HC Deb 18 June 1951 vol 489 cc5-7
5. Brigadier Rayner

asked the Minister of Food with regard to the recent agreement to take 90 per cent. of the exportable surplus of pigs from Eire, how many pigs he expects to receive in the next two years, respectively.

Mr. Webb

It is not yet possible to make an estimate. This agreement is designed to give the producers in Eire the sort of guarantee they require to develop their production. It will have no immediate result, but in due course it should provide a useful addition to our supplies. I think we cannot measure the prospects with any precision until some time next year.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that this arrangement is to give producers in Eire a guarantee of their future prospects of trade, would he consider giving the same guarantee to home producers in the matter of feedingstuffs, which they cannot get?

Mr. Webb

That is another question, but, in fact, those guarantees have been given.

Mr. Drayson

How does the Minister define "exportable surplus"? Surplus after what? After other countries have been considered?

Mr. Webb

If the hon. Gentleman would read the agreement he would find that that has been defined.

22. Mr. Dye

asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that the bacon factories at Ipswich and Elmswell, Suffolk, are being used to their fullest capacity the whole year round; and what recent steps he has taken to encourage farmers in Norfolk and Suffolk to produce the most suitable type of bacon pig to supply these factories.

Mr. Webb

No. Sir. No bacon factories in this country are working to full capacity all the year round. There are not yet enough pigs available. We pay a quality premium for pigs of the most suitable type and, in a few months' time, we shall begin to introduce a system of grading for bacon pigs.

Mr. Dye

Is it not somewhat undesirable to send pigs to bacon factories in other parts of the country when those in the area are not working to full capacity? Does not that result in the loss of weight and worse bacon for the people?

Mr. Webb

This is one of our most urgent difficulties, but we have to weigh the loss of weight against other difficulties arising out of our inability to supply bacon in other parts of the country. On balance, I think that the scheme works very well. The improvement mentioned in the last part of my answer will, I think, lead to a general increase in the overall supply of bacon.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he is introducing this grading system, and if there is to be any further announcement about it?

Mr. Webb

It will be introduced in due course; just when, I cannot say.

Mr. Dye

Would it not be better to transport the bacon after it has been cured rather than send the live pigs long distances to the consuming areas?

Mr. Webb

It would be if it were as easy as all that. There are complicated problems of labour and matters of that kind which we have to work out and resolve, and, on balance, this is the best way of doing it now.

Mr. Nabarro

Muddle, muddle.

23. Mr. Dye

asked the Minister of Food what action he proposes to take with regard to the representations made concerning the loss of weight of fat pigs produced in Norfolk due to their long journey to the slaughterhouses.

Mr. Webb

There is an allowance on all pigs transported more than 50 miles to cover what the trade calls "shrinkage." The scale of allowances has been agreed in consultation with the Agricultural Departments and the National Farmers' Unions.

Mr. Dye

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that this is not altogether satisfactory owing to the fact that some of the pigs are not killed for a long time after they leave the farms? Cannot he get over that difficulty?

Mr. Webb

As I have already said, I am aware of the difficulties. At the moment, it is not possible for us to get over that difficulty in quite the way that is suggested. We are anxious to get over it, and any co-operation that we can have we shall be glad to have.

Mr. Turton

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider getting rid of these complaints by re-constituting the pigs marketing board?