HC Deb 14 November 1960 vol 630 cc7-8
9 and 10. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) when he expects to be able to announce Government proposals for assisting pig producers to increase the present number of pigs in this country;

(2) whether he is aware of the current difficulties of the pig industry resulting from the fact that assurances of Government support are not sufficiently long-term to enable economic production to be planned and carried out with confidence; and whether he will take action in this matter within the near future.

Mr. Soames

Pig producers share with farmers generally the benefits of the long term assurances. The guaranteed price for pigs was improved after the last Annual Review and there has been a welcome, if gradual, increase in the breeding herd in recent months, but there is still room for a further expansion. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that long term stability is particularly important to the industry and is something which has up to now eluded it. I am at present considering suggestions which have been put to me by representatives of the industry.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Is my right hon. Friend aware that farmers have recently experienced such changes in the Government's attitude towards pig production that they are rapidly losing confidence and that he could restore this confidence by giving farmers more effective support over a longer period?

Mr. Soames

I cannot agree with the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question. In 1958, the pig herd increased to a very large extent and the subsidy bill was extremely heavy. There was a reduction in price which led to a falling off of the pig herd. The only weapon available to the Government in this matter hitherto has been in the price fixed for pigs at the Annual Review. There was a reduction in 1958 and there was a slight increase in 1959. What we want to achieve if we can is a state where we do not have, so to speak, to move the helm over too hard one way and then the other; we want to maintain, if possible, a steady course. This is not easy with pigs.

Mr. Willey

Are we to understand that the Minister is dissatisfied with the policy of his predecessor and we may expect from him new action shortly?

Mr. Soames

Certainly not; it would be quite wrong to assume that. If we can find means which will give greater stability to the industry, we shall do so.