It has been agreed that if an egg marketing scheme providing for a board possessing full trading powers were established, the price guarantee would take the form of a flat-rate subsidy payable on eggs sold through packing stations at a rate per dozen determined in the light of each year's Annual Review. The subsidy would be varied only if producers' average returns were appreciably different from those expected when the subsidy was fixed, and in that case the excess or deficiency would be shared between producers and the Exchequer.
I should be very disappointed indeed if the effect were not to encourage the continuation of a high level of home production of eggs.
§ Mr. Smithers
Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of the probable time-table which may be followed in the production of this scheme?
I am afraid I cannot because it depends, at first, on whether producers decide to promote a scheme. If so, the ordinary procedure laid down under the Marketing Acts would have to be gone through.
§ 21. Mr. Willey
asked the Minister of Agriculture what further progress has been made in the discussions regarding a permanent scheme for the marketing of eggs.
As I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Aitken) on 26th January, discussions have led to agreement on financial arrangements for implementing the Agriculture Act guarantees on eggs through a marketing board. It is now for representatives of producers to decide whether they wish to submit a scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Acts, and I understand that proposals are under consideration by the farmers' unions.
§ Mr. Willey
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor at the Ministry of Food abolished the egg subsidy, that in spite of this the Supplementary Estimate shows that the present subsidy is running at over £2 million above the record level of last year, and that when the egg subsidy was abolished the Minister dismantled the machinery for administering it? Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to save us from the awful mess in which his predecessor left us, and will he expedite the orderly marketing and administering of the subsidy for eggs?
I am not aware that I am under any handicap whatever in administering satisfactorily the present deficiency payment and support-price arrangements for eggs.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
Will my right hon. Friend try to find out from hon. Members opposite whether they like subsidies or whether they do not?