HC Deb 18 June 1941 vol 372 cc654-8
62. Mr. Simmonds

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether it is proposed to grant to egg producers with more than one dozen hens the right to draw their domestic requirements from the eggs they produce?

63. Mr. Davidson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has reached a decision on the question of marketing of eggs as related to the small producers with less than 50 hens; whether such small producers can only feed their birds by collecting quantities of waste food; and whether he is satisfied that the pooling of eggs in those circumstances will not discourage small producers, reduce the production of eggs, and destroy the valuable utilisation of waste food for nationally useful purposes?

Major Lloyd George

With the permission of the House, I will make a statement on this matter at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions:

Major Lloyd George

My Noble Friend has decided to bring the distribution of eggs under control. Imported eggs are already under control and it is now proposed to extend the control to eggs produced on commercial holdings in this country. The object of the plan is to secure an increase in the supply of eggs in towns and to defeat the "black market" which has grown up in home-produced eggs. The problem is one of great complexity and my Noble Friend has modified some of the provisions of the scheme of which particulars have recently been published. Under the scheme which it is proposed to introduce at an early date, commercial egg producers will not be allowed to sell eggs except to a recognised packing station or an authorised buyer. With the help of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland, a relationship will be established between the eggs sold by, and the feeding-stuffs coupons issued to, commercial egg producers, with the effect that national supplies of feeding-stuffs will be used to secure eggs for general consumption. Domestic producers will be exempt from these requirements, but will be free to sell eggs through prescribed channels.

There will be nothing in the Order to prevent any producer from retaining eggs for his own consumption. All dealers in eggs will be licensed. Packing stations are already in existence, and in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland are so placed as to be able to collect eggs from all commercial producers. In Scotland, special arrangements will be made in areas where the distance between producers and packing stations or authorised buyers would make it uneconomic to collect supplies. Increased prices will be paid to producers selling eggs under the scheme to authorised buyers or packing stations. These prices will be higher than the permitted retail prices, the difference being made good by Government subsidy. Throughout the preparation of the control scheme my Noble Friend has relied mainly on this excess of producer price over consumer price to attract eggs to the packing station, but has not been able to disclose this feature of the scheme earlier because of the effect which a premature announcement of the increase in producer prices would have had on distribution.

Mr. Simmonds

Is it proposed to retain the position of producer-retailer, and can the hon. and gallant Gentleman assure the House that he does not propose to force the smaller producers if they can retail their eggs to pass them to the packing stations?

Major Lloyd George

What 1 said was that they will sell their eggs through prescribed channels. Those channels are prescribed in the Order.

Mr. Mainwaring

Why has it become necessary to give the producer a price higher than that hitherto ruling for retailers? Will he give some indication why this absurd step is necessary?

Major Lloyd George

We tried to get the producer a price which makes it possible to produce at a profit. It does not matter which way you put it—whether you call it a higher price to the producer or a lower price to the consumer. You must try to get them to produce at a profit, or they will not produce at all.

Mr. E. Walkden

Are some of these packing stations still privately owned and run for profit?

Major Lloyd George

I could not say without notice, but we are getting control of all eggs now.

Sir William Davison

Is a private individual still limited to 12 fowls, and will he be able to get feeding-stuffs?

Major Lloyd George

He is free to sell at the price that anyone else is, and he gets the same price. I referred to the domestic producer as opposed to the commercial. Domestic producers are those who get their rations from the Domestic Poultry Keepers' Council; commercial producers get it through the agricultural executive committees. On the whole the figure is about 50 hens for the domestic producers and about that for the commercial.

Captain Sir Ian Fraser

Will my hon. and gallant Friend say whether the number of prescribed channels through which these eggs may only be sold will be sufficient and sufficiently widespread for the little man to be able to get at them?

Major Lloyd George

Most certainly; we are anxious to get as many eggs as possible at the collection centres from the little man.

Mr. Mathers

Will it be made possible for the poultry which are still alive to be kept alive in order that eggs may be produced from them?

Major Lloyd George

I should hate to think that this organisation did anything to cause the decease of any more hens. This statement ought to relieve their minds of any anxiety.

Mr. Loftus

Will my hon. and gallant Friend see that in future such announcements as he has read out are given first to the House of Commons and not given out in driblets to the Press beforehand?

Major Lloyd George

I think that my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The announcements which, as he said, were given in driblets were announcements which it was vital to give out to the trade. In the first instance the scheme was announced to the House, but with a new scheme there is certain machinery that has to be put in order and it is necessary for the people in the trade to know what they have to do.

Mr. Davidson

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman issue a statement now about the scheme in order to reassure the small man who has 12, 13 or 15 hens, because the language used in Parliament may not make it clear to these people?

Major Lloyd George

Of course I will, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the reply which I gave to a Question will make it clear to the little man.

Mr. De la Bère

Has there not been too much unfinished thought about this scheme?

Captain Cunningham-Reid

In order properly to supervise what happens to the egg as soon as the hen has laid it, does it not mean that very soon we shall have as many inspectors as eggs?

Major Lloyd George

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the laying of the egg is not the most difficult part of this problem.

65. Sir John Mellor

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why it was necessary for the Ministry to announce, through the British Broadcasting Corporation, on 14th June, that the scheme for the distribution of eggs had not been abandoned; and whether the Minister is prepared to revise the scheme in the light of subsequent criticism?

Major Lloyd George

The broadcast announcement was necessitated by the appearance in certain papers of an entirely unauthorised statement that the scheme had been cancelled. This statement appeared on the last day upon which consumers were asked to register with retailers. The purpose of the broadcast was to inform the public that registration was still necessary.

Sir J. Mellor

Were the representatives of the producers and distributors consulted before the scheme was published?

Major Lloyd George