§ 4. Mr. Bullard
asked the Minister of Agriculture what progress has been made with the scheme for establishing pig-litter testing stations throughout the country.
The Government's proposed scheme for progeny testing stations, for boars in Great Britain is under discussion with representatives of pig producers. I hope to be able to make an announcement soon.
§ Mr. Bullard
Will my right hon. Friend pursue this matter as quickly as possible? There has been a rapid change in the kind of pigs demanded by the market, and this is a method by which improvement in our own stock can probably be brought about more thoroughly than by any other means.
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said about the potential value of progeny testing, and I look forward very much to seeing these schemes in operation.
§ 13. Mr. Collins
asked the Minister of Agriculture what assessment was made of curing capacity and what consultations took place between his Department, the farmers' unions and the pig breeders' societies, before farmers were asked substantially to increase the numbers of bacon pigs.
No special emphasis was laid on the production of bacon pigs when the Government in recent years encouraged farmers to expand their production of pigs. Indeed, at the 1953 Review the prices of pork pigs were substantially increased to encourage production of pork. The production policy and price guarantees have been discussed with the National Farmers' Unions at each Annual Review.
§ Mr. Collins
Is the Minister aware that his reply was not sufficient, and that it is beyond dispute that there is a completely insufficient bacon curing capacity? Does he propose to remedy a situation, which is his personal responsibility, either by having the number of pigs reduced or by increasing the curing capacity?
I cannot agree at all with what the hon. Gentleman says. I do not know on what evidence he is so sure that the present capacity of the factories is insufficient. I would remind him that the proportion of top-grade pigs so far offered to the bacon factories is, at best, only about half of their present capacity.
§ Sir H. Roper
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, if the curing capacity is expanded, the release of imported bacon will be strictly controlled in order that the market may not be spoiled?
§ Mr. Collins
Is the Minister aware that many farmers are still being permitted to send only half of their pigs to the bacon factories? That, surely, is evidence of insufficient capacity?
No, Sir. I think that the question of quality, as well as of quantity, comes into this matter.
§ 16 and 17. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether it is still the policy of his Department to increase the production of pigs for bacon;
(2) what price revisions he will make to encourage the production of more pigs for pork.
Now that fatstock and meat have been decontrolled, it is the policy of the Government to allow the market, as reflecting consumer demand, to determine what proportion of the pigs produced are used for bacon, for pork and for manufacturing. The price guarantees will, of course, be considered at the next Annual Review.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the pig producers of this country have lost many scores of thousands of pounds? Will he be quite specific and say whether he wants twice as many grade A bacon pigs as there are at the moment, and does he believe that it will be possible to get any more porkers than there are at the moment unless he alters the price? Can we have specific answers to those questions?
No; the specific answers to those questions will be given by the consumer. I do not believe in detailed directions. What we have done has been to offer a guaranteed price——
—and we must leave it to the market to decide what proportion of these pigs is required for other purposes.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the record pig population of this country at the moment is a manifestation of the success of the policy of this Government during the last three years, notwithstanding one or two minor difficulties following decontrol? Will my 1377 right hon. Friend not be deflected in any way from allowing the free market to dictate the demands of the consumer?
§ Mr. P. Wells
Is the Minister aware that pigs in Ashford Market in Kent a fortnight ago were sold for as little as £1 apiece?
It all depends on the size of the pig. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the market returns, I think he will find that the price of pigs for pork has been steadily improving every week.
Mr. T. Williams
Will not the Minister agree that over the past few months there has been a definite setback to pig production because of uncertainty all over the country?
I think that such difficulties as there have been on the re-opening of the market will grow less and less as we all have experience of the workings of the market.