§ Lieut.-Colonel WEIGALL
asked the Secretary of State for War how many men, horses, and wagons arc now employed under the Forage Department, Royal Army Service Corps, and with what object hay of different qualities of the 1918 crop is being collected, pressed, and dumped in different parts of the country?
§ Mr. FORSTER
The total number of men, horses, and wagons now employed by the Forage Department, Royal Army Service Corps, are 5,320, 1,616, and 1,092 respectively. These numbers are rapidly diminishing. The object of collecting, pressing and storing the hay of the 1918 crops to provide for the feeding of Army horses in this country and overseas.
§ Sir A. YEO
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if the Army' Forage Department ceased to exist on 30th September last, when the Army control of hay came to an end; if the Central Council, its Advisory Sub-committee, ceased- to exist at the same time; if, in spite of this, hay is still being baled and placed in dumps for Army use; what is the amount of hay owned by the War Office lifted and placed in dumps and remaining in the stack; what is the monthly consumption of hay by the Army; and how long will the stocks on hand, whether in dumps or on farms, suffice for the needs of the Army?
§ Mr. FORSTER
The Forage Department did not cease to exist on the 30th September last, but is now in process of being wound up. It is expected that it will be finally demobilised by the end of the year 701W at latest. It is not correct to say that the Army control of hay came to an end on the 30th September, as the Army still keeps control of all hay of the 1918 crop which it has purchased, and only hay of the 1918 or earlier crops for which a purchase note had not been issued was freed from control. The Central Council did not cease to exist on the 30th September, but is, I understand, now working under the Board of Trade. Hay is still being baled for the Army, but only 1918 hay purchased prior to February, 1919. At present the hay held by the Army is expected to last until the end of April, 1920, if the whole of the requirements of the Army have to be met from these stocks. If the requirements of the Army in this country only have to be met, it is estimated that the stocks will last until the 1920 crop is ready for consumption.
§ Sir A. YEO
asked the President of the Board of Trade if the Central Council for Civil Forage Supplies has been transferred from the War Office to the Board of Trade as from 30th September last; if there is any necessity for the continuance of such a body to deal with hay which has recently been declared to be free from control; if the cause of the present shortage and high prices of hay is the excessive baling by the Army Forage Department; if steps are being taken to render a large proportion of the Army holding available for civilian use to meet the present shortage; if the holding up of all this hay results in the locking up of large sums of public money; and if there is a prospect of hay prices being considerably reduced in the near future, which would allow of hay being bought for the Army as it is required at much lower rates than are now prevalent?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
The Central Council is now acting under the Board of Trade. Though there is no. control of hay, the threatened shortage renders it necessary for the Government to watch the position closely, and the council are rendering the Department valuable assistance. The shortage is in the main due to the large requirements of the Army in the past and the poor crop of the present year. The Board of Trade are in communication with the War Office, in order to obtain the release of as much hay as possible for civil consumption, but so far as it is possible to forecast the position, it does not seem likely that there will be any marked decrease in hay prices in the near future.