trying to do here, and I hope that this will be the answer to an awful lot of questions which have been asked. What we are trying to do is not fundamental research. We have a number of other agencies already doing that. Neither is it demonstration work, which we have already done far and wide in the field work of the National Agricultural Advisory Service. We think that can best be done by the district officers, and so on.

Experiment in the practical application of the fundamental research, the results of which form the basis of the demonstration work of the N.A.A.S. field officers and others is fundamentally the job that it is intended to do. Farmers will always be welcome at the experimental farms. We hope that they will come in groups and have a look at what is going on. Its fundamental purpose is not to be a demonstration farm, but a farm where the practical lessons of fundamental research can be learnt and disseminated, either in written material, or, much more usefully, as we are having hosts of written material made available to us today in this industry, through the agency of the N.A.A.S.

Mr. Vane (Westmorland)

Will the Joint Parliamentary Secretary say whether he believes that in this particular field the county farm institutes have so far failed?

Mr. Brown

There is a very great difference between the demonstration work which has been done at county farm institutes and the sort of work we want to do, and it is that distinction which I am trying to draw. Much of the demonstration work on county farms will have the advantage of the research at these stations. They will have a chance to see the work carried out on a rather broader basis than they can do it. It will be a sort of halfway house.

I will now say a word on the coverage. We are hoping—indeed, we intend—to have a whole series of these farms, some 17 or 18, covering, as far as we can, the different climatic and soil conditions that we get in this country. Obviously, they will not all be set up until some few years to come. We hear a lot these days about not doing too much at one time, and about not engaging upon too much capital expenditure. Therefore, there is only a limited amount of money that we can spend. We must have an order of priority.

The development of this service is under the control of the Ministry, who are advised by advisory bodies such as the Agricultural Improvement Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the N.A.A.S. It is they who laid down the priorities, such as which soils are to come first. We are proceeding in that way, and it may be of some comfort to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), and a good deal of comfort to my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), to know that an experimental farm in East Lancashire has a very high priority—we are hoping to have such a farm among the first group—also an upland farm near Aberystwyth, as well as a hill farm in Caernarvonshire, forming part of our programme for Wales to experiment on the particular problems of that part of the country.

At the moment, we have about seven of these stations already established. One, of which the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) has personal knowledge, is a chalk soil farm. It is set up, not to do a particular service for the county of Hampshire, but to be a farm on which we can experiment in the way that we want on chalk soil. There is another one near Cambridge on clay soil with a light rainfall. Another is in Nottinghamshire on sandy soil. There is one in Lincolnshire, and one at King's Lynn in Norfolk, both being on silt and brick earth. Although they are separate, they will be treated as one unit. There is also one in Hereford, which is intended to give us a medium to heavy loam soil, with a somewhat lower rainfall, on which to operate. There is also one at Malton in Yorkshire, on the High Wolds, giving us a chance to experiment in that peculiar and rather difficult part of the country.

The question of horticulture was also raised. It is intended to have a number of horticultural stations in this set-up. I can give details of three that are already on the road. One is at Luddington, near Stratford-on-Avon, which is a fairly large unit, another at Stockbridge House, near Selby, which is not such a large unit, and one at Preston, which is a very small unit. Naturally, the work to be done will vary. What we are hoping to do is to establish at some of these farms large dairy herds, so that we can conduct experiments into breeding and nutritional problems. We are all agreed that that is a high priority in regard to our dairy herds.

At a few farms there will be pig herds with experimental work on the effects of crossbred vigour in pigs and on a number of feeding experiments, which will concern more especially the utilisation of home-grown feedingstuffs. We will have experiments in regard to beef cattle, with our chief object a critical study into a number of breeds and their crosses. We shall also have large-scale poultry units and investigation into the urgent problem of feedingstuffs. There will be other experiments, such as experiments on the crop husbandry side. Such questions as straw disposal, which is causing a considerable problem under present harvesting conditions, will he investigated, the effect of leys on soil fertility, the depths of ploughing, and all those sort of things.

The kind of work we shall do will, we hope, throw up the various problems met by the ordinary commercial farmer on the type of soil on which he meets them and with the sort of crops and animals with which he meets them, and, while we do not propose or intend to deal with them under exactly the conditions that he does, we shall have some information to give him which will help him considerably in overcoming his problems.

Hon. Members have advanced all sorts of new ideas about experiments which could be undertaken. I suppose everyone who spoke could suggest ideas for experiments which should be urgently undertaken. There is obviously a limit to the amount of critical experimental work that can be undertaken and someone has to say what shall be done. Therefore, we have the central advisory machinery to advise on the order of priorities and the urgency of types of experiment, and the Agricultural Improvement Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the N.A.A.S. are the bodies who will give us the advice. The House will agree that, on the whole, they are the bodies who ought to know best what experiments we need most. Therefore, I cannot undertake to weigh up the values of the various suggestions put forward in the House tonight and can only say that they have been and will be borne in mind.

I should like to say a word about the local position. The management of the experimental farms will in every case be in the hands of a director, an officer of the N.A.A.S. Hon. Gentlemen who have visited the farm near Winchester will agree that one can hardly hope for a better person to be in charge than the director whom we have there. The director will be responsible for the day-to-day management, and he will have a small number of N.A.A.S. technical officers to assist him in carrying out the experimental work. There is also a local farm advisory committee to advise and assist the director in the management of the centre and to consider the need for experimental work on problems of purely local concern so that they are not altogether shut out, although we do not want this to be its prime function.

The chairman is a leading farmer or grower, and each committee contains other practical farmers, together with the representatives of the N.A.A.S. and members of the staff of Agricultural Research Centres. These interests have all been linked up so that everyone has a say in the matter and there is no ridiculous competition. The Provincial Land Commissioner is also being added in order to tie up with the Agricultural Land Service.

Mr. Baldwin

So that the hon. Gentleman will not think that I am always critical, I hope he will add to what he said just now the director of the Hereford experimental station, a particularly capable man who has run the agricultural executive committee very well.

Mr. Brown

I have no doubt that the director will be very glad to know that he has the confidence of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Peter Smithers

Will the hon. Gentleman make clear who is the ultimate authority in regard to these farms? Is the Minister the supreme controlling authority when all is said and done?

Mr. Brown

Yes, Sir, they are Ministry farms, but there is no farming from Whitehall. The day-to-day management and actual carrying out of decisions is a local responsibility. The central decision on the kind of major experiment to be carried out will be dealt with by the advisory body to which I referred. The Ministry itself is responsible for administrative supervision and for financial control.

Many hon. Members have raised the question of the publication of accounts. The hon. Member for Winchester asked how the costs were distributed. I have listened to everything that has been said on this subject and I still do not believe that the publication of accounts has anything whatever to do with the work that the experimental farms are doing or the value of the work when they have done it. We are not pretending to run them under commercial considerations. If we begin to publish accounts, they will be meaningless unless they are to be taken for comparison with commercial farms, and once that is done all sorts of misleading deductions will be drawn.

For that reason, we are sticking to our decision not to publish the accounts, and I invite hon. Gentlemen to think this over and see whether they do not agree that that is the right course and that we ought to drop the present demand, which only gives people the impression that there is some bad reason for not publishing the accounts. That is not at all true; we are only carrying out here what other professional men will know is the normal practice in experimental work of this kind.

Mr. Lambert

Surely the hon. Member will agree that the very fact that he will not publish the accounts makes people suspicious?

Mr. Brown

I am sorry, but one cannot answer for the ability of all sorts of people who get suspicious for all sorts of reasons.

Mr. Bowen (Cardigan)

Why not publish the accounts?

Mr. Brown

I have said why not. One cannot say it over and over again. The reason is that the publishing of the accounts has nothing to do with the job which the experimental stations are setting out to do. They are setting out to carry out experiments into major problems under peculiar circumstances and to disseminate to the industry generally the technical considerations which emerge. What the day-to-day costs are has nothing to do with the lesson which is to be drawn from the experiment.

The commercial lesson would be learnt at the next stage, the demonstration stage, but these are not intended to be commercial demonstrations. Obviously, at the commercial demonstration that sort of comparison could be made. When we are publishing the details of experiments, in so far as the economic side is a proper part of the lesson to be learnt, that will certainly be part of the report which is published. That certainly is done on the economic side, to show the cost of producing this or that thing under this or that condition. The actual cost of running the station, I strongly submit—and this is accepted by everybody in the industry—is no index of the work done for the industry.

Mr. Lambert

I would call the attention of the Minister to the principle, of which I know he has a very high opinion, that strict accounts should be kept at every stage, from the experimental to the commercial, so that they can be seen by anybody.

Mr. Brown

I quite agree. That is the next stage. That is exactly what I am saying. The work being done under these conditions is different from the work that is being done on the experimental farm.

Mr. Bowen

Would the Minister not agree that at all stages these operations are financed by public money? What on earth is the objection to telling the people who provide the money how much the experiments are costing?

Mr. Brown

The answer is that if the hon. Gentleman had been here throughout the Debate he would know.

Mr. Bowen

I have been here throughout the Debate.

Mr. Brown

We do tell the public what these experiments are costing. In the aggregate we publish our estimates in the body of the Civil Estimates, Class VI. We publish our actual expenditure, which is considered by the Select Committee on Accounts and the Select Committee on Estimates. We are doing all that, so there is no reason to import that kind of misrepresentation into the Debate. The only issue is whether we would gain anything locally by publishing the day-to-day costs and I think we would not. We might very well lose a considerable amount.

Perhaps I might now go on to the other points. We have been talking about contractors who, working under exactly the same conditions as would be done commercially every day, were engaged in spraying weed killer. The wind blew too hard, and some of the spray went too far and landed on somebody else's crops where it was not intended it should go. All I said to the hon. Gentleman who raised the matter was that there is no need for us to give instructions to the contractor who carried out his job in an everyday commercial way. That is all we have to secure. If he had done anything negligent, the folk whose crops were touched would have had their ordinary remedy at law, but with one exception they all agree that they have been most handsomely treated by the contractor. There is nothing for us to give instructions about. I have no doubt that a whole lot of commercial firms do this kind of spraying already day after day.

Mr. Peter Smithers

That is not the point. I asked in a Parliamentary Question whether the Minister would give instructions that these experiments are to be carried out well away from private gardens. It is not the particular case that I am thinking about so much as the principle, and I want an answer. The Minister has said, "I have no power to give instructions to those who carry out the spraying," but the Parliamentary Secretary has said that ultimate power resides in the Minister. Surely then the answer of the Minister was wrong.

Mr. Brown

No. How can we give instructions that the spraying is not to be carried out near private gardens if the field of crops that we want to spray happens to be near the private garden? The only course is to say that we shall not do the spraying, but obviously then we shall not carry out the experiment. All that we can secure is that the contractor does his job in the commercial way. If anything happens, the affected person either comes to an arrangement, as happened in this case and has happened in other cases, or has a remedy in law, which seems to me the proper thing to do.

Mr. Dye

May I mention a point that will become of growing importance? If spraying takes place, whether from an aircraft or by other means, is it not the duty of those undertaking the work to have someone present to see that no damage is done to neighbouring farms or gardens? It is all very well to say that those whose crops have been injured have remedy by going to court, but surely they ought not to be put to those lengths?

Mr. Brown

One hopes happen.

Mr. Dye

But it does happen.

Mr. Brown

I know, but the spraying of weed killer by aeroplane is one of the ways in which the job is now done, and short of having another aeroplane following behind—but what that could do I am not quite clear—it is very difficult to make sure that the weed killer will not be blown too far. We expect the contractors to do the job properly and sensibly and to be strictly dealt with if they do not do so. Unless the House is setting itself up as the authority on this particular technical question, we cannot go any further without banning the thing altogether, which everybody would agree would be a truly backward step.

Mr. Baldwin

Why do the Ministry not take responsibility?

Mr. Brown

It is no good the hon. Member shouting about taking responsibility. We have employed the contractor, as the hon. Member might have done some time in his farming life. The contractor is employed on the understanding that he is ordinarily professionally competent. No evidence has been produced that any of the contractors we have ever employed are otherwise. An accident did arise, but it was dealt with in the way accidents will always be dealt with, and there is no reflection either upon us or upon our contractors.

Mr. Baldwin

But the Ministry should take responsibility.

Mr. Brown

We did take responsibility and the folk concerned were handsomely treated, as they themselves told me and as the hon. Member would not challenge.

Mr. Smithers

I quite agree, but the hon. Gentleman said that he had no powers.

Mr. Brown

What is the point of saying that we must take responsibility? We did, handsomely, and the contractors did so in the ordinary way.

I turn now to silviculture, which has been raised many times. In so far as this arises from the experience at the experimental farm it Marty Worthy, I have expressed my view, but I do not think it is always acceptable to certain hon. Members. I believe that the people there did nothing that was not absolutely justified on agricultural grounds. We removed what were pheasant coverts. I have no doubt that they were the source of a good deal of useful shooting for folk locally, and no doubt their removal was a little irritating. But I am sure that it was right. It helped the much better layout of fields and removed cove for pests, and I do not believe that we did anything wrong.

On the question of the general principle, we will certainly take account in the running of the experimental farms of the need to have shelter belts, whether on upland farms, on the hillside, or on local farms, and so on. We will take great care regarding the kind of trees which are planted and felled. We will work in the closest contact with the Forestry Commission, who are the body responsible for research into silviculture problems and who are able to give our people advice on everyday problems. It is not quite right to suggest that our directors will not be able to deal with the ordinary problems of estate management regarding trees on any farm, but I assure the House that we take the greatest care to fit that problem into our operations and to see that it plays its proper part and that we get the best advice we can.

Mr. Smithers

I am anxious that the hon. Gentleman should do something to preserve individual fine specimen trees—for example, the ancient yews, to which I referred. They should not be brushed aside and cut down merely because they are a bit of a nuisance.

Mr. Brown

I am being more kind to the hon. Member than he understands. The reason why I did not take that point was that local folk know as well as I do that there is nothing in it. We are not brushing away valuable trees which are 400 or 500 years old; that has not been done and will not be done. I think I have said enough to show that on the general question of fitting silviculture into the running of our farms, we will take very good care of that point.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent) asked me to make sure that adequate reports of what we have carried on, without the profit and loss account, should be made available. I hope I have given him that assurance. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) raised the question of demonstrations of weed killing and work against pests. In so far as that is appropriate in the experiments we are carrying out, that will be taken in under the conditions in which we are working. As my hon. Friend knows, the N.A.A.S. is continuously carrying out advisory and experimental work into those very problems.

The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) said that we do not want county research stations. That is exactly what I hope these establishments will never come to be. Equally, they are not intended to be demonstration farms. It will be the N.A.A.S. which will conduct the experiments. I think I have dealt with the point raised by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) about hill farms, and as regards forestry, I repeat that the Forestry Commission are the body charged with research work into that sort of problem. We shall certainly work in close contact with them, of course, in our hill farm which we hope to establish in Wales. The suggestion that we should hand this work over to the colleges was made by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Lambert), but I think that is wrong. The farms are properly placed under the A.I.C. and the A.R.C., and that is where we would prefer to keep them.

In replying to questions about hay and silage, I cannot undertake the running of experiments in which the making of sunshine is the object, and I have my doubts whether the making of hay is ever again to be a very easy or profitable undertaking in many parts of the country. I agree with the hon. Member who said that, smell or no smell, we must follow up other forms of grass conservation, of which silage is the most practicable and worthwhile.

I think I have covered nearly all the detailed points raised. I believe we are carrying out a piece of work of tremendous value to our industry. As a result we shall build up a great deal of evidence, information and practical considerations that can be translated into everyday practice and will be of enormous value. I earnestly invite hon. Members on all sides of the House to keep in touch with the work of these farms and help us by neither applying criticisms out of place nor encouraging expectations which would be wholly wrong having regard to the work they are doing. Let us get over to the industry that this is part of a long chain of technical assistance, guidance and help which is now available, and that it is of great importance to commercial farms to carry out the results of this technical work in their every-day husbandry practice.