HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc2052-6

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Leonard

I beg to move, in page 19, line 6, to leave out from the second "the," to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert: Development Board to enforce the pro. visions of this Section. I direct the attention of the House to Sub-section (3) of this Clause, which provides that any producer or curer who breaks the restrictions imposed in this Clause shall be liable to a penalty of from£5 to £200, and an additional fine not exceeding half the price at which the pigs or bacon were sold. The House will recognise that there is a very large field within which the penalty can be imposed, and for that reason I think it is desirable to give the power of imposing these penalties to a body which may be expected to be impartial. Consequently, the Amendment seeks to substitute for the Pigs Marketing Board and the Bacon Marketing Board, the Development Board, as having the power to impose these penalties. I do not know what is the number of small curers in the country, or the number of cottagers and smallholders who would be concerned, but there can be no doubt that the number in each case is pretty large, and that the two classes come into contact in business in the fresh pork market. It is possible that misunderstandings might arise and that, through no ill intention, pigs bought on the fresh pork market from cottagers or smallholders might be used by small curers for the production of bacon. If that should happen, I feel that it would be ill advised of the House to allow the penalty to be applied by either of the boards mentioned in the Clause. I suggest that the penalty should be imposed by the Development Board, because of the impartiality with which they would be able to look upon such misdemeanours.

Mr. Adamson

I beg to second the Amendment.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

An Amendment similar to this was discussed in Committee when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) suggested that this matter had better be left to the Development Board and my right hon. Friend promised to think over that suggestion. I propose to put certain considerations before the House for the purpose of resisting the Amendment. The offence would be that of selling pigs or bacon without being registered under, or exempt from the appropriate marketing scheme, and it is thought proper that the actual enforcement of a penalty should be with the Marketing Board concerned and not with the Development Board. Incidentally a large number of small curers would be exempt. In the first place, such a procedure as I have indicated would be in accord with the principles of the Agricultural Marketing Acts on which the Bill is founded. Secondly, this function is purely administrative, and broadly speaking, the Development Board will be concerned mainly with questions of policy and not of administration. These penalties, of course, I would remind hon. Members, are imposed by the courts, and not by the boards. It may help to reassure the hon. Member who moved this Amendment if I remind him that the Marketing Boards are not permitted to take independent action. The Development Board, under Clause 2 have an overriding power, and if the Marketing Board abused their powers of administration, if they were on the one hand too lax, or on the other hand too severe, then they would, as it were, come within the clutches of the Development Board and would be directed what to do. I do not think that any of the dangers anticipated by the hon. Member could possibly arise.

Mr. Leonard

How can the Development Board come in after the Marketing Board has sent the man to court?

Mr. Ede

That is too hard a question.

10.23 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

We are not very well satisfied with the Minister's reply. I had hoped for a more conciliatory answer, but my hon. Friend has not got much satisfaction. It is true that the Marketing Boards do not themselves impose penalties but they are responsible for the enforcement of the decisions of the Development Board. If, as the Minister says, the Development Board give directions, they are the people who take a poor person into court and provide the case against him. The Development Board is the only impartial part of this machinery, We ask that that impartial part of the machinery, under the direction of which the Minister says these other boards will work, should be the enforcing authority in taking a delinquent to court. That is a reasonable request, and I cannot see why the Government should be fumbling with it and objecting to it. Unless we get a better argument in reply, I shall have to ask my hon. Friends to divide on this Amendment, though I was hoping that we might have been spared that delay.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The right hon. Gentleman's wish that we should be spared delay will be warmly echoed in all parts of the House. The real point here concerns the general scope of the Bill wherein we are setting up a body known as the Development Board with wide functions to prepare policy and make decisions on question of policy. We are making use of these Marketing Boards now in existence to carry on the administration. This question is clearly a matter of administration and not of policy at all. We think this day-to-day machine business should be a question for the Marketing Boards, and I think it would he a breach in the general structure of the scheme if we were to ask the Development Board to come in here.

Mr. Leonard

The Minister has indicated that the prosecution would be made by the Marketing Board under the direction of the Development Board. Can he tell us how the Development Board comes into a case that has already been submitted to court?

Mr. Morrison

What my hon. Friend meant was that, unless the contrary is stated in the Bill, the Marketing Boards act under the directions of the Development Board. That is the general position, but in this particular case, if an offence under this Clause was committed, it would be a matter for the Marketing Board to deal with its own constituents, and it is better that it should do so, because it would have the information, in the first place, and it is a quicker and more reasonable piece of machinery that the board that is in day-to-day touch with the administration should take proceedings for any violation of the Act.

Mr. T. Williams

I suppose we can take it that, assuming any of the major functions of the Pigs Marketing Board or the Bacon Marketing Board were transferred to the Development Board under Clause 2, the Development Board would be the body to introduce proceedings in case of a default?

Mr. Morrison

Certainly. If that were to happen and the Development Board were to remain the sole authority for the enforcement of the Act, it would be the only appropriate body to institute proceedings; but while the Marketing Boards are in existence, we think it is best to let them proceed with cases that are under their administration.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. Woods

The replies given now are substantially different from that given in Committee upstairs, and I think the case for the Development Board has been strengthened by the replies given. I would like to ask the position with regard to a number of cases which must arise where collusion may be suspected or where there is difficulty in deciding who is really responsible for any infringement, when both buyers, who are the curers, and sellers, who are the producers, of the pigs are involved. There you will have a quartette—both boards involved and a couple of defendants, possibly. Both boards will be involved in a number of cases, and that is an argument why the responsibility should be transferred to the Development Board.


Mr. W. S. Morrison

Sub-section (4) says that it shall be the duty of the respective boards to enforce the provisions of the Clause in regard to producers and curers as the case may be. That does not mean that one board may always appear as the prosecutor. In such a case as the hon. Member has envisaged, when both curer and producer are involved, it might be a matter of arrangement for the prosecution to be instituted by one body or the other if it is one transaction.

Amendment negatived.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 19, line To, at the end, to insert: but nothing in this Sub-section shall be construed as authorising either of the said boards to institute proceedings in Scotland for any offence against the said provisions. This Amendment looks as if it were giving carte blanche for offences to be committed in Scotland, but it is nothing of the kind. Private prosecutions are unknown to the law of Scotland, and the only person who can set in motion the machinery of a prosecution is the Lord Advocate or the Procurator Fiscal. These words should be inserted to make it clear that the law of Scotland is not infringed.

Amendment agreed to.