HC Deb 21 January 1924 vol 169 cc498-511

asked the Prime Minister if he will state in detail what steps, legislative and administrative, have been taken, or are in preparation, in pursuance of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Agricultural Prices, generally known as the Linlithgow Committee?

Colonel GIBBS

I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture. As the reply to this question is of some length, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The action taken in regard to these recommendations of the Departmental Committee on the Distribution and Prices of Agricultural Produce, which can suitably form the subject of legislative or administrative action, is set out in the statement below, so far as England and Wales are concerned.

Many of the recommendations are matters solely for the consideration of the trade concerned, and these are not included in the statement. With a view, however, to bringing the views of the Committee as a whole to the notice of the different trades, certain action has been taken.

In the case of the Report on milk and milk products, the Board of Trade held a conference with representatives of various branches of the industry in Great Britain, at which the Report and the recommendations it contained were fully discussed. The Report on fruit and vegetables has been considered by the Horticultural Advisory Council of the Ministry of Agriculture, which includes representatives of growers, wholesalers and retailers. The recommendations were generally accepted in principle, and steps are being taken to give effect to them as far as possible. In the same way the Report on poultry and eggs has been submitted to the Poultry Advisory Council of the Ministry of Agriculture, composed of all sections of the industry, and met with general approval and support.

Reference to Report and Paragraph. Recommendation. Action Taken.
Cmd. 1854: Par. 240; also Cmd. 2008: Par. 42 The Government should consider the advisability of introducing legislation to require holding companies which are in a position similar to that of the United Dairies to file with their annual return at Somerset House a coordinated balance sheet giving various particulars. The introduction of a Bill to deal with this question has been considered. The proposal was mentioned in His Majesty's Gracious Speech.
Par. 247 The Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with local authorities, should take steps to revive and extend the scheme of co-operative dairy schools. A circular will shortly be issued to all local authorities. The Dairy Inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture lose no opportunity of urging local authorities to establish these schools.
Par. 255 A standing Milk Advisory Committee should be appointed jointly by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Scottish Board of Health, and the Board of Agriculture for Scotland to consider administrative questions affecting the industry. Steps are being taken to give effect to this recommendation, but it is proposed to have separate Committees for England and Wales, and for Scotland.
Par. 257 The imposition of a legal minimum standard of fat-content applicable to both home-produced and imported whole milk cheese, and also to cream and milk powder. The Ministry of Agriculture is conducting investigations with a view to the consideration of what standards, if any, may be adopted in respect of whole milk cheese and single and double cream. The Minister of Health has made Regulations regarding the minimum standard of fat-content for milk powder. These Regulations will operate as from 1st May, 1924.
Par. 258 The Departments of Agriculture, in conjunction with local authorities, should consider the simplest and most direct means of furnishing technical and expert advice to producers in the preparation, packing, grading and marketing of home dairy produce. Assistance in the direction of education and advice should also be given to co-operative dairy societies engaged primarily in the manufacture of milk products. The giving of such advice forms part of the work of dairy instructresses working under the Education Scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture. The recommendation was discussed at conferences with manufacturers of dairy products and with representatives of agricultural educational authorities, and a number of counties have been asked to strengthen their staffs on the dairy side.
Cmd. 1854: Par. 260. The problem of the remunerative conversion of whey into other products should continue to receive the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture. An experimental factory for the manufacture of lactose has been in existence for some time. The question of future policy is receiving, consideration.
Cmd. 1892: Par. 299 Par. 302 Recommendations as to certain practices said to be adopted in some cases by fruit and vegetable commission salesmen in accounting to the grower for the sale of produce. The recommendations contained in these paragraphs were accepted by the Horticultural Advisory Council and subsequently by a Conference of representatives of the trade.
Par. 303 Wholesale fruit and vegetable commission salesmen to be licensed, such licences to be issued only under clearly defined conditions respecting commission charges and business codes. The Horticultural Advisory Council were in agreement with this recommendation, and it was subsequently discussed by a Conference of representatives of wholesale salesmen and growers. It is proposed to appoint a Committee of representatives to consider the matter further.
Reference to Report and Paragraph. Recommendation. Action Taken.
Par. 315 The experimental work now being carried out by the University of Bristol at the research factory at Campden, in co-operation with the Horticultural Research Station at Long Ashton, with regard to the general question of fruit preservation, including canning, is deserving of every encouragement and should be pressed forward. A grant up to £4,000 has been made to Campden this year and two additional research workers have recently been appointed. Special arrangements are already in existence at the Campden factory for the instruction of county staffs in the commercial preservation of fruit and vegetables.
Par. 316 The domestic bottling of fruit is capable of considerable expansion, and should be encouraged. The Departments of Agriculture, in conjunction with local authorities, should endeavour to educate the public in the most economical methods. Courses in fruit and vegetable preservation are held for county instructors and others at the Campden factory. Instructresses in fruit preservation are attached to some county councils and in other counties the horticultural instructor gives instruction. The Ministry has issued leaflets dealing with jam making, fruit and vegetable drying, and fruit bottling on a domestic scale.
Cmd. 1892: Par. 319; also Cmd. 2008: Par. 42 The attention of growers should be drawn to the cold storage accommodation which exists in certain of the larger cities. The Departments of Agriculture should publish particulars of such accommodation. Enquiries are being made to ascertain the amount of cold storage available in the principal markets with a view to publication of the information.
Par. 322 Export markets for ware potatoes. The Department of Overseas Trade should, through its representatives abroad, provide information as to such markets and assist exporters in pushing the sale of ware potatoes surplus to home requirements. The Department of Overseas Trade has considered this suggestion and has asked its overseas offices to supply such information as they are able to obtain.
Par. 324 Suitable non-returnable containers for fruit and vegetables. Many non-returnable packages have been introduced through the grading and packing scheme of the Federation of British Growers. The Ministry of Agriculture has secured the agreement of the trade upon standard non-returnable packages for strawberries, and the practicability of non-returnable cardboard containers for apples is being investigated.
Par. 326 Cmd. 2008: Par. 91 Growers should be required to declare the count or number of fruit or vegetables in each package of produce marketed, or the minimum net weight of produce it contains. In cases where produce is sold on any other basis, a standard package should be used. The National Federation of Retailers have forwarded Resolutions to the Ministry of Agriculture asking for the introduction of legislation to enforce the sale of all Horticultural produce by declared net weights. The Horticultural Advisory Council discussed the matter, and accepted the paragraph, but considered that it should apply also to imported produce.
Par. 327 The general question of reducing the variety of packages in common use by the home-grower should receive the earnest attention of all branches of the industry, in order to secure greater uniformity throughout the trade. This recommendation was accepted by the Horticultural Advisory Council of the Ministry of Agriculture. The council recommended the Ministry to convene a Conference to secure the adoption of the standards of the Federation of British Growers.
Reference to Report and Paragraph. Recommendation. Action Taken.
Cmd. 1892: Par. 330 The instruction already arranged by the Ministry of Agriculture on the grading and packing of apples should be continued and extended to cover other varieties of produce. Local authorities have been asked by the Ministry of Agriculture to undertake instruction in the grading and packing of fruit in their respective counties and numerous demonstrations have been given.
The Ministry of Agriculture in co-operation with local authorities and fruit growers' associations is demonstrating to growers modern methods of apple grading which have been adopted in America.
Arrangements are being made for a demonstration in Cornwall in the Spring of 1924 in grading and packing cauliflowers. Other demonstrations will be arranged as opportunity offers.
Par. 337 The broadcasting of market prices by wireless telephony would be advantageous and merits investigation. If any effective scheme can be devised by the growers' associations, the Departments of Agriculture and the General Post Office should co-operate in securing its adoption. The broadcasting of market prices is already performed to a limited extent by the British Broadcasting Company, and the Ministry will watch its developments. The General Post Office will give sympathetic consideration to any scheme which may be put forward by growers' associations.
Par. 338 The Departments of Agriculture in conjunction with representatives of growers' organisations should consider the possibility of publishing more comprehensive information regarding the total annual production of fruit and vegetable crops in this country. Returns of the extent of fruit growing have been collected by the Ministry of Agriculture in greater detail this year, and estimates of production have been obtained from horticultural organizers and the Ministry's horticulture inspectors. The results will shortly be published.
Par. 339 The Departments of Agriculture and the representative associations of growers should consider whether earlier information in regard to vegetables could not be published during the planting season in order that the prospects of quantities available for market may be made known at an earlier date than at present. The recommendation is being considered, but it is difficult to obtain the desired information.
Cmd. 1927: Par. 369 Par. 370 If sufficiently supported, legislation should be introduced, rendering it compulsory to weigh and to exhibit or announce the weight of all fat cattle, sheep and pigs before sale. It should also be incumbent on the auctioneer to render an account to the seller showing the price realized calculated per unit of ascertained weight. This question is receiving consideration, but the Ministry of Agriculture has not up to the present been urged by representative farmers' organisations to take action on these lines.
In the event of a preponderance of opinion in favour of compulsory sale by live weight, the Ministry of Agriculture should promote the necessary legislation.
Par. 372 Par. 373 Par. 379 The Ministry of Agriculture should reconsider the exemptions granted under the Markets and Fairs (Weighing of Cattle) Acts, 1887 and 1891, and administer the Statutes as firmly as possible. The recommendation is receiving the attention of the Ministry.
Reference to Report and Paragraph. Recommendation. Action Taken.
Cmd. 1892: Par. 297 The Departments of Health should use their influence to restrict the market tolls and charges levied by local authorities. Any proposed alterations in tolls which may be submitted are carefully considered by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture so far as they relate to agricultural produce.
Cmd. 1927: Par. 398 Par. 445 It is desirable that means should, if possible, be devised to secure the effective marking of meat and eggs. A propsal in regard to this subject was contained in the Merchandise Marks Bill, which was before the House last Session.
Par. 400 The Departments of Agriculture should continue to encourage the scientific investigation of practical points connected with animal husbandry, and adequate funds should be placed at the disposal of these Departments to sustain and extend the work which is now in hand. The Ministry has for some years, through the medium of its livestock schemes, endeavoured to promote the improvement of breeding both for meat and milk production, and grants are made to research institutions for investigations into animal husbandry. This work is now being considerably developed.
The attention of societies under the livestock improvement schemes should be directed to the necessity for improving stock for meat-producing purposes.
Par. 404 The home curing of bacon on the farm and in villages should be encouraged. Instruction in bacon curing should be arranged at centres of agricultural education. An endeavour is being made to arrange an experimental course in the home curing of bacon at one of the farm institutes.
Cmd. 1927: Par. 420 The Departments of Agriculture, in collaboration with curers, should make a definite and authoritative pronouncement as to the best type of pig for the production of bacon. The schemes of these Departments for the improvement of livestock, so far as they relate to premium boars, should be adapted to the necessities of the trade. Several Conferences with bacon curers and other persons interested have been held by the Ministry of Agriculture, and a leaflet setting out their considered views is being issued. The Ministry has also published in its journal a series of articles dealing with bacon pigs, which will be republished in pamphlet form.
The livestock schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture take into consideration local requirements as to breed and type of pig required, and the Ministry reserves the right to refuse premiums to boars unless it is satisfied that the breed is suitable to the needs of the district.
Par. 425 In view of the close relationship between co-operative dairying and co-operative bacon production, the Ministry of Agriculture should devise means of supporting an experiment for the co-operative production of bacon in conjunction with a co-operative cheese school. The desirability of connecting, where possible, co-operative dairy schools with co-operative bacon factories is recognised, and action in this direction is being considered.
Par. 430 Proprietors of cold storage accommodation in this country should be required to furnish detailed particulars at regular intervals of the total quantity of meat of various kinds held in cold store. At present no machinery exists by which such information may be made available to the consuming public. This recommendation is receiving consideration.
Reference to Report and Paragraph. Recommendation. Action Taken.
Par. 434 The General Post Office, the railway companies, and the various road transport companies should consider the possibility of introducing a system of returning empty egg-boxes at a nominal charge. The railway companies already have special favourable rates for empties, but these appear to be subject to a minimum weight of 28 lbs. The arrangement between the Post Office and the railway companies for the conveyance of the parcel post, based on the Parcel Post Acts of 1882 and 1922 preclude the introduction of a cheaper rate for returned empties.
Cmd 1927: Par. 435 The Post Office authorities should reconsider the question of a cashon-delivery service, and make an experimental test of the system over a sufficient period of time. The railway companies should also consider the advisability of adopting a cash - on - delivery system. These recommendations have been considered by the General Post Office and the railway companies. The adoption of such a system at the present moment is not considered feasible.
Par. 437 Local authorities should consider whether they are in a position to reduce market tolls. The question whether it is desirable to address a communication on this subject to local authorities is already under discussion between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health.
Par. 453 Attention should be given to the question of devising a suitable non-returnable egg box which can be produced at a reasonable cost. This recommendation has been endorsed by the Poultry Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and inquiries are being made regarding the different types of boxes at present in use.
Par. 458 The preservation of eggs in times of glut is an enterprise which co-operative societies might undertake with advantage. The economic possibility of preserving eggs by cold storage in the spring should be considered in conjunction with the cold storage of fruit during other seasons. This recommendation has been laid before the Poultry Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Committee wish to give further consideration to certain aspects of the question before suggesting any line of action.
Cmd. 2008: Par. 80 The Ministry of Agriculture should interest itself in the methods employed, and study the possibilities which broadcasting affords of ensuring a more even flow of products from producer to consumer. It should, moreover, take steps to compare the price quotations broadcasted under present arrangements with the reports which it receives from its own market reporters. This is being done.
Par. 86 Additional statistics of prices at markets where produce is sold by producers may be desirable and if necessary additional funds should be placed at the disposal of the Departments for this purpose. Under consideration.
Reference to Report and Paragraph. Recommendation. Action Taken.
Par. 89 It may be possible, by collaboration between the Departments of Agriculture and Labour, to secure a more complete and comparable record of producers' and consumers' prices, and we recommend that the Departments concerned should explore every possibility in this direction. Under Consideration.
Par. 94 Instruction in the subject of marketing should be included in the courses at Farm Institutes and other educational centres where practicable. Effect will be given to this recommendation as far as possible.
Par. 95 The Ministry of Agriculture should consider the advisability of obtaining funds to allow of the appointment of a marketing advisory officer in each of the educational districts into which the country is at present divided. It should be the duty of these officers to advise producers as to the types of goods to produce, the most favourable markets to which goods should be sent, and the best methods of preparing their produce for market. It should be a further duty of these officers to assist and advise producers as to organisation for marketing purposes in districts where such assistance is not otherwise procurable. Under consideration. The Ministry has recently established a scheme under which Advisory and Investigational Officers in Agricultural Economics are stationed in certain of the educational districts referred to.
Par. 97 Par. 101 The Departments of Agriculture should devote more attention to marketing and to commercial problems than has hitherto been the case. They should keep a close watch on the whole system of marketing and distribution of agricultural produce. The material accumulated and published by the Committee in the course of our enquiry should be collated and kept up to date. Effect will be given to this recommendation as far as practicable.
Par. 100 The Government Departments concerned should collect and publish information as to the control and ownership of markets, and any relative information likely to be useful. Under consideration.
Par. 30–34 Railway rates and charges. The Reports of the Committee contain various recommendations as regards railway rates and charges. These recommendations have been brought to the notice of the railway companies.
Par. 38 Reduction in parcel post rates. This question was considered last year and some reduction was effected.
Cmd. 2008: Par, 73 - 78; Cmd. 1854: Par. 246; Cmd. 1892: Par. 336; Cmd. 1927: Par 426, Par. 459. Advances to agricultural co-operative societies. It is hoped to give effect to these recommendations if the necessary monies are voted by Parliament.
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