HC Deb 08 July 1937 vol 326 cc560-2
51. Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the Import Duties Advisory Committee to report their recommendations with regard to poultry and eggs?

Sir J. Simon

As my hon. and gallant Friend is no doubt aware, it is considered not to be in the public interest to answer questions regarding recommendations of the Import Duties Advisory Committee until decisions have been taken thereon, since to do so would tend to give information which might lead to forestalling.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that we have been waiting a very long time for this report; and is it the case that the Committee are not reporting because they know it would be of no use their doing so until the Government denounce certain trade agreements?

Sir Gifford Fox

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, every week that goes by, more poultry producers are becoming bankrupt?

Mr. Turton

Have the Government any power to impose such duties until the trade agreements have lapsed?

56 Sir G. Fox

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1), the policy of his Department in the conduct of its laboratory at Weybridge at which blood-testing for fowls is carried out; and whether it is the intention of the Department gradually to crush out of the field private enterprise offering to do the same work, and to enter into any and every form of competition with such private enterprise;

(2) whether he is aware that the majority of laboratories dealing with the blood-testing of fowls receive no grant or subsidy, but rely solely on their good work and service to the industry to make the necessary turnover; and whether, since his laboratory at Weybridge is subsidised from public funds, he will ensure that there is no unfair competition in this particular branch of agricultural activity;

(3) whether he is aware that his Department has issued a leaflet stating that the price of blood-testing for fowls has been reduced to 1½d. per sample at the Government laboratory at Weybridge; whether this charge is designed to undercut all similar private enterprise which cannot put it at such a low figure; and whether, in fixing this offer of testing, he takes into consideration the cost of the staff and the equipment, which is paid out of public taxes?

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

Under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1935, the Minister of Agriculture is generally responsible for measures for eradicating poultry diseases in this country, and the work of the Ministry's laboratory at Weybridge in relation to the blood testing of fowls is undertaken partly as a service to the industry and partly to enable the Ministry to maintain contact with the needs of the industry. Until the present year the fee charged at Weybridge was 2d. per sample. For some time past a lower fee has been charged by some of the other laboratories offering this service, and, following strong representations from poultry keepers' associations, the charge at Weybridge has recently been reduced to 1½d. The work is self-supporting, and there is no question of unfair competition with other institutions.

Sir G. Fox

Will my right hon. Friend consider placing the accredited laboratories, which are now carrying out this work for accredited breeders, on the same basis as the Government laboratory, so that they may equally receive remuneration for this work from public funds?

70. Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has yet taken any steps to denounce those trade agreements which prevent the Government from dealing with the importation of poultry and eggs from foreign countries; and whether any negotiations have been opened with regard to these agreements?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

No, Sir. As my hon. and gallant Friend was informed on 13th April last, the case of the poultry industry will receive consideration in connection with any negotiations which may take place for the revision of various trade agreements, and in the light of any report received from the Import Duties Advisory Committee on the application which is now before them.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

As it takes at least four or six months before any alteration can be made in these trade agreements, is it not time the right hon. Gentleman took some action in the matter?

Mr. Stanley

I think my hon. and gallant Friend is under some misapprehension. It is not necessary to proceed always by way of denunciation. There have been several examples where any alteration that was considered desirable has been done by agreed alteration of the old Treaty without any denunciation.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Why cannot my right hon. Friend start negotiations at once and try to get this alteration made?

Mr. Stanley

The House will realise that there are other things to be considered besides the poultry industry.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is time to get something done?

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