HC Deb 25 March 1935 vol 299 cc1699-717

9.57 p.m.


I beg to move: That the Pork (Import Regulation) Order, 1935, dated the twenty-sixth day of February, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Board of Trade under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, a copy of which was presented to this House on the fourth day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved. There are various regulations governing the imports of bacon, frozen beef, mutton and lamb, but until this order came into operation there was no statutory regulation of the imports of pork. Last year it was recognised that some regulation would have to be made of the imports of pork. In 1934, 580,000 cwts. of foreign frozen pork were imported. That was double the quantity in 1933 and four times the quantity in 1932. In August last the importers of foreign frozen pork were asked to observe a voluntary arrangement for the last six months of 1934, but there were, however, forward commitments which interfered with the working and perfecting of a voluntary arrangement. The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1933, Section 1, as hon. Members will remember, enables the Board of Trade to make an order restricting imports, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. The Board are satisfied that these conditions have been fulfilled, and with the concurrence of the other Departments concerned have made this order. The order came into force on the 12th March, and it is in similar terms to other orders under the same Statute, which have already been approved by this House. The order consists of a recital and eight paragraphs. Paragraph 1 prohibits imports except under licence. Paragraph 2 provides that the licence may either be specific or on an approved certificate. Paragraph 3 makes provision for the manner in which prohibited imports are to be dealt with, and paragraph 4 deals with the revocation of licences. Paragraph 5 deals with proofs of origin, paragraph 7 lays down that the order does not apply to transit trade, paragraph 7 is definition, and paragraph 8, title. The order does not apply to the Dominions with whom voluntary arrangements have been made.

The actual arrangements so far prescribed by the Board of Trade for the first six months of this year are that the imports of frozen pork from foreign countries shall be limited in each quarter to the average quantity imported in the corresponding quarters of the three preceding years. This will reduce the imports by 48 per cent. as compared with the abnormally large figures of 1934, but will still leave them substantially larger than the corresponding periods of 1933 or 1932. Notwithstanding the definition in paragraph 7, as the importation of fresh pork from the continent of Europe is prohibited and as no fresh pork is in fact imported from outside Europe, the pork covered by the Order will be either chilled or frozen, chiefly from the United States and the Argentine. There is a very small quantity which comes from Brazil and Uruguay. I shall be prepared to deal with questions which may arise, but for the moment I think that statement covers all the material points I wish to raise.

10.2 p.m.


There are one or two questions I desire to submit to the Parliamentary Secretary, to which I think replies should be forthcoming. This is not only an extension of a recent principle, but it involves a new principle, which hon. Members who support the Government should fully appreciate. As far as we are concerned, the principle involved in this Order may prove very useful to hon. Members on these benches at some future date, and I hope that when that day arrives hon. Members who are now supporting the Order will not complain if the Labour Government decides to use the same power not only for the purpose of issuing licences but for dealing with general imports and all the business implied therein. The Parliamentary Secretary said that during the past two years the imports of frozen pork have increased tremendously. One glance at the trading accounts of the United Kingdom will justify that observation, but for the first two months of this year I notice that the increase in imports is chiefly from Dominion sources, while the imports from foreign countries have actually decreased this year as compared with 1932. It seems to call for a reply as to whether the Government are more concerned about the imports from foreign countries or the increased imports from the Dominions.

We have had one experience of restriction on the imports of bacon. We made a cut of 3,500,000 cwts. in the imports of bacon, and the consumer is paying the price. But from certain parts of the Dominions imports are constantly in- creasing, and I want to know whether, when imports are restricted from the United States or the Argentine or any other foreign country, the same restrictions apply to the Dominions or whether it is intended that they are to have a free hand for the purposes of bargaining. It is an extraordinary situation that when one gap is closed another is opened, and that when the second door is opened it leads to political complications. If ever there was a travesty of a business settlement it was the Ottawa Conference. I know it has been said that the principle which the right hon. Gentleman is supporting at this moment is one which any Government would have to support in all the circumstances; but I am not sure that the action of the Government with regard to this particular Order can be justified, even on the basis of the figures and the facts available to hon. Members.

It is true that there is a Pigs Marketing Board and a Bacon Marketing Board. It is true that the Pig Commission made certain recommendations with regard to bacon, but there were no recommendations with regard to pork. The most recent information we have from the Pigs Marketing Board is that curers are actually in need of more pigs than are available for them. Members of the Pigs Marketing Board are pleading with farmers to produce no fewer than 240,000 more pigs this year than they are likely to produce, to meet the requirements of curers in this country. If we are having lopped off 3,500,000 cwts. of bacon and if the Board of Trade, after consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, are going to be as determined about their restrictions on pork imports as they have been with regard to bacon imports, I am not quite sure what the situation is going to be for the consumers of fresh, or chilled, or frozen pork, or any other kind of pig meat. I want to emphasise that this new principle can be carried a stage too far, and I think the present Government are overreaching themselves in their desire to delegate power from Parliament to one or two Ministers.

While I would not hesitate, if I had the power, to establish an import board, which would work in relation to home producing boards, with a costing system of some kind established between the imports and the consumer, I think this slipshod method of merely restricting this commodity to-day and some other com- modity to-morrow, leaving Parliament, as it were, without any further power, is not the proper way of doing business. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman what becomes of the argument, so frequently advanced when the question of import boards is being raised, to the effect that international complications of every sort and kind will accrue. It is argued that the Government would have to fix a quota for this country and for that country, and that there would always be complications as to what year or years the quota ought to be allocated. The hon. Gentleman knows that the imports from the United States in 1933, as compared with 1932, were about four or five times as large; while in 1934 they fell to about 50 per cent. of what they were in 1933—that is for the first two months of the year. With the ups and downs of trade it seems to me that the Board of Trade are going to encounter grave international difficulties in determining what shall be the allocation for the United States, the Argentine, and other countries from which we import pork at this moment. The condition in the first paragraph that It shall not be lawful to import into the United Kingdom except under licence, is a very dangerous power to hand over to the Board of Trade, even with the hon. Gentleman there to care for the consumers point of view. It is because we think that the principle as applied is an utterly wrong principle, and one likely to cause more rather than less difficulties with the Dominions, that I should feel disposed to oppose the application of the Order unless some satisfactory reply is forthcoming with regard to the question of the Dominions, and what their imports are likely to be.

10.11 p.m.


The point I want to take is rather different from that just put before the House. I will put it quite briefly. The Order recites, first of all, the provision of the Act and then, at the top of page 2, goes on to say: And whereas it appears to the Board of Trade. … that there have been taken all such steps as are practicable and necessary for the efficient reorganisation by means of agricultural marketing schemes of the pig industry. and so on. When I read that I was very much surprised, because, to put it bluntly, it did not seem to me to be true. I do not think that all steps practicable for the efficient reorganisation of the pig industry have been taken. People are absolutely free to market pigs as they like so far as pork is concerned. If those pigs are destined for bacon, there is a scheme under which a higher price is paid for them if they are of one grade rather than another—and that, I hope, will gradually help us to get better quality bacon. But when one thinks of these words one's mind naturally passes to the sort of reorganisation scheme which in in contemplation with regard to livestock. There it is intended—and the matter is common knowledge in the industry—to have a scheme under which producers and consumers will be put into more organic and definite connection, and supply will be brought into better relation with demand, probably by centralising the slaughter and grading of stock, and treating them in some better manner than they are treated now with regard to pooling and so on, and in general to improve the marketing of the stock concerned.

It has been with that sort of thing in view—how it will be worked out nobody yet knows—that certain restrictions were made, some time last year. That is what one has in mind when one thinks of the efficient reorganisation of the livestock industry. But there has been nothing of that kind at all with regard to pigs except so far as one particular use of pigs is concerned, namely, the bacon use. Yet the Board of Trade is here declaring that all such steps as are practicable for the efficient reorganisation of the pig industry have been taken. Well, steps that are practicable and are intended with regard to cattle must also be practicable with regard to pigs. They are intended with regard to cattle, and here the Board of Trade is contending that they have already been taken with regard to pigs, whereas it is within everybody's knowledge that they have not. I think it is very important, if we are to have faith in the administration of these Acts, that their language should not be strained. I am sure the Minister will not suggest that I am taking a wrong word when looking at the words "practicable and necessary." If "practicable" in this connection means anything, it means practicable as well as necessary.

Therefore, I am quite justified in drawing attention to the point, and suggesting, as I do, that the practicable steps with regard to the reorganisation of the pig industry by agricultural marketing schemes have not been taken. As a matter of fact, as the last speaker said, it was pointed out with some definiteness in the report of the Reorganisation Commission that they had some doubt as to whether a scheme such as that suggested, which referred only to bacon and not to pork, would succeed, and I think there was a minority report which definitely took the view that as long as it related to bacon only it could not succeed. Some of the difficulties we have been seeing in the bacon scheme are due to the fact that people are still absolutely free to sell their pork as they like and when they like, and to go in for the bacon scheme only if they like. A marketing scheme would be just as practicable for the pig industry in general as it is supposed to be going to be with regard to the stock industry in general. It is a stretch of proper language for the Board of Trade to say that practicable steps have been taken.

10.17 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I am afraid that the words of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken can only mean that it is not his intention to allow us to restrict any kind of importations which are competing with our own home products.


Except under the Act.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

The right hon. Gentleman is relying on the legal terminology. Although we were rather sorry that we had to bring the Board of Trade into it, we did accept the position that when the industry organised itself we should have a limitation of foreign importations. Although not many import orders of this kind have been introduced—there are the potato and bacon schemes—at any rate we have this one now to deal with pork. The right hon. Gentleman said that the industry has not begun to organise. That is not true. The industry has certainly made most marvellous strides in organising itself in the last two years. One has only to go to most of the country districts to see how the grade of pig has improved. Instead o£ having various kinds of breeds producers are now concentrating on the breeds that are wanted for bacon and pork. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that; he must know that the pig industry is organising.


I said pork.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

Both bacon and pork come from the pig. I would ask the Board of Trade how it is proposed to license these importations. There is one grave danger that we have found in importation so far. It is rather difficult, perhaps, not to get on to the subject of quotas when talking about licences. If the licence is so drawn that the choice of the month when the import can be brought to this country rests with the person from whom the import comes, that person is very liable to take the cream of the market. I ask the Board of Trade to watch that. If they give a licence for a certain quantity spread over the year there will be perhaps nothing for two or three months, and then when the price rises and the British product ought to reap the advantage, we shall see floods of imports allowed by the licence to come in. That is a danger against which the Board of Trade, to my mind, has not sufficiently guarded, and I hope to hear from the Minister that they are taking it into account. Perhaps he will also give some general indication as to how long it is proposed to keep this Order in force. There is an idea among some breeders that an Order of this kind can be altered quickly, and that while they may have protection for six months there is the danger that at the end of the six months the Order may be rescinded, and we know that any Order of this kind can be rescinded by Parliament. Therefore we should like the Minister to say that he is going on with this work of reducing importations by licence and that there is no proposal to rescind this Order and perhaps to bring in something quite different.

10.21 p.m.


The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said that no recommendation has been made by the Commission in regard to pork. I submit that he is in error because on page 59 of the Bacon Commission's Report, he will find a reference to pork and frozen pork. Frozen pork is being made into bacon in this country. The Commission foresaw that possibility and recommended that frozen pork should be included in any quota given to any exporting country.


Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that the Commission made any recommendation with regard to a marketing scheme for pork?


They recommended that frozen pork should be included in the bacon quotas of the countries which were exporting bacon to this country.


Yes, but the hon. and gallant Member seems to have missed my point and the point of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). They made no recommendation with regard to a marketing scheme for pork. But the Act of 1933 definitely states that a marketing scheme must be in existence or in course of preparation, and that the Board of Trade must be satisfied before an Order of this kind is brought before the House, that without restriction the marketing scheme cannot succeed.


The point I am making is that they do make a recommendation to the effect that frozen pork is to be treated in exactly the same way as bacon because it is used for bacon making. With regard to the reorganisation of the bacon and pig industry—and perhaps it is quibbling as my hon. and gallant Friend suggested to say that this has nothing to do with bacon—I would like to point out, coming from the county which produces more pigs than any other county in England, how effective that reorganisation has been. In my own constituency we have a factory which is one of the largest in England and the figures since the scheme came into operation showed that in 1932 we put through 24,897 pigs, in 1933, 38,240, and in 1934, 59,286.

I would also point out how that factory has improved the efficiency of its throughput. The great trouble with English factories is that they have had such a small throughput, and they have not been able to compete with Danish factories, which found that 2,000 pigs a week was the output by which they could get the most level standard of costs. My factory and, I believe, several others in England have increased their possible output to 2,000 pigs a week. They are not only doing that and producing bacon of the right quality, as the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) said, but they are finding no difficulty in disposing of that English bacon of good quality. I will not go into the question of Irish bacon, but I would like to say how much I welcome the fact that where marketing schemes are in operation, the Government has seen that, at any rate, home producers are getting as big a share as they can fill.

10.27 p.m.


I appreciate that as part of the new dispensation this kind of policy should be pursued by the Government, and I suppose there is no reason why pork should not be given the blessing of a quota system as much as beef, bacon, or any other article of food for general consumption among the people; but I want to know one or two things. The Government having decided to apply the quota system to pork, why is it done in this vague way? Here we have an order that is put in the Vote Office, with no explanation, no memorandum, no particulars by which the ordinary citizen could understand the reason for it or the policy behind it, how much it is justified by the progress of the industry, or how far the conditions required by the parent Act have been fulfilled. Secondly, why is this particular time—March, 1935—chosen for this order? There was undoubtedly a very large increase in the imports of pork. That took place between 1933 and 1934. There was an increase in the first two months of 1934 compared with 1933, in value at any rate, but there was an actual decrease for the first two months of 1935 compared with the previous year.

When we come to analyse the figures, we find that they are extraordinarily interesting. There is a decline in the imports from the Irish Free State, but we need not worry about that, because the Irish Free State is no longer regarded as a friendly Power, and that is not the cause of this particular order. When we begin to examine the figures more closely we find that they are very interesting. The principal cause of the increase is not from foreign countries. The increased importation did not come from countries that are not part of the British Empire. The principal increase is from the Dominion of New Zealand, from which there has been an enormous increase. That is apparently the cause of our trouble and the reason for this order.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether importations from America and the Argentine have not very greatly increased?


The importations from the United States of America have fallen from £175,000 to £97,000, and those from Argentine from £51,000 to £37,000.


Is that for the first two months of this year?


I am talking of the first two months of this year, which are the latest figures available.


Will the hon. Gentleman give the figures for 1934?


I am giving the figures for 1934–5. There is an actual decline of imports from every part of the world except from New Zealand. It is common knowledge that New Zealand has largely developed its industry in the export of chilled or frozen pork. I understand there is some arrangement with the Dominions for a large decrease in the quota of supplies. If not, this Order will not be effective from the point of view of hon. Members who want a restriction on supplies from abroad. I understand that the Prime Minister of Australia is here. Australia is a comparatively small supplier of pork to this country, the amount being £30,000. We are shortly to have a visit from the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who is coming here for the celebrations connected with the Silver Jubilee. Are we to celebrate his arrival by a restriction of imports from New Zealand? The total figures for 1934 compared with 1932 show a very large increase, but the first two months of this year suggest that the imports from America and the Argentine have begun to decline. The Continental countries have a very small share of this trade. If the whole of the supplies were cut off, it would not make a very substantial difference to the supplies of pork to this country. We ought to have it made clear who is aimed at before we pass this new Order, which has been issued without any explanation, without any White Paper or any of the figures and details printed in the proper way as they ought to have been. Is New Zealand to be required to stop her supplies or is the Order aimed only at the Argentine and the United States? If it is to be applied to the Dominion of New Zealand, it is a very sorry end to this great new Imperial policy which was to stimulate Imperial trade, to put the Dominions in a position to buy our manufactured goods and to introduce a new era of prosperity to the British Commonwealth of Nations.

10.35 p.m.


I would like to assure the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that the information for which he is asking is to be found in paragraph 1 on page 2 of the Order, where it states: It shall not be lawful to import into the United Kingdom, except under licence, any pork produced in any foreign country. Does the hon. Baronet really regard New Zealand as coming under the head of a foreign country? It is all plainly set out there, and he need have no fears.


What I did say was that the principal increase in the first two months of the year was not from foreign countries but from the Dominion of New Zealand, and that the imports from other countries had either declined or remained stable.


But I did understand the hon. Baronet to say that he was fearful that New Zealand might have this promising trade cut off. It is for the very reason that we do not want to cut off this development by which New Zealand is now sending us pork and assisting her own home producers that the Government propose to reduce or prevent any further increase in the imports from foreign countries. I would support the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) that the Board of Trade should take measures, as I see they have power to do, to regulate the imports so that they do not fall into those months when prices are a little better for British producers, and thus prevent the foreign importers from undercutting our own producers.

10.38 p.m.


I would say to the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Haslam) that if the policy of himself and his friends prevails very soon the Dominions, New Zealand among them, will be treated on precisely the same footing as foreign countries. There will be just as great an outcry against imports from the Dominions as about those coming from foreign countries. But I rose only because of a suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage). If I followed him correctly, he not only wanted an import quota now but wanted an assurance that it would be maintained for an indefinite time. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give no such assurance, and that in any trade agreement which the Department may make in the future he will not allow his hands to be tied by giving an assurance as to the duration of Orders of this character.

10.39 p.m.


It is hardly necessary for me to say that the observations which have fallen from the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) as to the treatment of Dominion countries bear no resemblance whatever to the policy of His Majesty's Government. I do not know whether I am right in thinking so, but it occurred to me that the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) could only have been made, because he was not in the House when I moved the Order. Every word that he uttered by way of criticism of the information that had not been given to the House could only have been made because he was not here. I dealt with almost every one of the matters he raised, although I spoke only for the briefest possible period of time in putting forward something that is really common form. The hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) talked about principles, extensions of principle and applications of principle in some new manner. The truth is that under the Agricultural Marketing Act there is perfectly definite machinery for the regulation of imports, and it follows precedent. The Order is in identical terms and deals with the matter in the identical way. It proposes to adopt a system of licences that already applies to other imports. There is no extension of principle and no new application. It is merely following out a principle which has already been passed, authorised and in several instances implemented by the House.

Hon. Members are entitled to ask for every legitimate information, and I said in my opening remarks, which I said were introductory and would be brief, that I readily placed myself in the hands of the House to answer any questions. That is the footing upon which I should like to answer the questions which have been raised. Let me begin at the beginning. All our agricultural policy is based on a perfectly clear idea: the home producer first, the Dominion producer second and the foreign producer third. That is the perfectly clear, well understood, general idea. In the application of that principle to all kinds of meat there are, of course, differences according to the meat products with which we are dealing. We are concerned to-might with pork. Although the definition in paragraph 7 is wide, for the reasons which I set out in my opening remarks, the only form of pork which will effectively come under this Order is chilled and frozen pork. I understand that chilled and frozen pork does not come in any quantity from Europe or from any other countries than the United States of America and the Argentine, except for very small quantities from Brazil and Uruguay.

The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green is an authority on the locking of doors of stables, but invariably after the horse has bolted. The whole point of his speech was a comparison of the imports in the first months of 1935 with the imports in the similar month of 1934. I explained that we endeavoured to make a restriction on pork imports in the autumn of last year, and that the reason why we were unable to put a voluntary agreement into effect was because of forward commitments. We were concerned at the importation, which had grown from 1932 to 1933 and then to 1934, in the proportion of 1934 being twice 1933 and four times 1932, and that it was, as the Minister of Agriculture so graphically puts it, ballooning up. It had become necessary to consider the regulation of this type of pork. The Board of Trade always endeavour to make restrictions of imports by voluntary agreement with foreign countries, if possible. I would pay a tribute to the agricultural attachés of the different foreign countries with whom we are in constant contact, for the way in which they and their Governments endeavour to co-operate when Great Britain signifies a wish that they should. We endeavour as far as possible to work this method without the introduction of the rather harder and more formal system of licences.

Occasionally, for political reasons, a foreign country finds itself unable to agree. It is faced with opposition not only from the outside, but, for political reasons, within its own boundaries, and it may find itself in a difficulty in assentsing voluntarily to the reduction of an important trade. It then becomes necessary, if the conditions of the Act are properly complied with here, to consider a system of licences applied equally to all foreign countries and not applying at all to the Dominions who are left to be dealt with voluntarily, and to whom it should not be applied. In the present case that is exactly what has happened. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) asked me what was the justification for this Order, and he gave expression to an opinion which I respectfully share, namely, that it is important, wherever a Departmental instrument is implementing an Act of Parliament, that the language of that instrument should be accurate, that it should fall clearly within the powers delegated by Parliament, and that there should not be ambiguity. I entirely concur. The right hon. Gentleman will notice that, under Section I of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, the condition is: that there have been, or are being, taken all such steps as are practicable and necessary for the efficient reorganisation, by means of agricultural marketing schemes or schemes under this Act, of those branches of the agricultural industry in the United Kingdom in whose interests the order is made. That is the general provision, and there is also recital that it appears to the Board of Trade that there have been taken all such steps as are practicable and necessary for efficient reorganisation by means of agricultural marketing schemes or schemes under the Act. It is sufficient for my purpose to deal merely with the Bacon Scheme. It is not the only one, but it is sufficient for my purpose to say that the Bacon Marketing Scheme contained express provisions designed to control the amount of imported pork, because of the habit of putting that imported pork into cure and selling it as bacon in Great Britain. I am sure that, if the House passed a regulation intended to restrict the importation of bacon, there would be no body of opinion in the House that wanted to see that restriction evaded by the importation of pork and the conversion of that pork into bacon. That would be regarded as an evasion of what had already been passed by the House, and that is precisely what has happened. Large quantities of foreign frozen pork have been put into cure in this country, the powers of the Bacon Marketing Scheme have to that extent been vetoed, and we have found that one of the schemes put into force under the Agricultural Marketing Act has been jeopardised by the absence of control of the imports of foreign frozen pork.

It would be sufficient for my purpose to assure the House that the conditions have in fact been complied with, and, as the responsible Minister, I take the responsibility of saying that we are advised that that is the case. But I go further, and say that in the bacon industry there is the Bacon Marketing Scheme, that there is a loophole in the Bacon Marketing Scheme caused by the imports of foreign frozen pork, and that the method of closing that loophole is to restrict such imports. I cannot imagine any more logical cascade of steps than that which I have just indicated. I have told the House that the Order has been made on three main grounds—as part of the general measures of regulation, in the interests of the home pork industry, and on account of the damaging effect on the Pig and Bacon Marketing Schemes which an uncontrolled flood of imports of frozen pork, which may be cured illicitly in this country, has produced and is liable to produce. These are the specific reasons for the making of the Order. Now let me come back to deal with the specific questions that were asked.


Before the hon. Gentleman proceeds to answer those questions, will he tell us how it is that this Order is designed specifically and exclusively to help the pork side of the pig trade, when in his previous sentence he has satisfied the House that these imports were going into bacon curing factories?


The confusion is in the hon. Gentleman's mind. I have explained that part of the pig industry is the bacon industry; that in the bacon marketing scheme there is a loophole; that this regulation closes the loophole, and I said that that answer in itself is enough to justify this Order. I told the House that the Order was made for the three reasons I have just mentioned.

The hon. Member for Don Valley said this was a slipshod Order and asked why the regulation of a food commodity was effected in this way, and whether there will not be international complications? He says that when there was talk of an import board international complications were threatened. Why should there not be international complications if this scheme is adopted? The answer is that the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1933, an Act of Parliament passed by this House after full debate, notified all foreign countries that when Great Britain chose to regulate an agricultural product by an internal marketing scheme, at that moment the responsible Ministers could come to the House for an Order restricting from foreign countries the import of that particular commodity. Foreign countries entirely understand that principle. They were prepared to accept it. There are no international complications such as the hon. Member suggests. The power of licensing has to be exercised equitably and in a reasonable manner. There must be attention paid to small countries. If a particular system of licensing is found to press heavily on one country as against another, there must be the fullest opportunity of consultation. The commercial attachés must be received. There must be a listening to representations, but assuming that the Board of Trade is in charge of a licensing scheme—and this is not a new thing; it is a matter in which we are constantly en- gaged —the hon. Member need have no fear of the international complications to which he has referred.

The hon. Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) asked what is the duration of this Order and whether licences will be watched to see that foreign countries are not able to secure the cream of the market? I have before from this Box described to the House the precise nature of a licence issued by the Board of Trade under one of these schemes. It is a licence to which conditions may or may not be attached. It is a licence revocable at will. It does not convey either property, or title, or goodwill, or continuation. In other words, the licence controlling authority is the Board of Trade. No period of time is set to measures of this kind. If the Board of Trade found that imports were excessive, then the period that is from time to time prescribed and the quantity that is from time to time prescribed by the Board of Trade as permissible would be smaller. It operates as a sluice gate. If the Board of Trade thinks that more ought to come in, licences are more freely granted. It is a most effective and efficient form of elastic control, that can be varied as the occasion requires.

In the actual day-to-day working of these matters, the difficulties which appear to hon. Members to be so real do not arise. I am not for the moment wanting to affirm to the House that these matters are simple. I am not affirming that the regulation of any agricultural product which may be the main form of export from a particular country is willingly or voluntarily entered into by that country, but, when this power is possessed, in practice working is found to be a matter which proceeds with reasonable smoothness.

That covers the substantial points about which I was asked. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green asked in his concluding question, whether the figures were agreed by the Dominion of New Zealand? The whole question of the imports of meat from the Dominions has for a long time been a subject matter of discussion between the mother country and the Dominions. By friendly conversations, the quantity of meats of different kinds has been allocated, and the allocation has been made in this case to New Zealand. There has been a good deal of discussion with Australia and New Zealand as to the quantities for the different periods of the year, and an allocation has been arrived at satisfactory to New Zealand.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Pork (Import Regulation) Order, 1936, dated the twenty-sixth day of February, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Board of Trade under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, a copy of which was presented to this House on the fourth day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved.