HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc2041-4

9.39 P.m

Mr. Ramsbotham

I beg to move, in page 10, line 42, at the end, to insert: Provided that if and so far as the processes by which it is proposed that bacon should be produced on any premises are secret processes, an applicant for a licence in respect of those premises shall not be bound to give any particulars of those processes which would reveal the nature thereof so far as it is secret. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) raised upstairs the question of secret processes and recipes. This Amendment is put forward with the object of providing that an applicant for a licence is not bound to reveal any secret processes. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that if he should state that the process was secret and in fact it was not secret, he would render himself liable to penalties for making a false statement.

Amendment agreed to.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. Liddall

I beg to move, in page 12, line 4, to leave out "sixty," and to insert "one hundred and twenty."

I hope the House will not think that I am endeavouring to secure, during the Report stage, a rehearing of an Amendment which has not been dealt with in Committee. I put this Amendment down during the Committee stage, but, unfortunately, having also to sit on another Committee, I was unable to be present when the Amendment should have been moved. The object of the Amendment is to extend the maximum output up to which curers may be able to produce without rationalisation being applied to them, and, incidentally, to increase the output of bacon which they would be able to produce from pigs purchased in the open market.

As the Bill stands, all curers producing more than 60 cwts in four weeks, or an average of 15 cwts per week, will be required to obtain what is known as a producer's licence, and to purchase pigs for the purpose of bacon on a long contract system. When the bacon marketing scheme and the pigs marketing scheme were brought into existence it was urged in favour of them that they were put forward in order to provide an expanding bacon industry in this country. As a result, a substantial number of the smaller curers in the bacon marketing scheme have been slowly but steadily increasing their business. If, however, the limit of 60 cwts. is the maximum which a small curer will be permitted to produce without the necessity of buying his pigs on a long-term contract, that expanding production will be checked so far as the small men are concerned. They may be small in terms of output, but from their very circumstances they are normally able to obtain their supplies of pigs for curing without any great difficulty, and, owing incidentally to their local situation, in respect of centres of consumption, they meet a local demand and a local taste for bacon.

It has been suggested, I believe, that the Amendment should be resisted because if the figure were increased it would mean such a volume of bacon being produced for this from pigs purchased on contracts as would disturb the whole balance of the scheme. I would remind the House that the Minister of Agriculture, during the Second Reading, said it was estimated that there would be some 490 curers who would be entitled to a small curer's licence—that is to say, some 490 who would be entitled to produce up to 60 cwts. of bacon in four weeks, other than from pigs bought on contract. The Minister said, however, that these 490 curers produced a negligible proportion of the whole bacon produced, in that they produced less than 5 per cent. of the total in this country. That being the case, if this Amendment is accepted the aggregate of the production of the curers who would come within the scope of the Amendment would, surely, still be less than 10 per cent. of the whole.

It should be remembered that these curers who are to be exempted from the contract system will not participate in the subsidy. That subsidy will be given to those registered curers who purchase on the contract system, and, apart from that, they will be required to make contributions to the Bacon Marketing Board, give returns of output and be subject to the penalties imposed on all licence holders under this part of the Bill if they are guilty of any breach of the conditions endorsed upon their licences. I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

Colonel Ponsonby

I beg to second the Amendment.

9.46 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) has said that there are between 400 and 500 of these small curers and the effect of the Amendment would be to enable that number, who would at present come within the 60 cwts. limit, to increase their production to 120 cwts. per month without any control over efficiency which this Bill otherwise provides. It would also increase the class by the addition of about 70 curers whose aggregate output last year was two-thirds of the aggregate output of the small curer class—the 400 or 500 curers I mentioned. Beyond that the Amendment would mean that any new licences which might be issued under the Bill to the small curer class would automatically give the right of production up to 120 cwts. per month, instead of 60 cwts. as contemplated in the Bill. The result, broadly speaking, of passing the Amendment would be to increase very substantially the quantity of bacon which would be produced without any control over the efficiency of production, and there would be a corresponding increase in the number of pigs that could be purchased outside the long contract system.

Mr. Liddall

Will the hon. Gentleman inform the House what class of curers are more efficient than the smaller curers in this country to-day?

Mr. Ramsbotham

I do not know that I am called upon to go into the efficiency or otherwise of the small curer, but no doubt it is to the advantage of all curers that they should come under the efficiency provisions of the Bill. Therefore, if I may advise the House, it would be very unwise indeed to accept the Amendment, and contrary to the whole spirit and intention of the Bill. It would introduce a very substantial amount of bacon which would no longer be subject to the efficiency measures we desire to impose, and I am afraid that the Amendment cannot be accepted.

Amendment negatived.

9.49 P.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 12, line II, at the end, to insert: Provided that nothing in this Sub-section shall render it obligatory on the Development Board to issue a small curer's licence in respect of any premises if a producer's licence previously granted under this Act in respect thereof has ceased to have effect. There are certain provisions in the Bill for the protection of small curers. They have the right to a licence if they were in possession of one before. The point was overlooked that, if a large curer has by any chance had his licence revoked for good and sufficient reasons, he might, because he had previously been a curer, claim a small curer's licence. Such a result would be very unfortunate, and the Amendment has been put down to deal with the position.

Amendment agreed to.