§ 15. Mr. Collins
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amounts paid in subsidies or deficiency payments for pigs in the financial years 1951–52, 1952–53, 1953–54 and 1954–55.
The subsidies or deficiency payments on home-produced pigs for the years mentioned were, respectively: £44.1 million, £38.1 million, £50.3 million and £59.0 million.
§ Mr. Collins
Are not those figures confirmation that, from the point of view of the taxpayer, the present policy of the Government in regard to pigs is infinitely more costly and less desirable than the policy of the Labour Government?
§ 16. Mr. Collins
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the price paid per score pounds for Grade A bacon pigs in June, 1954, June, 1955, and the latest convenient date, respectively.
The price paid by my Department for Grade A pigs in June, 1954, was 51s. 10d. per score. Since then my Department has not bought pigs, but quoted prices in June, 1955, were about 54s. 6d. per score deadweight and in the week beginning 12th December, 1955, a minimum of 43s. 7d.
§ Mr. Collins
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the current price is about 10s. a score less than it was a few weeks ago? That amounts to about 80s. on a pig and retail prices have recently reached record levels. Is he aware that the Answers he has given to this Question and the previous Question prove that taxpayers, producers and consumers are infinitely worse off under the present system and that that completely controverts the 802 Answer to a Question given by the Minister last week when he said that the position was otherwise?
No, again I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Member. The producer is fully protected by the guaranteed standard price of the Government, [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] As to the price of bacon, the hon. Member will be aware of the reduction within the last few weeks.
Mr. B. Harrison
Will my right hon. Friend guarantee to the House that he will not limit the number of pigs that are kept by producers by rationing feeding-stuffs in the same way as was done by the Government of hon. Members opposite?
§ Mr. Willey
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the fluctuations in pig prices are now greater than they were prewar, and that this is a very sorry reflection on the failure of the Government to deal with the pig muddle?
I deplore undue fluctuations in the prices of pigs. Actually, during the past six or eight months, the markets have been remarkably steady, until the last few weeks. I have authorised discussions with the national farmers' unions immediately to see whether there is anything the Government can do, within our field of responsibility, by any modified methods of administering the guaranteed prices which would conduce to reduce the fluctuations.
§ 25. Mr. Willey
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what he now estimates will be the deficiency payment in respect of pigs for the present financial year.
The published estimates for 1955–56 of £81.8 million for all fat-stock includes £76.5 million in respect of pigs. I expect the actual figure to be less than this, but I cannot say by how much.
§ Mr. Willey
Has the right hon. Gentleman made allowance for the present collapse in the price of pigs and the effect it will have on the deficiency payment in many cases? Does he not regard it 803 as a very high cost to the taxpayer, without bringing security to the farmer or relief in retail prices to the consumer?
It does bring security to the producer. In reply to the other part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I have made allowances for current events, but I must ask him to wait a bit longer to see how much less it will prove to be.
I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on 8th December, which contains some of the information asked for. I will, in addition, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a comparison of the returns received by producers for pigs of certain weights in the auction markets and certain quoted prices for Grade A bacon pigs.
No, not necessarily at all. I have no control, of course, over the price paid to the producers for bacon pigs, but the Government's guaranteed standard price holds for all pigs sold.
Mr. T. Williams
Is it not a fact that the deficiency payment has been more or less based on pork pigs and not on bacon pigs, which are lower than pork?
Not entirely. The collective guarantee takes into consideration the pigs that go through the bacon factories as well as those that go through the auction markets.
§ The following are the figures:
|Week Ended||Auction Pigs in Equivalent Deadweight Ranges 3 sc. To 6 sc. 19 lb.||Quoted Prices for Grade A Bacon Pigs in Weight Range 7 sc. To 8 sc. 15 1b.|
|Average Total Return|
§ 30. Mr. Dye
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many bacon pigs were received for slaughter in four weeks in April, 1955, and for a four weeks' period in November, 1955; and what were the numbers of other pigs that were received for grading at auction markets in the same two periods.
In the two four-week periods, 28th March to 24th April, 1955, and 24th October to 20th November, 1955, the numbers of all pigs certified at bacon factories in the United Kingdom were, respectively, 464,000 and 395,000. The comparable figures for all pigs certified at auction markets were 320,000 and 216,000.
No, Sir. This time last year there were too many pigs of the wrong quality coming on to the market, with the result that the market return was very low, and the cost to the taxpayer very high.
§ Mr. Callaghan
In the right hon. Gentleman's capacity as Minister of Food, can he tell us, if there is no muddle, why bacon is becoming a luxury on the breakfast table and is costing so much?
The first-hand sale price of bacon now is the same as it was at the end of the period of control.
§ 37. Mr. D. Price
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the recent sharp fall in producer prices for bacon pigs, he will make a statement on Government policy in respect of pig prices.
Bacon prices have fallen in the last two weeks and the prices for bacon pigs have dropped in sympathy. The producer is fully protected by the guaranteed standard price. Subject to this, it remains the Government's policy to allow market forces to operate.
I would remind my hon. Friend of what I have said about the guaranteed standard price, which was fixed at the last Price Review and still obtains.
Mr. T. Williams
Is the Minister aware that there has been a fall in the retailers' price in the last few weeks?
There has been a quite substantial fall, and 1"should be surprised if there were not a further fall in the next weeks.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Could my right hon. Friend confirm the recent figures which he gave of £76 million being paid for pigs this year and £56 million last year? How it is possible to defend a policy involving this enormous increase in agricultural support prices of pigs?
I think that my noble Friend has misinterpreted what I said. I said that the estimate that was made at the beginning of the current year amounted to the figure which I quoted but that I hoped that, in fact, the actual results would be less.
§ Mr. Champion
Will not the Minister really look into this again very carefully? Is it not a fact that pig production in this country is as bad in many ways as it was in pre-war days, when pigs were either copper or gold, resulting in violent fluctuations in the number of pigs being kept in the country?
I do not dissent from what the hon. Member said. I have several times said that I am not satisfied that the best way of marketing pigs has yet been found and applied. That is precisely why, last summer, I set up the Pig Reorganisation Commission to collect evidence—because even within the agricultural industry, opinion as to what the future arrangements should be is very far from unanimous—and to make recommendations.
§ 41. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in order to avoid disruption in the pig industry pending the February Price Review, and in view of the fact that the deficiency payments scheme has not ensured adequate price stability, Her Majesty's Government will take steps to underwrite the Equalisation Fund of the Fatstock Marketing Corporation.
No, Sir. There are obvious difficulties which stand in the way of the Government financing the activities of the Fatstock Marketing Corporation or of any of the other commercial concerns trading in pigs. I do not accept the implication in the first part of the Question.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Is the Minister aware that there is not a single pig producer in the country who has any confidence whatever in the Government's present agricultural policy? Is he further aware that the Government would have been in an even greater mess than they are at present had it not been for the excellent work done by the Fatstock Marketing Corporation? As everything else has failed, will he not at least consider as a temporary measure the suggestion I have put forward?
I have, on many occasions, paid a tribute to the energy and practical value of the activities of the Fatstock Marketing Corporation. I should want corroboration from other quarters about the rest of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport
Instead of paying a tribute, would not my right hon. Friend consider paying better prices?
§ Mr. Willey
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies to this and 807 other Questions relating to pigs, I beg to give notice that, on the earliest possible occasion, I will raise the subject on the Adjournment.