§ 3.13 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (EARL ST. ALDWYN)
My Lords, This Scheme extends for a further year from July 1 the arrangements for paying the fertiliser subsidy, and increases the rates of subsidy for nitrogenous fertilisers in accordance with the Price Review award of an additional £1½ million. The production grant is now a familiar feature of our support for agriculture, and I am sure that your Lordships are familiar with the 292 great benefits which result from the greater use of fertilisers In the last fertiliser year, 1956–57, the usage of nitrogen and potash showed a further increase, and since the supply position for nitrogen is still improving, it was decided at the Price Review to allocate this further sum to nitrogen. The total cost of the scheme is expected to be rather more than £25 million. I beg to move that the Scheme be approved.
§ Moved, That the Draft Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1958, be approved.—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, we are obliged to the noble Earl for what he has said on this matter. There must be general agreement in your Lordships' House on the benefit of the use of fertilisers to cropping of all kinds—and we are treating grass as a crop to a greater extent than we used to do. There is a strong case for this rather small increase of £1½ million in the fertiliser subsidy for this year, because of the tens of millions which the Government have knocked off what we considered to be the just amount of guarantees for agricultural prices. This increase will enable a little of the increased efficiency, which is so often saddled upon the farmers as a condition, to be made up. When dealing with a subsidy of this kind, we are almost bound to pay some attention to the fact that few firms in this country are producing these fertilisers. I am under the impression that this is one of the industries which has been referred to the Monopolies Commission; if that is so, I should like to know whether any progress has been made in their consideration of this matter.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, the noble Viscount is quite correct; this industry has been referred to the Monopolies Commission. I am afraid, however, that I cannot give him any information about the progress that has been made.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.