HC Deb 19 February 1963 vol 672 cc391-405

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Pig Industry Development Authority Levy Scheme (Approval) Order 1963, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd January, be approved.—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]

11.9 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it would be for the convenience, certainly of the Opposition, if we took with this Order the Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order and the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order. I appreciate that the Pig Industry Development Authority levy is slightly different from the levy for the creation of a meat research centre, but as all hon. Members have had a very long day already it might be better to take all three Orders together.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

I am in the hands of the House. As it appears to be the wish of the House, I am quite agreeable to the three Orders being taken together.

11.10 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Scott-Hopkins)

The purpose of the Pig Industry Development Authority levy scheme is to increase the income of the Authority by raising its levy from 2d. to 4d. per score deadweight, with effect from 1st April, 1963. The levy is imposed on every pig which benefits from the Fat-stock Guarantee Scheme, and is shared between the seller and the buyer.

The House will recall that the Authority was created under Part III of the Agriculture Act, 1957, which gave effect to the recommendation of the Reorganisation Commission for Pigs and Bacon that such an organisation be set up with functions directed towards improving the industry's efficiency. The present levy of 2d. per score deadweight was introduced in 1958. We expected, at that time, that the income provided by it would be sufficient for the first year or two of the Authority's existence, but that more money might be required as it extended its activities.

Since its creation, the Authority has taken over existing work on pig progeny testing and recording, and the premium boar scheme. To these livestock improvement programmes, it has added a boar performance testing scheme, a scheme for feed recording, a register of provisionally accredited herds, and a whole host of other programmes for improving the pig industry. The Authority is also subsidising artificial insemination for pigs.

A most important field of expenditure has been the research and development programmes sponsored by the Authority. The important subjects covered by the programmes are of great interest and value to the industry, but the cost of these activities already exceeds the Authority's income and, because of this, the Authority has in recent months had to mark time on a number of extensions to its activities, which it proposes to embark on as soon as its higher income is assured.

It is no secret that the Authority's application for an increase in its levy had a mixed reception when it was first made known in the spring of last year. As a result, the Authority has engaged in a series of consultations with the industry's organisations which, I am glad to say, have now come to a successful and happy conclusion. They have also led to modifications in the Authority's plans; for example, the proposal to put up a model farm has been suspended, and so on. Other aspects of the Authority's activities came under criticism from some sections of the industry, but it has to be accepted that, in serving the industry as a whole, the Authority is bound at times to undertake activities which enjoy the support of some sections but not of others. It is very difficult to enjoy the support of the whole.

Although an increase in the income is essential to avoid exhaustion of the Authority's liquid reserves within the next few months, the Authority has found it possible to undertake to suspend collection of any levy for three months during its financial year beginning next October. It is not possible, within the terms of the 1957 Act, for the Authority to vary the amount of the levy it collects under the scheme, but the present Order introduces provision for it to declare "exemption periods" when, in the Authority's opinion, it is unnecessary or inexpedient to collect the levy.

There is undoubtedly considerable scope for increased efficiency in the pig industry in particular, for the production of better carcases at lower costs. We have set up an Authority representative of all sections of the pig industry for the very purpose of increasing efficiency, and the industry itself should be in the best position to judge what is required to be done to further this objective. It would, in my submission, be most unreasonable to deprive the Authority of the resources it needs to discharge its responsibilities adequately, and I strongly commend the Order to the House.

Perhaps I may now deal very quickly and briefly with the Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order and the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order. The first of those Orders will allow P.I.D.A. to pay, for the pig industry as a corporate whole, the charges which will be needed by the operation of the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order, to which I shall turn in a moment. It has undertaken to pay, on behalf of the entire pig industry, the levy which will be at ld. per pig.

To explain the reasons for this, I turn, briefly, to the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order. This is made under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947. This Act, as the House will recall, provides that charges may be imposed by Order on persons engaged in an industry if it is thought expedient for funds to be made available for various purposes, one of which, and not the least important, is scientific research.

The need for a substantial increase in meat research and for better facilities has been widely recognised for some time and has been strongly urged by everyone. The proposal is that the Agricultural Research Council, for which my noble Friend the Minister for Science is responsible, should set up a new meat research institute to which the work on meat now being done by the Council's Low Temperature Research Station at Cambridge and the Food Technology Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be transferred. The institute will take over existing work and also will undertake entirely new work extending far beyond that which is being done at present. It will concern itself particularly with new basic studies of the growth and properties of meat tissues and factors influencing quality.

The programme for the institute is now being worked out by the Agricultural Research Council, which has recently announced the appointment of Dr. M. Ingram, of the Low Temperature Research Station, as director of meat research. The Agricultural Research Council proposes to appoint an advisory committee which will include not only scientists, but also producers and processors of meat who will be able to advise on the problems of the meat industry on which research is necessary.

The capital cost of the institute is expected to be not less than £500,000, and the annual cost in the early years is estimated to be about £100,000. The Government are prepared to meet part of the cost of this important research, but it is felt that the industry itself should make some contribution, and the levy which the Order will impose is intended to cover about half the capital and recurrent costs. It will take effect from 1st April, 1963.

The rates proposed for the levy are 6d. per head on cattle, ld. per pig and ½d. per sheep. These are very small in relation to the market price of the animals, and this presents some difficulty in collection. To save on administrative costs, which would be enormous if one approached it in any other way, it is proposed to make use of the existing Fat-stock Guarantee Scheme machinery. This is the only way we can hope to do it at reasonable cost. We propose that the levy shall be collected by deduction from the guarantee payments.

It will be divided equally between the parties to the sale of fatstock which immediately precedes its certification under the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme, except that, where any fatstock is certified on the basis that it will be sold in the producer's own butchery business, the producer will have to meet the whole charge. I am happy to say that these proposals have, on the whole, been welcomed by everyone in the trade, and I hope that they will commend themselves to the House.

I said a few minutes ago that the P.I.D.A. would make itself responsible for paying the levy for all the pigs going into the Fatstock Marketing Scheme in a block amount. This is a function it has taken on voluntarily, and it is the reason for the second Order, the Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order.

11.18 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

We welcome these proposals. I am glad that, in addition to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, we have with us this evening the Parliamentary Secretary for Science. I am often accused of being somewhat fanatical about research in agriculture. I feel that it is good to err on the side of research, and I am glad that the Minister for Science is associated with this project which, though fundamentally an agricultural matter, involves important scientific research.

I am glad that the Minister is able to announce that all sections of the industry now approve the levy for P.I.D.A. It is true that it had a mixed reception. I have with me the views of the National Pig Breeders' Association, published in its journal for January, 1963. I quote: The N.P.B.A. agrees in principle a development authority is desirable for the pig industry and is pleased P.I.D.A. is currently seeking closer co-operation with the industry. But the Association does not accept arguments put forward by the Authority in support of its application and in particular has made the following comments thereon to the Minister … I will not weary the House at this stage with those comments, but they deal with pig recording, field staff, demonstration farms, boar performance testing and advertising. Tonight, the Minister has said that P.I.D.A. will now postpone its demonstration farm and will also take action concerning advertising—that is, negative action. There has, therefore, been a form of compromise.

We are all anxious that P.I.D.A. should succeed. I have had the pleasure of meeting P.I.D.A. representatives and visiting their establishments to see some of their scientific work. One of the pamphlets which I received when visiting has the unusual title of "Ultrasonics and the Pig". That is very scientific and modern, as, no doubt, is the case. Some remarkable work is being done. The use of instruments on pigs which I was able to see was a revelation.

We are keen that this type of work should be encouraged. Pig breeding and pig production is an important and scientific industry. We are anxious that the industry should compete with the Danes or other pig-producing areas in Europe. It can do quite as well as can be expected if proper help is given. The research work, which P.I.D.A. will encourage, is all to the good of the industry. I make no complaint, therefore, about the levy, details of which are given in the Order. The Minister has stated the case and I hope that it will have approval.

We welcome the setting up of a new research institute for the meat industry. It was announced by the Minister for Science and by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as long ago as 20th March, 1962. We wish the new director well. The institute, I understand, is to be near the University of Bristol at Langford, Somerset. I am glad that it will be near a veterinary school and I hope that there will be co-operation. Again, I am rather prejudiced towards the "vets", having been associated with the Royal College.

I hope that Dr. Ingram will succeed. He did excellent work at Cambridge and we pay tribute to what he has done. As the Minister has said, the institute will cover research and deal with various problems from, I understand, mating to eating. It will cover studies on the structure and composition of meat, the mechanism of growth and development, genetic problems, the scientific definition of tenderness and flavour, a practical system of carcase measurement and assessment and general problems of processing and preserving meat. That is a wide field, in which research has been going on for some time, but it has not been enough.

I should like to know whether there will be co-ordination in research. Will other organisations be associated with this work? Will the research association for food manufacture at Leatherhead, for example, a research body which many hon. Members, on both sides, have visited, be associated with the work of the institute? Will there be an attempt to avoid overlapping and duplication? The food manufacturing industries have done considerable work at Leatherhead on raw materials, manufacturing processes, the control of quality and storage. This will now be part of the job of the meat institute. Will the D.S.I.R. be called in and charged with the coordination of the work of the various organisations?

This matter concerns not only the research organisations, but the universities. We know that at Nottingham and Bangor Universities research has been carried on in different branches of agriculture, and I should like to know whether the work in the universities will be co-ordinated. There is, for example, the Farm Livestock Research Centre of the Animal Health Trust, at Chelmsford. Will this body be brought in? The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will, I am sure, agree that we must avoid duplication, and if this new centre can act as a spearhead for research it will be responsible for co-ordinating the efforts of the other organisations that I have mentioned.

The Minister has mentioned financial aid. I think that the levy of 6d. per head for cattle, 1d. for pigs and ½d. for sheep is reasonable. The levy for United Kingdom fat pigs is to be paid direct by P.I.D.A. The levy, I understand, will begin on 1st April, 1963. Mention has been made of the cost of £500,000 and the running costs of £100,000, but obviously, this will now be out of date and the cost will be even greater. I think that the arrangements which have been made for the producers and the industry as a whole are reasonable.

The levy will be payable only on fat-stock certified for guarantee payment at a certification centre, and this is important. The buyer of fat cattle and sheep will pay his part of the levy to the producer at the time of sale, and the full amount of the levy will be deduced from the guarantee payment made to the producer. I approve of the arrangements for auction sales. The buyer will pay his half of the levy to the auctioneer, who will pass it on to the producer.

I was interested to read the comment in the Farmer and Stock-breeder of 29th January. This journal represents important farming opinion. This new institute and the levy will succeed only if the industry plays its full part. The journal said: Despite all this, no meat producer can afford not to be in favour of this levy, for we still know next to nothing about meat and we simply must get to the bottom of it. We know that our meat supplies this year are up by 5 per cent., and this is a major part of our agricultural industry. An important part of the industry is in imports, but no large-scale research has been done. Here is the first major attempt. We wish the venture well, as well as the scientists and administrators who will be connected with the Institute. We give our good wishes to P.I.D.A. in its efforts to improve research. I approve of the Orders.

11.28 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I should like, first, to ask my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary why he thinks the Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order is necessary. If one looks at Part I of the Third Schedule to the Agriculture Act, 1957, which is referred to in the Order, one sees that the Authority is already entitled to carry out research into problems of pig production, marketing and distribution and the production, processing, manufacture, marketing and distribution of pig products. In fact, in the first annual report of the Pig Industrial Development Authority itself, up to 30th September last, one sees that it has been indulging in quite a lot of research in conjunction with other organisations, particularly, for instance, with University College of North Wales and Nottingham University. I cannot understand why it should be necessary to have a special Order to entitle it to cooperate with the work of the Meat Research Institute now.

Naturally, I welcome the fact that P.I.D.A. should be encouraged to continue its work, but it is obvious that it requires additional finance. The accounts for last year show that £99,308 was spent on livestock improvement and research projects, running at a deficit of about £53,399. I do not think that there is doubt of the need for more money.

In the last annual report there is the serious statement that: This is the first year since our inception when the research programme has not increased in scale. This is not for lack of suitable projects with potential value to the industry. The reason is financial. I have no doubt that it is financial. It has already had to delay the study of embryonic deaths in piglets at Nottingham University and also the long-term research into lean content in closed herds at the University of North Wales.

These are two important matters in our competition with the Danes. It is essential if we are to compete with them that the research into lean content should go on. I am sure that it is in the interest of the industry that P.I.D.A. should be encouraged to carry on with it. Why, however, in the light of all this work, should it be necessary to have a special Order to enable it to cooperate with the new Meat Research Institute? I should have thought this was part of its job under the 1957 Act.

The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) has, perhaps, been a little less than fair to the amount of work being done on pigs already. It is a fantastic amount. If he reads the latest report of the Agricultural Research Council, he will realise the enormous amount of work being done already. I must express my regret that the reports of the Council are now so curtailed that unless one dives into all the special reports from the various stations it is hard to find out what is being done. I have made an effort to find out and I know that a very considerable amount of work has been and is being done. The hon. Member for Workington might have paid a little credit to them for it.

Mr. Peart

I hope that the hon. Member will not be so touchy, because I in in no way cast reflection on the tremendous amount of work being done. I curtailed my speech, but I have with me details of a great deal of research activity by private organisations. Walls, for instance, does magnificent work. I hope that I did not give the wrong impression. I did not intend to do so.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clearing that up. We all want to pay tribute to the work.

I hope that the result of this new station opening means that we shall have rather more co-ordination and that it will be easier to find out what is happening. It is a major hunt in a haystack at the moment to find out what is being done at so many different places. I hope we shall find a better way of presenting this to the public, because the Agricultural Research Council's annual report is becoming so condensed that it is hard to find out what is going on.

11.34 p.m.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

All hon Members who have spoken so far have welcomed these Orders to increase the funds for research, and I am sorry to strike a discordant note. The setting up of the meat research institute has been done in a way which has created new precedents and will create considerable difficulties for some of the other research stations serving the industry. I think that I am right in saying that this is the first time any institute operating under the Research Council has been supported by a levy on an industry, certainly in the food industry. No doubt this is due to the policy of the Parliamentary Secretary for Science and his right hon. Friend, or possibly the intervention of the Treasury. I doubt whether the full implications of this have been considered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), in welcoming the Orders, referred to the necessity for coordination. What I am anxious about is that by setting up this institute, with a statutory levy on meat-producing industries, we shall make it more difficult for the research associations which serve the food industry—and there are about half a dozen of them—to obtain the funds they need. Consider the British Food Manufacturing Industry Research Association. It gets about 50 per cent. of its funds from industry—in fact, it gets rather less—and £20,000 of this comes from the meat industry, which is the largest single contributor.

All the research associations for which the Minister for Science is responsible through the various research councils—and the Government through the D.S.I.R. —are having difficulty in increasing the funds they get from industry The Parliamentary Secretary for Science knows that there has been considerable correspondence between his right hon. Friend and myself on the question of the proportion which the Minister or the D.S.I.R. ought to pay. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, and whether it is right that industry should pay—and, on the whole, I think that it probably is right—the point is that if we impose a statutory levy on one institution, we make it more difficult for other institutions to obtain the funds they require.

The British Food Manufacturing Industry Research Association has an income of about £300,000 a year, of which the D.S.I.R. contributes only about £120,000. If these research associations find it more difficult to obtain funds from industry because of this statutory levy, it will be very difficult for them to expand. It is generally easier for an established research institute under one of the Ministries, or under a Department, or directly responsible to one of the research councils, to obtain staff and equipment than it is for an industrial research association which depends year by year on the sort of voluntary support it gets from industry to do so. It is possible for research associations, if they get about an 80 per cent. vote in their industries, to obtain statutory authority for a levy but this is very difficult to obtain, and it will be even more difficult now.

The important thing here is that the research associations are, on the whole, probably closer in touch with industry than this research institute is likely to be. As I understand, this institute is likely to do the fundamental work, and the research associations will be expected to carry that work forward and introduce it to industry. They are in touch with industry, and it is very important that they should continue this work.

Obviously, a research institute is a desirable thing, but it is equally desirable to maintain the research associations in being, and there is considerable anxiety among many of these associations, particularly those which receive money from the meat industry, about the effect of the statutory levy on the funds they receive. I do not know the intentions of the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister for Science. It may be that it will be possible for some of the funds raised by the statutory levy to be given to the research associations which still have to obtain their money by voluntary contributions, or, alternatively, it may be that if the funds raised by the statutory levy are not handed to the research associations some work can be directed to them out of these funds. What is absolutely essential is that the Minister for Science should look at the serious position in which the research associations will be placed if the statutory levy makes it more difficult for them to obtain voluntary funds for their own work.

It is not that there is any feeling of jealousy about this; the research associations recognise the need for the more fundamental work. But they are anxious to have an equal opportunity of obtaining some of the funds now to be raised by statutory levy. I believe, especially in view of what I think is the present relative meanness of the Government in supporting research associations—and certainly the rather tough attitude adopted by the Treasury—that it may be necessary to try to find ways of giving these research associations statutory powers. Perhaps there should be more statutory levies. I am not against obtaining money from industry if we can get it. It may need statutory powers. But to give statutory powers in support of one institute, whereas other bodies are entirely dependent on voluntary funds is—if I may use the term—like taking water out of one bath and putting it into another.

Both Ministers understand the point I am making, and the particularly important point of the transmission of research and its development into practical technological techniques, which must remain a function of the research associations, otherwise we shall have a very interesting and useful lot of work and then find that the bodies most closely in contact with industry dry up because they have not sufficient funds. I hope that the matter will be seriously considered.

11.41 p.m.

Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)

I hope that some day we may so order the proceedings of this House that we can discuss the future of pigs earlier in the day, instead of embarrassing the rest of the House by making it stay up listening to things it does not want to hear and embarrassing those who are interested in the subject by making them feel that they are keeping other hon. Members from their beds. However, if we must indulge in this system I hope that we can spend a few minutes in discussing an industry which has an annual turnover of £200 million, and which is now receiving a large subsidy from the taxpayers.

I have been intensely proud of the contribution made by British agriculture since the war, and the improvements that it has made in its efficiency, but I have always been worried that in the matter of pig production we have fallen far short of Danish standards. It is true that even now the Danes produce a similar pig, of similar weight, about 50s. cheaper than we do. That is something which the British pig industry must try to put right as quickly as possible.

The only way that I can see of doing this is by supporting the Pig Industry Development Authority and helping it financially to produce some of the answers to the problem. For example, on quality alone, P.I.D.A. can influence policy, through its pig recording and boar testing. That can greatly help. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has mentioned the question of research into diseases. He mentioned piglet losses due to anaemia and other causes, and the very big losses of the industry from pneumonia virus in fattening pigs. Housing is also a problem which needs further investigation.

All these matters can be remedied only by an authority such as P.I.D.A. I do not begrudge it the extra money, when we remember that over the last six years we have improved the position to such an extent that we are now fattening a pig of bacon weight with 1 cwt. less meal. It is clear that we are not taking a great deal of money from the pig producer if we can make that sort of improvement in six years. To my mind, it is a complete justification for saying that we must provide this money.

We know that we would not get it unless this was a compulsory scheme. We have just seen the Horticultural Marketing Council fail because there was no compulsion about the payment of money. I am, therefore, glad to have this scheme, and to know that we are making proper use of it, although some commercial producers still think that the P.I.D.A. scheme has nothing for them.

I have tried, briefly, to show the very great importance of P.I.D.A. to the whole industry. I hope that P.I.D.A. will improve its public relations so that it can put its case across properly. This extra levy should be well worth while to the whole industry. If, in five years' time, we can compete with the Danes on equal terms, I do not think that anyone who has been here until this hour of the night will be disappointed.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I thank the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) for the nice things he said about P.I.D.A. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) about the very good work that it is doing and I hope that the industry will support it.

The hon. Member for Workington asked about co-ordination and co-operation. I can assure him that my noble Friend the Minister for Science, who, of course, is responsible to Parliament both for the D.S.I.R. and the Agricultural Research Council, will ensure that there is adequate consultation and liaison among the various bodies concerned with meat research and make certain that there is no unnecessary or wasteful duplication. I accept that the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and others are anxious, but I think that their anxiety is misplaced. I can assure the hon. Member that the points he mentioned will be looked into both by my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for Science.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) queried whether the second Order was necessary. The functions of P.I.D.A. include the right to promote investigation and research, but there is a doubt whether a regular and continuing financial contribution, such as that made to the meat research institute, can be said to be "promoting" such ends. There is also the point that the rôle of P.I.D.A. is directed to the pig industry and not for the purposes of meat research generally. The various illustrations which my hon. Friend gave were for donations for research into the pig industry as opposed to the meat industry as a whole. This Order is being made to remove any doubts about conferring additional funds to the organisation.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

My hon. Friend should make clear that any money contributed to the meat research institute will be spent on that body and not spent on pigs.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

It will be spent on fundamental research by the institute. It is almost impossible to say that this particular portion or that will be devoted to this particular project or that. It is fundamental meat research which will be of enormous value to the pig industry by improving the functions and the type and kind of meat sold to the market. This is bound to be to the industry's advantage, and that is why the Order is being made.

I commend these three Orders to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Pig Industry Development Authority Levy Scheme (Approval) Order 1963, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd January, be approved.

Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order 1963 [copy laid before the House, 22nd January] approved.—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]

Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order 1963 [draft laid before the House, 22nd January] approved.—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]