§ 15. Mr. Osborne
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in the light of the correspondence sent to him by the hon. Member for Louth, he 9 will reconsider applications from farmers respecting deficiency payments for the oats and barley crop of 1955 that were made after 31st July, 1955; and if he will make a statement.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. D. Heathcoat Amory)
The closing date was fixed after consultation with an advisory committee on which the growers are represented. It was made clear by ample publicity during the three months which growers had to send in their claims that 31st July was a final date and that no claims would be accepted thereafter. I am satisfied that the requirement must be maintained in the interest of proper administration and to safeguard public funds.
§ Mr. Osborne
In cases of dispute between a civil servant as to whether an application has been received and a farmer as to whether it has been sent on the proper date, why should the farmer's word be rejected and the civil servant's word accepted?
I will gladly look into all those cases. In any case, where I am satisfied that my Department has been to blame, I will waive the requirements.
From 28th June, 1954, to 25th November, 1955, deficiency payments for the United Kingdom on pigs amounted to £75.8 million.
§ Mr. Dye
Is the Minister aware that this enormous sum which is being paid has brought no satisfaction to the pig producers or to the consumers by way of a better supply of bacon? In view of the recent fall in the price of bacon pigs, is not he of the opinion that something ought to be done about this matter? Ought there not to be a thorough inquiry into the whole question so that we can place our pig production upon a firm basis?
On the contrary, I should have thought that it had brought benefit both to producers and to consumers—and also to taxpayers. It has resulted in a very much firmer market this year 10 than last year, and the pigs have very greatly improved in quality, at a lower cost to the taxpayers.
It has brought benefit to the taxpayers because of the higher market return for pig meat, which therefore means a lower subsidy cost.
I think that if the hon. Gentleman had followed my remarks he would have found that it has had an effect on retail prices.
§ Commander Agnew
Is my right hon. Friend aware that pig producers are playing a valuable part in the drive being made by the agricultural industry to save the balance of payments by producing as much home-grown food as possible?
Yes, I agree with that very much indeed, subject to one qualification, that I hope that they will be as economical and efficient as possible with the imported feedingstuffs they use.