HC Deb 28 February 1945 vol 408 cc1406-7W
Mr. A. Walkden

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the possibility of British growers being able to produce sufficient potatoes for the country's needs during the coming season is being seriously menaced by their inability to obtain seed from Scotland, alleged mainly to be due to lack of transport; and what steps he is taking to provide more transport.

Mr. Noel-Baker

The recent severe weather and the shortage of coasters have both delayed the movement of seed potatoes from Scotland. By 10th February, however, 180,000 tons had been transported, that is, about half the total tonnage to be moved. Special priority is being given to seed potatoes both by rail and coaster, in order that they may reach the growers in time for planting.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport if he is aware of the almost complete breakdown of rail transport facilities for the dispatch of seed potatoes from Fife; that owing to the cold weather potatoes are only recently ready for dispatch; that large quantities must be railed within the next six weeks and that heavy supplies of dressed seed are accumulating in bags at most farms at the risk of destruction if another frost comes, and what action he is taking.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I cannot accept my hon. Friend's assertion that there has been a breakdown of railway transport for the carriage of seed potatoes from Fife. After the recent severe weather, loading began again on 5th February. Between then and 24th February the railways supplied 2,760 wagons, of which 2,300 have so far been loaded. In the two weeks ended on 24th February, in addition to the tonnage conveyed by rail to the ports of shipment, 7,700 tons were taken from Fife by rail throughout. This figure compares with 6,300 tons carried in the corresponding two weeks a year ago. As I have just said, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. A. Walkden), special priority is now being given to the movement of seed potatoes.