HC Deb 18 March 1953 vol 513 cc145-9

9.11 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNair Snadden)

As time is getting short, and as some hon. Members may wish to put questions, I propose to make a brief explanation of the Supplementary Estimate required for the Department of Agriculture for Scotland.

In Item E, the additional amount of £130,000 arises as a result of the extension of the Marginal Agricultural Production Scheme to include assistance for winter keep for hill cows following the recommendation of the Hill Lands Commission which was accepted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and which received Treasury approval.

The rate of assistance is one not exceeding £3 per head of eligible stock. The estimated cost in 1952–53 was £300,000, but this figure is partly offset by the expected savings on Subhead E amounting to £170,000, thus involving an excess of £130,000, the amount now asked for in this Supplementary Estimate. The number of eligible animals is estimated at 100,000, and payment to date has been made in respect of 90,000 of them.

In Item I, Grants in Respect of the Rearing of Calves, the additional amount of £340,000 asked for is required to cover the estimated cost of the first year of the scheme approved under the Agriculture (Calf Subsidies) Act, 1952. The estimated cost in the year 1952–53 is £420,000, but against this there are to be set savings on the provisions for earlier schemes amounting to £80,000, thus reducing the amount now required to £340,000.

I do not think I need go into the calf subsidy—it has been fairly well debated in this House—but it might be of interest just to quote a figure or two to show how it is progressing in Scotland. I am very glad to say that the scheme in Scotland is going well and smoothly, so far as we can estimate from the reports coming into us. To date, about 90,000 calves— 49,000 steers and 41,000 heifers—have been marked for subsidy and subsidy will be paid on the majority of them during this financial year. The rejections amount to 7,700, 2,200 steers and 5,500 heifers. The bulk of them are of the dairy type and that is the principal reason why they have been rejected.

Grant O for the ploughing up of grassland is largely a question of underestimating. The additional sum of £465,000 requested is required to meet the cost of the Agriculture (Ploughing Grants) (Scotland) Schemes approved by Parliament in July and October, 1952, under the Agriculture (Ploughing Grants) Act. A Supplementary Estimate was presented in July, 1952, for £1 million. That was based upon an estimated acreage to qualify of 200,000 acres at £5 an acre. In fact, we find that the actual acreage is 288,000.

I think that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture mentioned a figure of 280,000 and for the record I should like to say that it is actually 288,000. That involves an additional payment of £440,000 over the estimated amount. That still leaves a balance of £25,000 to complete the figure of £465,000 in the Estimate. That £25,000 is accounted for by first payments due under the new scheme for the current year.

There is one point of interest with regard to the £10 per acre ploughing up scheme, which we in Scotland did not think would have a very great effect because of the nature of the country and for other reasons. I am glad to say that we are having a very substantial result and up to date proposals for ploughing 7,500 acres have been approved. With that explanation I hope that hon. Members will be disposed to let us have this Estimate.

9.17 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

Owing to the lateness of the hour and the fact that some hon. Members wish to say a few words on another Supplementary Estimate, I propose not to ask a number of questions which I proposed to ask the Under-Secretary. I do not quarrel with the first two items which are before the Committee, but I should like to make it clear that I am not at all happy about the requirements for the ploughing-up subsidies.

It is my view that many of the additional acreage of tillage that we are obtaining are worthless. They are being very badly managed and they have been very badly prepared for the production of crops. If one looks at the total increase in tillage acreage against the total cost of the scheme, one finds that we pay a heavy price per acre for all the additional acres which we have. However, I do not propose to pursue that matter tonight.

9.18 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I do not want to go into the question whether ploughing-up grants are being paid in respect of work that might be done any way. Nor do I deny the need to grow more feedingstuffs at home. But I wonder whether in all parts of this country, and more particularly in the far North, the best way of spending this money is to encourage the ploughing up of land for growing grain. It is a difficult climate for grain production. The point that I want to make is whether we are placing sufficient emphasis on improving grass, hay and other fodder.

I do not know how much grass is now artificially dried in the far North, nor how much silage is prepared, but it is very important that in the North and West of Scotland grass should be improved and the method of feeding it improved. I do not think that we have in Scotland a research station for dealing with this matter and I wonder whether the Scottish Office have undertaken any experiments in this direction.

9.19 p.m.

Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)

It is most illuminating to hear that the calf subsidy has been so successful in Scotland in encouraging a large increase in calf rearing. I should like to ask what is the minimum and maximum age in respect of which a subsidy is payable for steer calves.

9.20 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

There is only one point which I should like to have made clear. I find that under Subhead E a subsidy is given to Scottish farmers and is not given at all to English or Welsh farmers. It seems strange to find that although Scotland is getting at least its share of this extra money as compared with England, at the present time the Scottish agricultural workers are being paid less than the English agricultural workers.

Would it not be possible for the Undersecretary tonight to appeal to the Scottish farmers to treat the Scottish agricultural workers as well as the English agricultural workers are treated?

The Chairman

He cannot do that. If he does so, he will be out of order.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £795,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for certain food production services of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland.



Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5,869,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for the salaries and expenses of the Post Office, including telegraphs and telephones, and certain grants in aid.

Class VII


Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £825,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for stationery, printing, paper, binding and printed books for the public service; for the salaries and expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry miscellaneous services, including reports of parliamentary debates.