HL Deb 18 June 1959 vol 216 cc1262-4

My Lords, It is proposed to make the Agricultural Lime Schemes (Extension of Period) Order, 1959, which extends the operation of the Scheme for the next live years—that is, to July 31, 1964. It applies to the whole of the United Kingdom. This subsidy has been in continuous operation since 1937. The Agriculture Act, 1947, extended the Scheme until August 1, 1954, and the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1954, extended it to July 31, 1959, with provision for extension for further periods of five years.

The subsidy on agricultural lime enables every farmer in the United Kingdom to obtain a refund of 60 per cent. of his costs of liming—increased to 70 per cent. for summer months in recent years to encourage the liming of hill lands and grassland. The annual cost of the subsidy is likely to be about £9 million.

Liming is the foundation of soil fertility. A satisfactory lime status is essential for maximum crop production and to support thrifty stock and milk production. It is an important factor in securing the full value of the nitrogenous and phosphatic fertilisers now being used in increasing quantities. The greatest loss of lime from the soil occurs naturally by leaching, and the latest estimate of the soil chemists of the National Agricultural Advisory Service is that the equivalent of nearly 2 million tons of calcium oxide is lost annually from the soils of the United Kingdom by this and other causes. Our annual lime need is, however, greater than this. We started off in 1937 with very serious and widespread lime deficiency attributed to neglect of liming practice in the inter-war years. The 1958 assessment by the National Agricultural Advisory Service soil chemists is that, quite apart from making good annual losses, an additional 15 million tons of calcium oxide is called for over the next six years to make good the overall lime deficiency of United Kingdom soils. Together, the two requirements of making good annual losses and making some inroad on accumulated lime deficiency call for the application of some 4½ million tons of calcium oxide per annum, equivalent to about 9 million tons of product, over the next six years.

Liming is not a short-term investment which the farmer can look to for immediate and spectacular results, and I think there is little doubt that, if the subsidy were to be removed, the consumption of lime would fall considerably short even of the level recommended by the soil chemists for replacement of annual lime losses. This would jeopardise our present high level of agricultural production. The lime subsidy is one of the most useful of the agricultural production grants and one which has stood the test of time. It makes a positive contribution to the improvement of the land; and land in good heart is a national asset. The lime subsidy has been reviewed frequently and the 1937 legislation has been extended by various Acts and by various Governments. I ask your Lordships to approve its extension for a further five years. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Agricultural Lime Schemes (Extension of Period) Order, 1959, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on the 14th of May last.—(Earl Waldegrave.)


My Lords, we support the action that has been taken by the Government in this matter, but there is one question that I should like to ask about the long-term investment of lime. It seems to be a general impression among farmers that if they lime heavily with lump chalk it may last up to eight, nine or ten years. But in some cases, sometimes after crops have been sold, it is now the practice to carry out lime-spraying in powder form, sometimes by air. Does that have the same long-term effect, or is it likely to be of not more than one or two years' duration?


My Lords, I should not like to answer that technical question without notice. Quite frankly, without looking up the technical papers, I do not know what is the length of life of the different forms of lime. However, I will certainly communicate with the noble Viscount on that point.

On Question, Motion agreed to.