HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc2060-4

Amendments made:

In page 28, line 13, leave out "The," and insert "Each."

In line 17, after "Act," insert "to the addition of any allocation premium."

In line 38, leave out paragraph (i).—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

10.46 p.m.

Colonel Clarke

I beg to move, in page 29, line 16, to leave out "of the Minister," and to insert made by the Minister after consultation with the Development Board. In reply to a request made during the Committee stage by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), the Minister promised to consider this Amendment on Report, and a little later in the same Debate, on consideration of a further Amendment in my name, the Minister asked me not to press for too strict a definition of the standard pig, but to leave it to the common sense of those who have to administer the Act to prescribe, in consultation with the Development Board, the Pigs Marketing Board and the Bacon Marketing Board…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 24th May, 1938, col. 265.] I venture to suggest that this Amendment really describes what is the declared intention of the Minister in this connection, and I think there is no need to stress the importance of the definition of the standard pig. The whole working of the scheme, and its success or failure, depend up on it. Irregular grading in the past has led to dissatisfaction, and regularity of grading must depend on the definition of the grade. Any dissatisfaction with grading is bound to prejudice the supply of pigs. There has also been some doubt in the past whether the method of grading practised has really been calculated to produce the best sort of bacon. I would again emphasise that the definition of a standard pig is of vital importance.

The future of the pig breeding industry depends very largely on this definition. If, through some mistake, too great emphasis were laid on such factors as fecundity and production of meat, while other factors, such as those which contribute to the rearing of pigs, were neglected, we might see the same disaster overwhelm our pig stock as has overwhelmed our poultry stock. I know that it might perhaps be better if the Development Board came to consult the Minister, but even then the invitation would have to come in the first place from him, and I do not think there is very much difference between the two alternatives. I do not suggest that the task of defining a standard pig is beyond the Minister's capability, but I believe that the acceptance of this Amendment, besides making no real difference to his declared intention, would relieve him to some extent from the burden of being responsible, at any rate on paper, for the specification. I think it would also please those in the country who are always looking for examples of over-centralisation and two great bureaucratic control. Moreover, it would make the producer feel that he has some little say in this matter through the elected members representing the Bacon Board and the Pigs Marketing Board who sit on the Development Board. Finally, I know it might be said that this is a precedent, but if it is a good precedent does that not matter very much?

10.50 p.m.

Sir J. Lamb

I beg to second the Amendment.

This is a matter of very great importance indeed to the pig breeders and the pig producers. The question of what is the standard pig has caused a great deal of trouble and a great deal of loss to certain people, because the standard pig may really be two standards instead of one. At present the London standard is a very much smaller pig, but in the Midlands there is a demand for a larger pig. The larger pig has been forced, because of the heavier weight, into the lower grade, and one for which the producer has been paid a lower rate, although the butcher and bacon curer in that area required a larger pig and were willing to pay the higher price, and really considered that a larger pig was the one which suited the demand for bacon in that particular area. This is a matter of such importance that I believe the decision should not be left to the Minister alone. It should be settled in consultation with the Development Board. The Development Board will consist of men who, we hope and believe, will be qualified to deal with this matter in a businesslike way and the Minister should have their advice. Unless he has, he may decide upon a standard pig which is not suitable, and the Development Board will he able to help him because they are in constant touch with the demands of the trade. I believe the Minister would find that it would be to his advantage if he were to accept this Amendment.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

It is true that I promised to consider this point when it was first suggested in Committee. I made that promise because I could see nothing against the Amendment. It is obvious that any Minister engaged on the great enterprise of providing by regulations for the standard pig would desire to avail himself of any assistance he could get, and the Development Board would be an admirable body to consult. The only reason why I ask my hon. Friends not to press this Amendment is not because I have any objection to consulting with the Development Board, but because I do not want words to be put into the Statute which might by implication mean that I had no right to consult anybody else. For instance, it might be equally desirable for the Minister to consult the Pigs Marketing Board on a matter of this importance to producers, as well as the Development Board. It might also be desirable to go in search of such information as the Minister could get from pig breeding societies and various other bodies, so as to throw the door as wide open as possible to knowledge flowing in upon this very important matter. But I can give an unlimited assurance that in framing these regulations the Minister will consult the Development Board, and indeed the Development Board are bound to advise him on such a matter. It is only a question of precedent, and of the fear that because one body is named it may be thought that the Minister is tied up to it and may not go farther afield in search of knowledge.

There is one other consideration. Frequently attempts are made in Acts of Parliament to say that Ministers should consult bodies of various sorts. It it a very harmless thing in this case to say that the Minister should consult the Development Board, but as a precedent it is not desirable. The Minister is responsible to Parliament and there is always a feeling that if he consults other people they are parties to the frequent mistakes of the Minister of Agriculture. I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend not to press the Amendment, with the purpose of which I agree and which I guarantee will be carried out.

Colonel Clarke

I am very grateful to the Minister for the further consideration he has given the Amendment, and I appreciate the assurance he has given. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.