HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc2044-51

9.50 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

I beg to move, in page 12, line 28, after "1935," to insert: that the existing supply of bacon, whether produced in Great Britain or elsewhere, exceeds eleven million five hundred thousand hundredweights. This is an Amendment to which my hon. Friends and I attach a considerable amount of importance. The House will observe that the Clause is one which lays down the ground upon which licences only can be refused. We are seeking to make it quite certain that no efficient curer should be refused a licence so long as the total supply of bacon for consumption in the country is at a lower figure than 11,500,000 cwts. for the year. I would remind the House that the Lane Fox Reorganisation Commission recommended in their report to the Minister that the United Kingdom supplies of bacon and ham from all sources for the present—that was at that time—should be stabilised at 10,670,000 cwts. per annum. That was subsequently revised by the Government Department, because, in making their calculations, the Commission did not take into consideration the output of relatively small curers, and the figure was put at 10,818,000 cwts. That figure has been the basis ever since for operating the import restrictions imposed by the Government on bacon.

The first point that we wish to make is that, in fact, we have never yet had for consumption in this country, since the operation of the bacon marketing scheme, the full amount of 10,818,000 cwts. The largest 12 months' supply available, both from home and imported sources, since the scheme came into operation, was, in 1937, 10,733,000 cwts. Both by the operation of the control of licences by the Development Board and by the imposition of the bacon sales quota by the Bacon Marketing Board, the supplies available for public consumption have been kept far too low. The extent to which that has been kept low has taken no real account of the other recommendations of the Lane Fox Commission, which pointed out that there seemed to be justification for regarding the figure they put into their report as the normal annual supply at that time at the then level of population. But their recommendation should never be regarded as being for the present. Since the Lane Fox figure was based upon the total annual supply in the period from 1925 to 1930, and the population has increased by over 1,250,000 since that time, it seems to us essential that we should so revise that figure, as a guide in the administration of the scheme, as not to make for a real shortage of bacon supplies available to the people of this country.

I know that there are hon. Members who say that 10,800,000 cwts. is a substantial supply, and that looking at the figures of 15 or 20 years prior to the year 1930, it is not an unreasonably low supply. From our experience of the trade since, we have had two things—first the increase in population by over a million, and, secondly, a much larger number of persons actually employed than there were during the depression. It means that we are all the time having a fight to get enough of the right type of bacon in these circumstances at the present time. If we are to make the industry really successful we should not leave it in a situation where a substantial part of the public cannot get sufficient bacon supplies and begin to lose thereby the bacon-eating habit, but we ought to have a considerably larger supply of bacon available than has been the case in the past. We are not being revolutionary in our proposal. We have put down a reasonable figure, and we say that you should not refuse a licence until there is in sight a supply of 11,500,000 cwts.

I should like us to make more progress with the Bill than we are doing, and therefore I will not go over the whole of the arguments that we used on Second Reading on this point and in Committee, but we do attach importance to this matter. We do not want a dislocated system, but an ordered system. We do not want an ordered system which is brought about purely by restriction. We do not think that orderly marketing means necessarily marketing for imperfect and restricted supplies. We wish to organise for plenty and not for limited supplies. We do not ask the Government to be disorderly by agreeing to something that is unlimited, but we do ask for an adjustment of the figure, and we think that the one we have suggested is reasonable.

9.56 p.m.

Mr. Leonard

I beg to second the Amendment.

I had the opportunity of moving the Amendment in Committee and I paid attention to the reply of the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion. While it is not our intention to extend the time that is being devoted to this question, I should like the Minister to deal with the point in regard to the increase of population, which was raised by my right hon. Friend. In his reply in Committee the Minister said that he had the guidance of the Market Supply Committee and the Consultative Committee on Bacon Supplies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) used some information and suggested that the Consultative Committee on Bacon Supplies had made certain observations to the Department in past years and that they had not been acted upon. I should like to know whether attention will be paid in future to any report which the Consultative Committee makes, so far as bacon is concerned. I have a recollection of what was done with regard to reports from the Investigation Committee dealing with milk. Reports which were made by people who had no statistics to support their contention, were accepted, while the reports of those who had statistics supporting them, were rejected. Therefore, I hope the Minister will be able to assure us that the Consultative Committee will have attention paid to its observations.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) for the brevity with which they have moved and seconded an Amendment to which they attach considerable importance. The opposition to the Amendment is also regarded on this side of the House as of considerable importance. With regard to the first point that has been raised as to the effect upon supplies of population, it is true that since the Lane Fox Commission reported, there has been a change in the population and in the purchasing power of the population, but I think I made it clear on Second Reading that in regulating supplies in the future the regulation will be conducted so as to secure reasonable prices in the general interest, and the Government will not regard themselves as restricted to any given total of supplies. The situation in that respect will be regarded as it is at the present time, without harking back to what has been the position in the past.

The Government cannot accept the proposition which is inherent in the Amendment, that all this power of licensing, on which the scheme of rationalisation depends, is to be made conditional upon a given total of bacon supplies being available at any particular time. They take that attitude because the total bacon supplies at any given moment is not a matter over which they have any control. It would be a wrong principle for the Government to deal with this matter by reliance upon any fortuitous event over which they have no control. The fact seems to have been forgotten that although bacon production in this country has doubled since the bacon scheme came into operation, it only amounts to 25 or 30 per cent. of our total supplies. The result would be that the 11,500,000 cwts., if we put that figure in the Bill, would be made up, as to some 75 per cent., of foreign supplies. We should be jeopardising and imperilling the whole of our scheme upon the chance as to whether foreign countries were in a position to supply this amount of bacon to us.

Mr. Alexander

There has never been any difficulty about that.

Mr. Morrison

The right hon. Gentleman says there has never been any difficulty about that. I would, however, urge upon the House that it is a fallacy to believe that there is an unlimited supply of bacon in the world and that all you have to do is to turn on the tap, and the bacon comes like water out of a pipe. In the operation of the pig cycle, when feeding stuffs rise, down goes the pig population at home and abroad. Only last year the population of pigs in Denmark declined by 15 per cent. and in Holland by 16 per cent. Supposing there were some reduction in foreign countries and for some reason we could not get the bacon from abroad, is it to be said that we are to hold up all our efforts to improve and rationalise our position, because we cannot get foreign supplies to make up a stipulated quantity?

Mr. Alexander

We do not ask you to do that. We say that you should not refuse licences for home production of bacon, unless you have that amount of bacon. We are encouraging you to issue licences for home production.

Mr. Morrison

The right hon. Gentleman and the House must realise that the power to issue licences is the sanction for rationalisation of an efficient curing industry. Without this power no progress whatever can be made with rationalisation. I would ask the House not to make a power which is vital to the whole of this scheme dependent and contingent upon a certain given level of supplies that may not be available owing to circumstances over which we have no control.

Mr. Alexander

If we withdraw the Amendment, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that the notional figure on which his Department has worked in regard to the regulation of supplies, in view of the increase in population and the increase of employment, be raised to 11,500,000 cwts., instead of the figure in the Lane Fox report?

Mr. Morrison

With the best will in the world I could not nominate a figure of that sort. The wisest course is that now we have entered upon a new chapter in the bacon industry we should view the circumstances at the particular time, and be guided by them. The supporters of the Amendment are basing the whole of their argument on the changes that have taken place since the Lane Fox Commission nominated a particular figure. It may have been unwise to nominate that figure and it would be equally unwise for us to nominate a particular figure now as the figure upon which the whole of our rationalisation must depend. It is a question for the future and not a question for the past, and for that reason I would ask the House not to accept the Amendment. I do not want to traverse the argument that bacon has been short in supply; I do not agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said on that point, but I do not pursue it at the moment. I cannot recommend the House to accept the Amendment. I think that the proper

view of this matter is to do what we can to improve our own supplies. Shortage of bacon is not the object of the Bill. The object of the Bill is to increase the amount of British bacon, at a cheap price by measures of greater efficiency and encouragement to our own people. That is, I think, an object with which the House will readily agree. For these reasons I cannot ask the House to accept the Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 128; Noes, 208.

Division No. 261.] AYES. [10.6 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Hardie, Agnes Parkinson, J. A.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Harris, Sir P. A. Pearson, A.
Adamson, W. M. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hayday, A. Price, M. P.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Pritt, D. N.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Quibell, D. J. K.
Banfield, J. W. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Barnes, A. J. Holdsworth, H. Ridley, G
Batey, J. Hopkin, D. Riley, B.
Bellenger, F. J. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Ritson, J.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Benson, G. John, W. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Broad, F. A. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Seely, Sir H. M.
Bromfield, W. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Saxton, T. M.
Buchanan, G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Silkin, L.
Burke, W. A. Kelly, W. T. Simpson, F. B.
Cassells, T. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Chater, D. Kirby, B. V. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cluse, W. S. Kirkwood, D. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cooks, F. S. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Sorensen, R. W.
Collindridge, F. Lawson, J. J. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cove, W. G. Leach, W. Stokes, R. R.
Daggar, G. Leonard, W. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Dalton, H. Leslie, J. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Logan, D. G. Thurtle, E.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lunn, W. Tinker, J. J.
Day, H. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Tomlinson, G.
Dobbie, W. McEntee, V. La T. Viant, S. P.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McGhee, H. G. Walker, J.
Ede, J. C. McGovern, J. Watkins, F. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Watson, W. McL.
Foot, D. M. Maclean, N. Welsh, J. C.
Gallagher, W. Marshall, F. Westwood, J.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Mathers, G. White, H. Graham
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Maxton, J. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Messer, F. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Milner, Major J. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Grenfell, D. R. Montague, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Muff, G. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Naylor, T. E. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Griffiths, J. (Llanolly) Oliver, G. H.
Groves, T. E. Owen, Major G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Paling, W. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Parker, J.
Asland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Beechman, N. A. Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Beit, Sir A. L. Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Birchall, Sir J. D. Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)
Albery, Sir Irving Bower, Comdr. R. T. Christie, J. A.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Boyce, H. Leslie Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Clarry, Sir Reginald
Aske, Sir R. W. Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)
Assheton, R. Bull, B. B. Colfax, Major W. P.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Burghley, Lord Celman, N. C. D.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Butcher, H. W. Conant, Captain R. J. E.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Campbell, Sir E. T. Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Cary, R. A. Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Hunter, T. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hutchinson, G. C. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Cranborne, Viscount Joel, D. J. B. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Remer, J. R.
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Keeling, E. H. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Groom-Johnson, R. P. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Ropner, Colonel L.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cruddas, Col. B. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Rowlands, G.
Culverwell, C. T. Latham, Sir P. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Leech, Sir J. W. Russell, Sir Alexander
De la Bère, R. Lees-Jones, J. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Doland, G. F. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Donner, P. W. Levy, T. Selley, H. R.
Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Liddall, W. S. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Dower, Major A. V. G. Lindsay, K. M. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Drewe, C. Lipson, D. L. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Little, Sir E. Graham. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
Dunglass, Lord. Lloyd, G. W. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Eastwood, J. F. Locker-Lampoon, Cemdr. O. S. Somerset, T.
Eckersley, P. T. Loftus, P. C. Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Ellis, Sir G. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Elliston, Capt. G. S. McCorquedale, M. S. Spens, W. P.
Elmley, Viscount McKie, J. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Macnamara, Major J. R. J. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W m'ld)
Errington, E. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Everard, W. L. Markham, S. F. Tate, Mavis C.
Fildes, Sir H. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Furness, S. N. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Thomas, J. P. L.
Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley) Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Gledhill, G. Moore, Lieut.-Col Sir T. C. R. Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
Gluckstein, L. H. Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Turton, R. H.
Grant-Ferris, R. Moreing, A. C. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Morgan, R. H. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Warrender, Sir V.
Grimston, R. V. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Munro, P. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Wayland, Sir W. A
Hambro, A. V. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Wells, Sir Sydney
Harbord, A. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Perkins, W. R. D. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Petherick, M. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Hepbu[...], P. G. T. Buchan Pilkington, R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hepworth, J. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Wise, A. R.
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Porritt, R. W. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey) Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Higgs, W. F. Procter, Major H. A. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Radford, E. A. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Holmes, J. S. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Ramsbotham, H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hopkinson, A. Ramsden, Sir E. Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Captain
Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon, L. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Dugdale.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Rayner, Major R. H.