HC Deb 11 July 1934 vol 292 cc321-4

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is in a position to make a statement on the livestock situation?


The Government have had under consideration the situation in the livestock industry of this country, and more, particularly in that branch which is concerned with beef production.

The Government have examined the possibility of—

  1. (a) further reduction of imports by means of quantitative regulation;
  2. (b) action along the lines of the Wheat Act, 1932, involving the collection of a levy on imports of meat to provide a fund from which payments could be made to supplement the returns accruing to home producers from the sale of their stock in the open markets, imports being unregulated;
  3. (c) the retention, in the interests of all suppliers, of some degree of direct supply regulation as a foundation for a plan comprising a levy on imports and payments to producers as referred to above.
The problem has been approached with the intention of framing proposals which could be brought into operation forthwith to deal with the beef situation, leading up to the formulation of a permanent policy.

The Government are of opinion that a plan based on a levy and a regulated market, as indicated in the third course referred to above, would afford the best long-term solution of this problem, and one which would hold the balance evenly between producer and consumer.

The Government therefore would hope in its long-term plan to establish, under the control and management of a permanent commission, a fund into which would be paid in due course the proceeds of such a levy and out of which would be made such payments to producers of livestock in the United Kingdom as might be justified by the market situation and as might from time to time be determined. It would be an essential function of the commission to co-operate with any Producers' Marketing Board that may be constituted, and with other interests concerned, in a reform of marketing and slaughtering systems, with a view to greater economy and efficiency, which the Government regard as indispensable to the permanent prosperity of the livestock industry.

Discussions with representatives of the Governments of the Dominions and of Argentina have therefore been opened, but, in the absence of consent to the levy proposals to which I have already referred, the only action open to the Government so far as imports of meat are concerned, is by further regulation of supply which would be designed, first, in order to hold the position for the time being, and secondly, to bring about a material improvement in market conditions. In view, however, of the serious nature of the problems which such action on an extended scale would present to certain of the Governments concerned, the United Kingdom Government are anxious to allow time for further examination of the situation before determining the extent of the action which will be required. The Government are therefore introducing forthwith an emergency Measure (the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) Bill) which they will ask Parliament to pass into law before the House rises for the summer recess, providing for payments at a rate not exceeding 5s. per live cwt. (9s. 4d. per cwt. dead-weight) to producers of certain classes of fat cattle sold for slaughter in the United Kingdom, between a date not earlier than 1st September, 1934, and 31st March, 1935. The payments to producers under this Bill will be made from a fund to be established under the name of the Cattle Fund.

Authority will be sought in this Bill for making temporary advances to the Cattle Fund from the Consolidated Fund to an amount not exceeding £3,000,000. A Supplementary Estimate covering the exact amount of the advances will be laid in February or March. All sums advanced, including advances to cover the costs of administration, will be recoverable by the Exchequer from the proceeds of the levy which will be collectable under the Government's long-term proposals. The actual amount of the payments per unit of live and dead weight to be made to producers will be prescribed by Order which will be laid before Parliament. Particulars of the administrative arrangements will also be laid before Parliament. The Financial Resolution for the short-term. Bill will appear upon the Order Paper to-morrow. A White Paper setting out both the short-term and long-term proposals will, I hope, be made available for hon. Members before the House rises this evening.


Will the right hon. Gentleman state when the Bill is likely to be before the House?


As soon, no doubt, as the Financial Resolution has been disposed of.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the House that this sum of £3,000,000 will in fact be repaid to the Exchequer?


That depends upon several factors, which the right hon. Gentleman will see set out in the White Paper which is to be laid before Parliament. I am sure that we may hope for his assistance in seeing that these advances are recovered.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to the regulation of supply, does he mean regulating the amount of cattle which it is proposed to produce in this country, having regard to the increased production in this country?


It would be better to await the White Paper which I have promised to lay before the House this evening.


Now that the Government have initiated a doles policy for industry, will the Lord President of the Council give us a complete list of all the doles that are in contemplation for the various capitalist interests of this country?


Will this additional impost be applied to the Irish Free State?


It will apply, of course, to all imports of livestock from whatever sources.


Will there be a means test?


Can my right hon. Friend say whether the £3,000,000 will be chargeable against the revenue of the current year; or will it appear in the Finance Accounts as a loan?


I think my hon. Friend had better await the' White Paper.