HC Deb 15 February 1951 vol 484 cc617-9
50. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the disturbing effect on production arising from the halving of the bonus ration of feeding-stuffs for pigmeat and egg deliveries; and if he will now announce a restoration of the ration scale on which producers were relying.

56. Colonel Ropner

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement as to the levels at which rations of poultry feeding stuffs are to be fixed.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

Yes, Sir. I am glad to be able to say that supplies are now sufficient to enable me to authorise the issue of the second half of the pig and poultry bonus rations for the current four-month period January to April. I have also authorised the issue of rations for calves of from six to 12 months old for the month of March.

At the same time, I would strongly urge all livestock producers to aim at the highest practicable standard of self-sufficiency in feedingstuffs. As a result of higher world prices increases in feeding-stuffs prices are inevitable within the next few months, although the total amount of the increase will be less than those which took place last spring with the withdrawal of the subsidy. This prospective increase in farmers' costs will, of course, be one of the items to be taken into account at the forthcoming Farm Price Review, but I would draw the attention of farmers to this additional reason for sowing the maximum practicable area of spring corn and other fodder crops.

Mr. Hurd

While I am sure that we should all agree with the Minister, if we could have followed what he was saying, might I ask him whether he will do his utmost, as a Member of the Cabinet, to ensure that sufficient coarse grains are imported to enable him to honour these undertakings?

Mr. Williams

As the hon. Member is aware, we have always done our best to get as much coarse grains as we possibly can.

Mr. Edgar Granville

As it was difficult to hear the right hon. Gentleman's answer in this part of the House, will he make it absolutely clear that the potential increase in costs of feedingstuffs will be taken into account in the February Price Review?

Mr. D. Marshall

While welcoming the Minister's statement, may I ask whether he can state that we are purchasing all the coarse grains that we can get from soft currency countries?

Mr. Williams

I have informed the House on several occasions that we have purchased all available supplies of coarse grain from soft currency countries and that we have purchased some from hard currency countries too.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that supplies are sufficient to enable him to honour this ration for the whole of the period involved?

Mr. Williams

That is quite another question.

Sir T. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the uncertainty as to whether the ration will or will not be met has the worst possible effect on efforts to increase production from home sources?

Mr. Williams

That is exactly why we always give the farming community the maximum advance notice of the ration position.

Colonel Ropner

While I appreciate that it is hard to make a forecast of this sort for a long period, can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of the level at which the ration will be maintained after the date he has mentioned?

Mr. Williams

It is impossible to decide what the position will be throughout this year; but hon. Members will recall the number of occasions when they have condemned the Government for having large stores of coarse grain which, they said, were being eaten by rats.