HC Deb 02 November 1959 vol 612 cc661-3
34. Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to restore prosperity to the egg producers of Lincolnshire.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

The profitability of egg production will be considered at the next Annual Price Review. I cannot anticipate the decisions which the Government will take as a result of the Review.

Mr. Mallalieu

Does it not look as if the position in the egg production industry is becoming as serious as that in the pig production industry a few years ago when, as a result of Government encouragement followed by lack of sensible forethought on the part of the Government, or absence of planning—whichever one likes to call it—a very serious situation was produced?

Mr. Godber

I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of matters at all. There has been some over-production of eggs recently but warnings have continually been given by the Government. If the hon. Gentleman will study the White Paper on the last Price Review, he will see that clear warnings were given.

Mr. Willey

Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that the best way to meet overproduction is to encourage consumption?

Mr. Godber

We do encourage consumption and, moreover, we do more, I think, than the hon. Gentleman did when he used to talk about the shilling egg.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Minister have consultations with the Egg Marketing Board about the time eggs take to reach the consumer? Rightly or wrongly, there is a belief that a good many eggs in the shops have been on the way a very long time, and if they were fresher, more would be consumed.

Mr. Godber

Although I have heard this comment, I do not believe that it is really fair. Generally speaking, I think that eggs reach the consumer fairly quickly.

37. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to deal with growing over-production of eggs and uneconomic return to the British producer; what consultations he has had with the Egg Marketing Board; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. John Hare

There have been consultations with representatives of the Farmers' Union and the Egg Marketing Board, and these will be continued. The steps to be taken will be decided after the next Annual Price Review. My hon. Friend will remember that in the White Paper on the 1959 Review the Government again emphasised the need to reduce the production of eggs.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the overproduction referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary a few moments ago is now running at the rate of 360 million shell eggs a year, or practically 1 million per day? As the taxpayers' subsidy cost is about £40 million a year, would it not be propitious to consider the matter now rather than risk, until next February, this huge surplus of eggs which nobody can dispose of, save "egg-bound Willey"?

Mr. Hare

My hon. Friend will realise that there has been a seasonal decline in the number of eggs laid which has just started. Prices to the producer have gone up as a result of this and of the fact that the Government's subsidy has contributed more at this latest stage of the season than before. I still think that it would be wiser to have full and thorough discussions with the interests concerned and deal with the matter in the normal way, which will be at the Annual Price Review.