HC Deb 29 July 1937 vol 326 cc3317-20
Mr. Attlee

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries whether he is in a position to make any statement as to the future policy of the Government in relation to milk and to the pig and bacon industry?

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

The Government have prepared proposals in relation to milk, but they are of too long and detailed a character to be announced in an oral reply. They have, therefore, been set out in a White Paper, copies of which will be available in the Vote Office at the end of Questions. As regards pigs and bacon, the Government have given careful consideration to the difficulties of the bacon industry which appear to be attributable, in part, to the increase of pig-feeding costs and, in part, to the high costs of bacon manufacture in this country. They believe that if the industry were founded on a small number of efficient factories provided with adequate and regular supplies of pigs of good quality and conformation, sufficient economies could be secured in the cost of curing to enable the industry to be maintained during periods of high feeding costs. The Government accordingly would be willing to propose that some assistance should be accorded to the industry over a sufficient period to enable the contract system for the supply of bacon pigs to be re-established if they were assured that the reorganisation of the bacon factories would so proceed as to hold promise of a reduction in curing costs which would enable both producers and curers to work at a profit. The Government desire to give further consideration, in consultation with the industry, to the nature of the changes that would be required and the form which they should take, with a view to laying detailed proposals before Parliament as early as possible. Meanwhile the present arrangements for the regulation of imports will continue in force.

Major Dower

Can the Minister hold out any hope of any proposals being brought in with regard to poultry in the near future?

Mr. Morrison

The whole question of poultry is also under the consideration of the Government, and I hope to be able to make some statement on it at the earliest date possible.

Mr. Alexander

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of the milk proposals to which he has not referred in detail, will require legislation or the approval of the House, and, if so, when is it proposed to submit them to the House?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir; the proposals set out in the White Paper will require legislation, and the Government will take the earliest opportunity of proposing to the House the necessary measures to give effect to them.

Mr. Gallacher

In his original answer the Minister inferred that the small men would have to be wiped out in the bacon industry and the more efficient factories developed. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in the poultry industry they are practically all small men, and that that industry must receive separate consideration?

Mr. Morrison

The two instances are not at all parallel. I have said already that the Government will consider, and have been considering, the poultry industry, and that a statement will be made as soon as possible. With regard to the small bacon factories, the only desire of the Government is to relieve producers and consumers from the cost of inefficient bacon-curing factories.

Mr. Acland

Arising out of the bacon proposals, can the Minister give an assurance that any assistance will be made conditional on a real, serious effort to produce standard grades of British bacon to compete with the graded Danish bacon imported from abroad?

Mr. Morrison

The desire of the Government is to induce such reorganisation of the curing industry as will enable the British bacon industry to compete with any other source of supply.

Mr. Maxton

How much money is it estimated will be spent on this scheme?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot say that at the moment.

Miss Wilkinson

What will the Government or the country get in return for this subsidy; and will the Minister have any control over these factories?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Lady may rest assured that no financial assistance will be given without adequate control by the Government and by this House.

Mr. Mathers

When the right hon. Gentleman says that there may be an early intimation with regard to poultry policy, does he mean that such a statement will possibly come before October?

Mr. Morrison

I do not anticipate being able to make a statement before the House reassembles.