Orders of the Day — Customs (Import Deposits) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1969.

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Photo of Miss Joan Quennell Miss Joan Quennell , Petersfield 12:00 am, 17th November 1969

I shall not detain the House unnecessarily for more than the few moments which remain before Front Bench speakers wind up the debate. I sometimes wonder how those who never before have attended our debates must marvel that such a pea-green piece of paper as this Bill should evoke such intense argument for the whole of an afternoon.

I want to speak about the effects of the Act during the last year and of this Measure in future on the agriculture industry in that there are certain imported forms of agricultural machinery, substitutes for which cannot be found in this country but which would enable this country enormously to save imports of particular forms of foodstuff. I have endeavoured to take up this matter with the Department concerned but as yet I have not had a satisfactory reply, so I avail myself of the opportunity to bring it to the attention of the Government once again.

One of my constituents embarked on a farming project for the production and conservation of grass by using a new grass-drying method. A considerable amount of research and growing interest in farming and research circles has developed in this technique. So that hon. Members who are not familiar with this extraordinary operation can be put in the picture—although far be it from me to suggest that they should "go out to grass"—I should explain the process.

Grass pellets, or cubes as they are called, which are the end product of the process are sold to compounders and the compounders use them in poultry food.

If they are produced in a certain way the protein-rich grass of this country can be utilised to feed as cattle cake and especially for winter feed of both poultry and animals. Most of the protein at present used to feed animals in winter is imported. It is ridiculous in a country which, goodness knows, can grow grass which our animals can convert into meat, to penalise farmers who wish to import this machine so that they can supply the crop for this sort of cube to compounders.

This machine costs E36,000 to import and there is an import deposit charge on it of a substantial amount. The agriculture industry is penalised in other ways and it is almost impossible under present circumstances for agriculturists to advance by using modern techniques which could be applied in this country, provided they can get these machines, certainly for the forthcoming year. I therefore ask the Treasury Bench to consider in Committee the Schedules to the Bill so that this sort of machinery may be exempted.