asked the Minister of Agriculture why the National Advisory Service is to take over the duties of crop reporters as from 1st April, 1949; and what grounds he has for assuming that the accuracy of crop reports will be maintained at the high standard achieved by the Crop Reporting Service that has operated since 1919.
An essential part of the National Agricultural Advisory Service was the appointment of whole-time district officers throughout the country whose duty it is to make themselves familiar with the agricultural conditions in their districts. These officers are therefore well qualified to carry out the duties hitherto performed by the Ministry's part-time crop reporters. My Department is therefore exploring the possibility of transferring these duties on the 1st April, 1949, but a definite decision has not yet been reached. The change, if made, would be dictated solely by reasons of economy; it would certainly be no reflection on the qualifications of the existing crop reporters who have rendered valuable services over a long period of years.
Is it not a fact that the National Advisory Service in certain counties has already carried out experiments in crop reporting, and that the results of such experiments have been rather unsatisfactory, although some counties came nearer than others to getting accurate forecasts; and will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this new system will not be brought into operation until he is confident that its efficiency is as great as the present system?