HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc1966-74

(1) Where forms of long contract have been determined, the Pigs Marketing Board shall forthwith publish, in such manner as it thinks best calculated to bring the matter to the notice of registered producers of pigs and registered curers, a notice stating that the forms have been determined, and specifying a place at which registered producers and registered curers can obtain copies thereof free of charge, and inviting registered produces to declare to the board within a specified time and in a specified manner, in relation to each of the main forms of contract, if there is more than one—

  1. (a) the quantities of pigs, of each of the descriptions mentioned in the form of contract, which they are respectively prepared to sell to registered curers for delivery during the contract period under a long contract or long contracts;
  2. (b) the times at which they are prepared to deliver the pigs thereunder;
  3. (c) whether or not they desire to avail themselves of the group contract arrangements; and
  4. (d) whether or not they wish, in relation to all or any of the pigs which they are willing to contract do deliver (not being pigs contracted to be delivered under contracts in the group contract variant of the form of contract), to nominate a curer as the person to whom they wish the pigs to be sold, and, if so, what is his name and address.

(2) The said notice shall also embody a statement of the circumstances, if any (being such circumstances as the board may determine), in which, where a producer has nominated a curer as the person to whom he wishes pigs to be sold, the board may nevertheless cause those pigs to be sold to another curer:

Provided that if no factory rationalisation scheme has come into force by the expiration of two years from the passing of this Act, or such lesser period as the Minister may order, or if such a scheme which comes into force ceases to have effect by reason of an order for the revocation thereof, the foregoing provisions of this Sub-section shall cease to have effect and, where the producer has so nominated a curer, the board shall in no circumstances be entitled to cause the pigs in question to be sold otherwise than to that curer.

(3) Where within the time and in the manner specified in the notice aforesaid a registered producer declares to the Pigs Marketing Board that he is willing to sell pigs under long contracts, the declaration shall, subject to the following provisions of this Section, operate as an irrevocable authority to the board to enter on his behalf into such contracts or contracts in the appropriate variant or variants of the main form or main forms of contract as the board may determine.

(4) The authority conferred on the hoard as aforesaid shall be so exercised as to secure that no producer is, under the contracts entered into by virtue of that authority, under obligation to deliver, either altogether or at any time within the contract period, more pigs or more pigs of any description than he has declared to the board that he is willing to contract to deliver either altogether or at that time under long contracts (or, if there is more than one main form of contract, under long contracts in variants of that one of those main forms which is specified in that behalf in his declaration).

(5) The contracts shall be made with such registered curer or curers as the board may determine, so however, that in so far as a producer has nominated a curer as the person to whom he wishes pigs to be sold, the board shall not cause those pigs to be sold otherwise than to that curer except in the circumstances specified in a statement embodied by virtue of Sub-section (2) of this Section in the notice published under Sub-section (1) thereof.

(6) Where the board reasonably believes that a producer has declared that he is willing to sell more pigs or more pigs of any description than he would, apart from circumstances beyond his control, he in a position to deliver out of pigs bred or purchased when not more than sixteen weeks old by him or his predecessor in his business and thereafter kept on premises in Great Britain occupied for the purposes of that business by him or his predecessor therein, the board shall in any case restrict the pigs or, as the case may be, the pigs of that description, which he contracts to sell under long contracts, to the number of pigs or pigs of that description which in the opinion of the board he will, apart from such circumstances, be in a position so to deliver:

Provided that the board may by general or special determination from time to time exempt from this Sub-section such producers as may be specified in the determination.

(7) The Pigs Marketing Board shall so exercise its powers of making contracts under this Section as to secure that the total quantity of pigs, or of pigs of any description, contracted to be delivered in the contract period in question under long contracts does not exceed such quantity as the Development Board may direct in relation to pigs generally, or, as the case may be, in relation to pigs of that description.—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause is of the same kind as the Clause with which we have just dealt. It is really a redraft of Sub-sections (2) to (6) of the original Clause 20, and it has been rendered necessary by the Amendments which were accepted in Committee and to which I referred earlier. Subsection (1) of the Clause replaces the original Sub-section (2) of Clause 20, but as there are certain differences in wording I had better refer to them in detail. In the new Clause reference is made to alternative main forms of contract for which provision is made in Sub-section (1) of the new Clause to which the House has just given a Second Reading. If more than one main form of contract is determined, the producer will have the option as to which form he wishes his pigs to be sold under and all the variants set out in the previous new Clause would apply to each form of contract. A drafting alteration has been made requiring producers to "declare" instead of "intimate" their wishes. As so much flows from their decision on this point, we think the word "declare" is more appropriate than "intimate" in this connection. In the previous new Clause it was provided that the group contract was to be a variant of each of the main forms of contract. It is still desired that producers should have the option of deciding whether they wish their pigs to be sold under a group contract or not. The other Sub-sections of this proposed new Clause repeat, in some cases in more apt language, the provisions which were in the Bill when it left Committee, and I recommend the redraft to the House as a very ingenious attempt to overcome the difficulties created by the Amendments made in Committee.

5.39 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

If this new Clause is, as the Minister says, a clarification of the position, I am bound to say that, having read it, I find myself in a legal fog as opaque as that in which I often found myself when we were considering these matters in the Standing Committee. The particular form of Parliamentary draftsmanship which is at the disposal of the Minister seems to be very brilliant legally, but whether it has succeeded in clarifying the subject or not is another matter. I therefore confess that I look at this new Clause with considerable dubiety, but on account of the difficulty which I am sure most hon. Members will experience in dealing with such phraseology, I think the House will have to be content with the assurance given by the Minister that the only real alterations involved are those which he has enumerated.

If I am not out of order, however, I would like to make some remarks on the title of the new Clause—(Proceedings subsequent to determination of forms of contract). Having regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said on the new Clause which has just been approved by the House, I would express this wish to him. Considering the difficulties already enumerated by me as to the margins available under the formula adopted by the Ministry in regard to the subsidy, I hope the Ministry will undertake that the premiums which are to be fixed in respect of the various forms of contract shall not be at such a rate as will seriously injure the industry concerned. I did not ask the House to divide on my Amendment to the previous new Clause because of the remarks of the Minister, but now, speaking of the proceedings which are to be taken subsequent to the determination of forms of contract, I should be glad of an assurance that the views of processors in regard to this margin will be taken into account.

I can see that the object of economy and improved efficiency, by which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) rightly sets so much store, will be defeated unless there are such arrangements between producer and curer as will make it possible for the processing industry to live. If it does not live, the producer will have to rely upon the old form of trade anarchy for his market for all his pigs except those which go to the pork market. I hope I have not transgressed the bounds of order in addressing these remarks to the Minister on the title of the new Clause. I think we must rest on the assurance of the Minister that the form of the Clause is not substantially different from that which was considered in the Standing Committee—apart from the small variations which he has mentioned—and if he can give me an assurance on the other matter, I do not think it will be necessary to divide against the new Clause.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Price

I, too, find some difficulty in understanding the provisions of the new Clause, and I wish to draw particular attention to the proviso to Subsection (2) dealing with conditions which may prevail if there is no factory rationalisation scheme in force at the end of the two years. As I understand it, the Sub-section provides that a producer who has nominated a curer to whom he wishes to supply pigs, cannot be compelled by the board to send those pigs elsewhere, if a rationalisation scheme has not come into force at the end of two years. That seems to put a premium on delaying rationalisation. I do not like the idea that if rationalisation is not in operation within two years it shall be possible for producers to select whatever factories they like. In that way the process whereby we hope that the board will have more and more control over the direction in which the pigs are going, will be held up indefinitely. I may be wrong in my interpretation of this proviso, and I hope I am, but, as I read it, it seems to contain an inducement to the postponement of rationalisation.

5.44 P.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I have indicated the small changes of substance which this redraft involves, and though I am not unprepared to receive criticism as to the clarity of the language, I must remind hon. Members that we had some difficulty with Clause 20 in its original form in Committee, and it must be evident that great difficulties confront any draftsman who tries to find statutory language in which to comprehend all the possibilities of any contract. With regard to what the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) said, I desire that there should be fairness as between both the curing and the producing sides of the industry, because if there is not, or if one of the partners feels that there is not, the result must be to impede the progress of both, but I think that under the machinery provided by the Bill the two parties will see that their interests lie together and that they will work harmoniously.

With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), as to Sub-section (2) and the proviso thereto, the proviso actually takes the place of Sub-section (6) of the original Clause 20, which had a similar effect, namely, to take away from the board the right to transfer pigs if at the end of two years there is no factory rationalisation scheme. I think that this, far from being a deterrent to getting on with a factory rationalisation scheme, is an inducement to the Bacon Board to do so, because the Bacon Board are interested, as representing the curers, in those previous provisions which permitted of the allocation of pigs so as to secure an economic throughput. It is to their interest that the right to transfer pigs from one curer to another should be in the hands of the board, and what this proviso says is that unless the rationalisation scheme is in being before the end of the period prescribed, the power to interfere with contracts and get this economic throughput will lapse, along with all the protection to the industry thus provided.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 51, at the end, to insert: and in the exercise of such power of transferring pigs the board shall have regard to the time when the offer so to contract was made by the producer, and an offer to contract nominating a particular registered curer shall not be transferred to another registered curer if an offer nominating the same curer made subsequently by another producer has not been or is not being transferred. This is my last attempt to make this part of the Bill satisfactory, and it is an effort on my part that will not cost the curer or the Government anything. It merely asks that the principle of "First come, first served" shall operate in these contracts, and I submit, with all the weight that I can command, that it is a perfectly reasonable provision. If it is not accepted by the Minister, and he cannot give the farmers this security for which they ask, that those who are contracting shall be able to nominate the factory and feel confident that their pigs will go to that factory, contracts will not be made. This is a Bacon Industry Bill, but the bacon industry is not the whole of the pig industry. There is a large area of pork, and the aim of the Minister in all this legislation must be to keep the balance between pork and bacon, to do which he must be able to give the men who produce bacon the security that they desire. I come from an area where in the past hundreds and thousands of pigs used to go to the pork market, and it was the success of the first two contract periods that took from the pork market a great number of those pigs and resulted in the Yorkshire bacon factory being set up and that area of Yorkshire being turned over to bacon production. If those men cannot have the factory of the cooperative society in connection with which they are members, if they cannot be sure that by contracting early they will get to that factory, contracts will not be made under this Bill, and thousands of pigs will go again to the pork market.

We have heard throughout the whole of these discussions that the response to the contracts has always been slow at the beginning, and I know that those who represent the curers, like the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), and those representing the farmers will both agree that it is vitally important for the industry to get early contracts. I therefore put forward this Amendment, believing that if the Minister is able to accept it, he will get earlier contracting by producers. Those producers will put their contracts in early because they want to get to a particular factory, and they will get the security of knowing that if their contracts are in early, they will not be transferred, but that the latecomer, who really does not deserve well of the Minister or of the industry, will be transferred. I really think that in this question of pig contracts it is no bad thing to penalise the man who contracts late. Past history has been exactly the reverse. In the first two contract periods we find that the latecomer was not penalised, but was rewarded by bonuses of 3s. 6d. and 4s. per pig, and we do not want that repeated. I therefore ask the Minister to look at this Amendment very differently from the way in which he looked at the Amendment which we discussed a short time ago. In this case no money will change hands, and no inconvenience will be caused.

5.53 p.m.

Colonel Clarke

I beg to second the Amendment.

I, too, feel that "First come, first served" is a fair principle, and that if we are to induce producers to bring forward the requisite number of pigs, they must expect every fairness. It is due to people of energy and foresight who get their contracts in early that they should get the full benefit of that foresight.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

One of the Subsections of this new Clause provides that no pigs can be transferred except in the circumstances specified in a statement embodied in the notice published under Subsection (1) of the new Clause. I understand that the intention of this Amendment is to provide in the Bill that one of the specified circumstances shall be that no pigs offered shall be transferred if pigs under an offer nominating the same curer, but made subsequently, have not been transferred—in other words, "First come, first served." I am afraid there are very grave practical difficulties in the way of accepting this Amendment. In the first place, I would like to point out that the Amendment does not make it clear when the offer is made. Are we to understand that the offer is made when the producer despatches it? If so, the board will not know when the offer was made. Or is it made when it is received by the board? This would make the time dependent on postal facilities.

Mr. Turton

That is English law, surely?

Mr. Ramsbotham

Moreover, this Amendment, placing its emphasis upon the time of the contract, would take no account of the different weight classes of pigs, and it would be a great mistake if the Pigs Board had to transfer a contract for Class I pigs, of from 7 to 8½ score, to a curer who only wanted another class of pig, simply because the Class I producer was next on the list for transfer. That would be a most unreasonable and intolerable consequence of the Amendment. Then again, suppose there are two producers, each of them situated within, say, five miles of a Yorkshire factory. It would probably be immaterial from the point of view of the scheme and the board's arrangements whether the one or the other was selected for transference of some pigs to, say, a curer in Wiltshire. But let a different example be taken. Take the case of a producer in Suffolk and a producer in Shropshire, both of whom have nominated a curer in Suffolk. If it were necessary to transfer pigs from one of those two producers to a factory in Birmingham, it would obviously be to the advantage of the scheme as a whole that the Shropshire producer's pigs should be so transferred. The proposed Amendment might make this impossible. The Amendment would gravely damage the capability of the board to secure the best, cheapest, and most economic transport arrangements, which is a major consideration, and I think that if the hon. Member considers that result of the Amendment, he will not seriously press it.

Amendment to the proposed Clause negatived.

Clause added to the Bill.