Agricultural Groups.

National Expenditure. – in the House of Commons on 1st March 1922.

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As to the agricultural groups which fall in the Second Report, the reductions recommended there were £855,000, and we have accepted reductions to the amount of £642,000. I shall tell the House in three or four sentences where the differences occur. The Geddes Committee recommended a great reduction in the amount devoted to education and research, and the method by which they made up the sum which was to be applied to these purposes was by taking a portion of the grant which the Government gave under the Corn Production (Repeal) Act to make up for the necessities of providing sufficient education and research connected with agriculture next year. There was one fatal blot in that proposal, and it was this. We were under pledge by the Corn Production (Repeal) Act not merely to give that grant to the agricultural industry of this country, but to give it in addition to what was already applied for the purposes of education and research. Accordingly, the saving which the Geddes Committee proposed in respect of that item cannot be effected.

The other two main items on which their proposals cannot be accepted are these. They recommended a reduction of £32,000 for dealing with animals' diseases, but, as the House knows, since the Geddes Committee reported there has been an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in this country, which has not only used up whatever there was in that respect, but gives us, I fear, no hope that we are going to be able to make any reduction upon that particular part of the account in the immediate future. On the contrary, it is much more likely to result in a very considerable addition. Then they recommended a reduction of £27,000 in connection with the sums applied for the encouragement of horse breeding, but I think it is agreed by all the people who have been dealing with the matter that this sum had already been promised, and therefore cannot now be withdrawn. So much for agriculture.