§ 42. Mr. Bullard
asked the Minister of Food how many applications he has under consideration for licences to expand the capacity of the bacon curing factories; and what new factories are planned or in the course of construction.
Since the decontrol of bacon, it has not been necessary to make application to my Department for this purpose. I cannot therefore say what new factories, if any, are at present planned. I know of none under construction.
§ Mr. Bullard
In view of the fact that no licences are now required, will the Minister see that firms, farmers' cooperatives and groups of farmers who are interested in building new bacon factories are given the fullest possible information about the extent to which it is decided 856 to expand the home bacon industry? In view of the large sums of money involved in building factories, will he see that they receive information in good time so that they may know whether their outlay is worth-while and may get on with the job, which will necessarily take quite a time?
Air Commodore Harvey
Is it not a fact that the bacon curing factories as now constituted have a virtual monopoly? Will not my right hon. Friend try to break it?
There is no monopoly. My hon. and gallant Friend is at liberty to start a factory tomorrow if he wishes.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
How will the trade find out what is happening? Is it not the case that until recently there was a serious shortage of curing capacity? Has the Minister anything to tell us about relieving that shortage?
I still think that the source of the information as to requirements must be the consumer and the trade can keep more closely in touch with the consumer than can a Government Department. There may have been more pigs than the factories could handle a short time ago, but the position might be quite different in a month or two.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does the Minister mean to tell the farming community that, despite the horrible position in which they have been placed by the present Government over the production of pigs, he can offer them no hope whatever that there will be a planned expansion of bacon curing factories?
I have no doubt that if the market requires more pigs we can leave it with confidence to the trade to make the appropriate arrangements.
§ 43. Mr. Collins
asked the Minister of Food the proportion of pigs which is now being refused by bacon factories as surplus to curing capacity; and what improvement there has been in this respect in the last two months.
My information on this point, which concerns the commercial relations of bacon curers and their suppliers, is not complete; I understand, however, that the number of pigs now 857 being offered for bacon curing is much nearer to curers' requirements than it was a few weeks ago.
§ Mr. Collins
Is the Minister aware that this decline of which he speaks is due to the fact that farmers have had such a bad deal and have been heavily fined for every pig which was a few lbs. overweight? I have here a return made last week for one litter of pigs, all sent in at the same time. All except one made nearly £20. The exception was 6 lbs. over-weight, and it made £13. In other words, the farmer was fined 22s. for each lb. of pig over-weight. Will the Minister alter that situation?
I cannot agree that the reasons which the hon. Member puts forward are responsible for this decline.
§ 45. Mr. Crouch
asked the Minister of Food the average amount of space in bacon factories which was newly licensed in the years 1945 to 1951 and the years 1951 to 1954, respectively.
Under a war-time concentration scheme which was in operation until 1949, no increases in the licensed space in bacon factories were permitted and as a result of building restrictions none was possible for two years thereafter. In 1951 an extension of the capacity of existing factories began and by the time of decontrol curing capacity in Great Britain had been increased by about 10,000 pigs a week.
§ Mr. Crouch
Is it not a fact that had the expansion started earlier, when the number of pigs was increasing—it was increasing from 1951 by about a million a year—we would not have had the position which has existed in the factories during the last few weeks?
A substantial part of the recent problem is that too many pigs unsuitable for bacon have been put forward for the curing factories.
§ Mr. Collins
Is the Minister aware that the main reason that so many have been unsuitable is that farmers have not been permitted to send them in to the factories, so that inevitably the pigs have become over-weight?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is not the effective answer to this question a rising percentage of grade A pigs sent to the bacon 858 factories? Has not the difficulty already largely resolved itself, in view of the increasing percentage of grade A pigs which is being sent to the Fatstock Marketing Corporation?
I am very glad to see that the percentage of grade A pigs has been steadily rising. I emphasise once again that we also want a very large number of good quality pigs offered to the pork market as well as to the bacon market.