§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 9, line 39, after 'organisation' to insert 'and'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It will be convenient to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 12—in page 9, line 39, to leave out 'or regulation'—and Amendment No. 15—page 10, line 2, leave out 'rationalisation or concentration' and insert 'improvement'.
§ Mr. Hawkins
This is the first Amendment to be called on Clause 9, which created a lot of controversy both on Second Reading and throughout the Committee stage. This is the one Clause of the Livestock Commission part of the Bill which has produced acute controversy throughout the industry. I do not intend to go over all the ground again, even it I should be in order in doing so, but it is most important to stress the feeling of this side of the House on this point.
The purpose of the Amendment is to remove the word "regulation" from subsection (1), which gives the Commission power to bring forward a scheme. We are at one with the Government in agreeing to a scheme being brought forward for the purpose of the better organisation or better development of any section of the livestock industry. But, in view of subsection (2), we are against the sort of regulations which appear to be envisaged 121 to achieve this objective. "Regulation" may sound a harmless word but, looking at subsection (2), we have strong doubts against the words used.
Subsection (2) permits a development scheme to haveprovisions compelling or encouraging the elimination of excess capacity, provisions compelling or encouraging a reduction in the number of undertakings engaged"—I understand that the word "undertakings" includes markets, butchers' shops, hotel premises, farms and farming under-takings—and provisions requiring permission to be given for the setting up of a new undertaking or the removalor reallocation, as I believe it will beof an existing undertaking".We feel that the principle of compulsion is unlikely to start the Commission off in the sort of atmosphere in which we hope it will start. We on this side wish the Commission to succeed. There is not much use in setting it up unless it does succeed. It will be quite an expensive and large-ranging body consisting of people who will devote a tremendous amount of time to it. Many of them will be volunteers. The principle of compulsion will give the Commission a bad start.
If the Commission is to have the power to eliminate excess capacity and reduce the number of farming undertakings which produce livestock—pigs or fattened cattle—it is only another way of saying to the small farmer, small butcher and small markets, "You have to go to the wall. We have no room for you. There is no future for you. You must give up fattening cattle in East Anglia or on a particular farm. You have to give up breeding cattle because we believe that all store cattle should be bred in the West or in the Highlands, and in places like that". I do not believe that we should lay down a scheme which compels farmers not to produce what they feel is right for their farms. So we are totally opposed to this element of compulsion in the Bill. It is totally opposed by every organisation—18 of them, including auctioneers, wholesalers and retailers. It is totally opposed by everyone connected with the fresh meat trade, by everyone connected with the imported meat trade, and by everyone connected with the 122 manufacturing and distribution sides of the trade.
Admittedly, the National Farmers' Union said that it had no objection, provided that the powers were not used on its members. But that is hardly the sort of remark that one would have expected to come from a large organisation like that.
The other regulation proposed would prevent new businesses from setting up without permission, and this, in our opinion, is the most restrictive and un-businesslike regulation we have seen. Is there to be no chance for modern, young businessmen starting up a new butchery business in an area where a scheme is operating, without going to the Commission and disclosing what they intend to do, without giving away, possibly to their rivals, the secrets of their ideas in the future for running a new business?
This will mean a lot more form-filling and applications to the Commission, which cannot do any good. In our opinion, the whole business of compulsion should be rejected. Even at this late stage, I urge the Government to accept the Amendment and omit the words which deal with regulation.
§ Mr. Stainton
I shall speak to Amendment No. 15, to substitute the word "improvement" for the words "rationalisation or concentration" in the second line of subsection (2).
The object of this Amendment is to ensure that the criteria by which the powers taken under Clause 9 are operated are reasonably clear and beneficial to the industry as a whole. I do not go the whole way with my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins). It is quite clear that the Commission must have some fairly considerable powers if this operation is to work, and the Minister could quite rightly turn to Schedule 2 and point to the safeguards. With powers conferred on an authority like this, there must be safeguards.
My riposte to that would be that Schedule 2 depends for its authority on the criteria which emerge out of Clause 9 itself, and the criteria here are vague and retrograde. Subsection (1) of Clause 9 provides that the Commission may prepare development schemes for changes 123 which it considers "to be necessary or expedient", and it may submit them to the Minister. The words "necessary or expedient" are no proper indication of the kind of criteria which we wish to see.
I would much prefer in subsection (2) the substitution of the word "improvement" for the words "rationalisation or concentration", because the word "improvement" could then be read alongside and into the previous expression, "necessary or expedient". It would go a long way towards allaying the fears which various bodies in the meat trade have about the possible implementation of this Clause.
It has been said that the National Farmers' Union is not at all disquieted about the contents of Clause 9. That, no doubt, is due to the fact that in Schedule 2, paragraph 5(2), there is reference to Part I of the 1957 Act. As my right hon. Friend pointed out in Committee, this should be Part I of the 1947 Act if it is to make sense.
Another section of the trade is worried, the butchers, the slaughterhouses and the market operators. The Verdon-Smith Report, in paragraph 655, expressed the view that the 1959 Slaughterhouses Act was entirely adequate, and on page 744 of the Committee's Report we had an expression of view about the lack of need to proceed rapidly with the closure of markets. For all these reasons, Amendment No. 15 should commend itself to the benignity of the Minister.
§ Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)
I wish briefly to give my full support to this Amendment. As he so rightly said when we discussed the Bill in Committee, no Clause was more hotly debated than Clause 9 dealing with the compulsory powers to be taken by the Meat and Livestock Commission. I sincerely hope that on this occasion, although we have, probably entirely rightly, been denied the opportunity of debating an Amendment that would have struck out in its entirety the whole Clause—an Amendment which I would have had the greatest pleasure in debating—we now have the opportunity on the secondary Amendment to make our views very clearly heard, not only with our voices, but ultimately, I hope, with our feet in the Lobby.
124 I have always felt that the drafting of Clause 9 was hypocritical. If we turn back to the opening paragraph of the Bill we find that the object in introducing Part I of the Act was… the general duty of promoting greater efficiency in the livestock industry and the livestock products industry,That sounds very nice. That is an objective which we would all wish to have in view, and it is one which we would all wish to pursue with our greatest endeavours. But what do we find when we come to Clause 9? We find that these Draconian powers have been taken, not to make the industry more efficient, not to develop it, but to cut out, root and branch, those parts of the industry that the Commission may, in its wisdom, consider not to be serving the national interest.
Then again, in the opening lines of Clause 9, we again get a degree of hypocrisy which I find hard to forgive. What does the opening paragraph of Clause 9 say? It says:With a view to enabling the livestock industry and livestock products industry to carry out such changes as the Commission may consider …That is the objective. Then, in the very next' sentence, the Government turn round and take powers again to bring the axe down. There is no question of making the industry more efficient. The industry is to be wiped out, although sections of it, such as the Meat and Livestock Commission, may not happen.
In this Amendment we are, in fact, debating a matter of principle. All of us welcomed the Bill to begin with. We welcomed many of its provisions. I welcomed the setting up of the Commission. But I think that all of us, on both sides of the Committee, from the very beginning, agreed that this Commission could only be successful in its objective, could only achieve the end that we all want it to achieve, if the Commission, through its wisdom, manages to carry the industry with it. If the Commission does not carry the industry with it, it will not do a worth-while job, or a job which, in the end, will serve the national purpose.
In Committee, I expressed surprise that the National Farmers' Union had seen fit, in its wisdom, to support the 125 provisions of Clause 9, particularly as it may well be farming units which are told that they may not produce this, that or the other and they have to go out of business. The answer, or part of it, given to me by the N.F.U. was that it believed that these provisions could never be brought into operation. I am not prepared to say what may or may not happen in future.
The Minister of Agriculture is a most sympathetic person, and would not wish to do anything which might create hardship. But who is to say what will happen in the future? Who is to say what the Commission will or will not do? It is a little naive of the National Farmers' Union to put its endorsement to the provisions of this Clause merely on the basis that perhaps the Government or the Commission will never wish to use them. I would much rather have the provisions struck out altogether, but this Amendment would go some way to mitigate the evils of the Clause.
By all means let us have organisation. By all means let us have development. But when we come to the question of regulation, we see in subsection (2) what is really meant:provisions compelling or encouraging the elimination of excess capacity …How are we to judge what is excess capacity when we come down to production units at farm-gate level? Who is to go round and say that this, that, or the other production unit must go out in the national interest? Who is to be the great judicial body to weigh the pros and cons which may make so much difference to the very livelihood of producers or manufacturers of meat products?
If the Commission is to be successful in its task, it will never be able to use these powers. If it ever comes to the point of using them, we shall have reached such a stage that the Commission will have failed in its task and will not have carried out the duties laid upon it by the Bill.
I ask the Minister to justify to the fullest possible extent the introduction of these Draconian powers of control in Clause 9. They are pernicious. I do not believe that they will ever serve a useful purpose, and I ask the Minister seriously to consider, even at this late 126 stage, whether they should be removed altogether from the Clause.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
I am glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson), who has so well highlighted the anomalies in the Clause. In the first place, subsection (1) expresses sentiments with which no one who has at heart the desire to improve meat marketing in this country can disagree, sentiments which were certainly at the nub of the whole Verdon Smith Report and which are at the nub of Part I of the Bill itself. None of us can disagree with the desire for better organisation or with the desire to develop meat marketing in this country. But when we come to the question of regulation, a completely different concept is introduced.
If it were just regulation by itself, without amplification, we might wonder what was meant, but further on in the Clause the meaning of regulation is amplified. There has already been reference toprovisions compelling or encouraging the elimination of excess capacity".Other forms of regulation are mentioned, not the least of which is the imposition of quotas under subsection (6). Provisions of this kind are in no way compatible with the first two concepts of better organisation and development.
Quotas can have no place whatever in relation to better organisation or the development of meat marketing in this country. Whenever quotas have been imposed, not only in the history of this country but in the history of marketing policies in other countries as well, all that has been achieved has been the maintenance of the status quo of the industry at the time when the quotas were imposed. This cannot be in the interests of meat marketing in Britain. Inevitably, quotas help the inefficient to keep their place within the industry. The imposition of quotas always encourages inefficiency and, more than that, they are an active discouragement to efficiency.
What happens when people are trying to cut costs? Everyone knows that we need to cut costs today if we are to maintain our place in the meat industry. Inevitably, the introduction of new methods leading to greater efficiency 127 leads to an increase in production, yet those who are improving their efficiency will be the very people to be discouraged if quotas are imposed.
It is utterly wrong to imagine that the imposition of quotas will serve the interests of the industry. If it is to remain viable and healthy, the meat industry, like any other industry, must expand and grow, and it must have reasonable prospects of so doing. In this process, there must be change. The opening words of subsection (1) speak of the carrying out ofsuch changes as the Commission may consider to be necessary".Quotas are incompatible with change. By introducing the idea of quotas, the Minister is putting a dead hand on the natural processes of change and development which must take place in the meat industry if it is to survive. Unfortunately, this is typical of the Government's thinking in relation to agriculture, as we have seen in the past two years.
The Minister must reconsider this whole question. I do not believe that he was present in the Standing Committee when the point was raised.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am glad that he is to give it his personal attention tonight. I hope that he will tell us what the specific purpose of quotas is to be and what he hopes to achieve by them in the meat industry. No right-thinking people can see any economic sense in this proposal. We cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman can possibly tackle properly the problems of meat marketing in this way. I want him to explain how he marries the idea of quotas and regulation with the idea of developing and encouraging our meat industry.
§ Mr. Prior
I did not have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee, and this is, therefore, the first time I have heard a good many of the arguments actually put, although I have read the debates very carefully. In many ways, I have mixed views on the whole question of the Meat and Livestock Commission. A few years ago I would have given it a great deal more support than I give it today. When looking back to the reason why this Clause is before us, one goes 128 back to the Verdon Smith Report and to the chaos in the industry in 1961, which resulted in an enormous Supplementary Estimate of £60 million on the deficiency payments scheme. As the result of that, the Verdon Smith Committee was set up. Following from that, we now have some of the recommendations contained in this Part of the Bill.
I do not think that at that time the Verdon Smith Committee was thinking of the sort of controls and regulations that we have here. The Committee's Report was really something of a disappointment to the Minister. It did not go anything like far enough for him. It did not go anything like far enough then for the National Farmers' Union, who wanted a meat marketing board. The right hon. Gentleman wanted a meat marketing board and he also wanted a commodity commission which, among other things, would have power to control imports as well. It is interesting to find how much the Minister has been tamed by his Department in the last two years, because there is no mention of import controls for the Livestock Commission.
We should look at the example of what has happened in the broiler industry and see what lessons this has for meat generally. The broiler industry has been through its difficult periods. It had quite a few bankruptcies and it has had quite a lot of rationalisation, but all this has been carried out in a free market and in a free economy.
The one lesson that perhaps all of us have failed to learn since the war is that we have not given agriculture anything like the opportunity to have a free market that we should have given it. Therefore, we now find more and more that having denied agriculture that opportunity, we are imposing from the top regulations which can result only in a great deal more of the bureaucracy which we all want to avoid.
My real feeling as the years progress is that it would be much better not to give any commission these powers but to give agriculture more freedom within a free market economy, which it does not have at the moment. I am certain that that attitude is becoming much more acceptable to the farming industry than it was a short while ago. The National Farmers' Union wanted a meat marketing board. What we have in the Bill has 129 been the next best thing for the union and, therefore, it did not want to reject it out of hand. I am certain that if this question were now taken back to the National Farmers' Union, it would in all probability give a different answer from the one it gave even a few months and certainly a year or two ago.
I ask the Minister to look carefully again at the Clause. He has heard what my hon. Friends have said about quotas and about the powers of rationalisation. Incidentally, I wonder how the Minister ties this in with what is happening with the bacon curing industry. Does he envisage that the Commission would produce a scheme for rationalisation of the bacon curing industry? If so, it is a bit late, because rationalisation is going on fairly fast.
What I am doubtful about is whether this would be one of the jobs that the Commission should have and whether it would find the money from producers, from retailers and from traders generally to buy out certain sections of the industry. If this is what is intended, we are entitled to know a good deal more about it than we have been told. We have before us the example of the bacon curing industry. Surely the Minister today is in a position to give us guidance, in a case which is right in the forefront of news in the agriculture industry, about how he considers that the Commission would work in this case.
I am driven to the logical conclusion that most of the Clause is now totally unnecessary and is flying in the face of all that we now know to be wrong with the economy since the war. If we are not to give our economy more freedom, if we go on, first, subsidising and, secondly, imposing from above, I do not believe that as a nation we shall ever get out of our economic problems. If we would only learn from past mistakes, which the Government, apparently, are not prepared to do, we would make a good deal more progress; and if we could take the broiler industry as an example, we would not have a great deal to worry about.
I hope that we shall vote in favour of our Amendments if the Government do not accept them. I hope very much, however, that the Government will have second thoughts about this matter and that the Minister, a charming and gracious man, 130 will tell us that all our fears are groundless and that he can accept what we have to offer.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
I support my hon. Friends in the Amendments, particularly Amendment No. 12, and what they have said about the obnoxious word "regulation". It is a word which I do not like at all. If the Minister knew farmers as well as I do, he would know that they do not like the word one little bit, either. The only regulation which they are prepared to accept is the regulation of imports, but not this kind of regulation which the Government are applying to them. I fully understand their fears.
I would like to see the whole Clause thrown right out. It is to me absolute Socialist nonsense of the highest order, and over the years that is what it will be seen to be. So I would throw it out. I must, however, confine my few comments to the word "regulation", which sticks in my gullet. I do not like it one little bit.
Although the N.F.U. leaders may be prepared to accept the Clause, I am not prepared to accept it. I am a member of the National Farmers' Union and I know that if most of the N.F.U. members could understand the Clause, knew what it implied and what will happen in the years to come if we continue with a Socialist Government, they would want to throw it out also.
I believe that the N.F.U. does not have the backing of its members in saying that it accepts the Clause. It is no good the Minister shaking his head. What I am saying is true. The members of the N.F.U. do not understand what the Clause implies. If they did, they would tell their leaders that they would not have this sort of Socialist nonsense. I would certainly support them.
I see the Clause as a threat to many small farmers. It will be the small farmers who suffer through the regulations, because they will be told that they are inefficient, that they are not viable, that they are uncommercial and all the rest. I see the danger, particularly to the small farmers.
It is not only hon. Members on this side who are opposed to the Clause and to the word "regulation". Many organisations have made it clear that they are opposed to the Clause. The N.F.U. 131 leaders and the Socialist Government, including the Minister, are the only ones who are in favour of the Clause. Everybody else is opposed to the regulations and the Clause. Why the Minister cannot see this, I do not know.
As a farmer, I see the danger inherent in the Clause. Because of these regulations farmers in certain areas could be told to reduce their production of certain commodities—store stock, for example—and go in for something else. This could particularly affect some parts of the South-West, where it would be difficult for farmers to go in for something else. Rationalisation is bound to take place, but we do not want regulations to force it to take place. It must happen by a gradual process to ensure that people are not harmed and it must not be forced.
Who will say what types of production should be curtailed, which slaughterhouses should stop killing and which markets should not sell further stocks because they have reached their quotas? The right hon. Gentleman may say that I am exaggerating the position by asking these wide-ranging questions. I assure him that this is no exaggeration and that these fears are being expressed by the farming community.
It is no use the Minister referring to the Milk Board. We heard all about that in Committee. This is a different matter. We are referring here to producer boards which were set up by producers and which are comprised of people elected by the farming community. I am, therefore, strongly opposed to the regulations in particular and the Clause in general. I notice that the Minister is smiling. I assure him that in the years to come he will be proved wrong. This is a thoroughly bad Clause and, because it is bad legislation, it should be thrown out.
§ Mr. Godber
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not being coy. I thought that the Minister had enough to contend with, following the remarks of my hon. Friends, without my adding to the massive onslaught which he has received and from which, no doubt, he requires a little time to recover.
I endorse everything stated by my hon. Friends in support of the Amendment. They have not exaggerated the position and it is with a heavy heart that I speak about the Clause in view of the attitude which the Minister—not forgetting his colleagues—has adopted throughout in this matter. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have refused to face up to the seriousness of the Clause; although that is in line with so much that has emanated from the Labour Government. They believe in direction and compulsion, as we have seen so often this Session. After introducing the Prices and Incomes Act, Part IV of that Measure was used with great force, although we were told, when the Measure was first introduced, that it would probably not be necesssary. Under this system of Government compulsion, once provided for, is inevitably used. My hon. Friends and I fear that the compulsion provided for in this Clause will also be used if we allow it to be written into the Bill.
We have said from the beginning that the Clause is thoroughly bad in every degree. The Amendment pinpoints the worst aspects of it. Amendment No. 12 is specifically designed to delete the words "or regulation" While we have made it perfectly clear that we are content with any attempt to achieve the better organisation and development of the industry, we must be told what regulations the Government have in mind. We see in the Clause, in only general terms, what sort of regulations the Government have in mind My hon. Friends have referred to subsection (2), with its reference to… provisions compelling or encouraging the elimination of excess capacity …and… provisions compelling or encouraging a reduction in the number of undertakings engaged …133 as well as… provisions requiring permission to be given for the setting up of a new undertaking or the removal of an existing undertaking.This is direction in its fullest degree. Subsection (6) speaks of… the imposition of quotas on undertakings or producers or markets …".Because the word "producers" is brought in in that subsection, the word must mean "farmers". Quotas on farmers are obviously provided for in that provision. Then subsection (8) gives further wide powers… authorising the Commission to delegate any functions conferred on them by the scheme …and that power is wide enough for anybody. All these things are provided for by the use of the word "regulation".
However, one of the most damaging powers appears in subsection (9) because, having detailed the specific powers to which I have referred, that provision states:The generality of the provisions of subsection (1) of this section is not to be read as qualified by or restricted to the particular matters mentioned above in this section.Those matters are serious enough, but if it goes even further, as we fear it does, then we are right to seek to delete the word "regulation", since it is under that word that we presume that these additional widespread powers can be sought in relation to subsection (9).
It is, therefore, an obnoxious Clause, particularly from the point of view of the harm it could do to any section of the livestock and livestock products industry. It is sweeping and all-embracing and could arbitrarily restrict producers, processors, markets and slaughterhouses. All these matters come within its ambit, and I have not even dealt with the retail side. Apart from all that, it is thoroughly bad legislation. The Minister should be ashamed for having brought to Parliament a Bill of such widespread effect without having even tried to define the purposes for which he wants these powers.
Time and again we have invited the right hon. Gentleman to explain why he wants these powers, but he has been extremely coy. He keeps saying that they are required, but he will go no further. Does he want them to restrict farm pro- 134 duction? After all, he is doing that in other ways, without having to bother with these powers. He has already created sufficient difficulty. Does he want to restrict the markets? Does he intend to impose these powers on the livestock markets, to compel a certain type of marketing or to get rid of small slaughterhouses? Does he intend to do that? What does he want the powers for? If he does not give us a case for needing these powers, he should not now be seeking to take them.
This is bad legislation irrespective of whether it affects the agricultural industry or any other industry. To ask for blanket powers which have not been shown to be needed is an abuse of the House. It is asking Parliament to vote to the Executive powers that are ill-defined and sweeping, and powers that can by subsection (8) be enlarged. Not only can they be enlarged, but they can be delegated with complete indiscrimination. The Commission can delegate any function conferred on it by the scheme, so we do not know who will have the responsibility of exercising the very wide powers that can be taken in this way.
It is no good the Minister telling us that the position is safeguarded by the approval of Parliament being needed. He knows perfectly well, as I do, that when a scheme is brought forward we have to accept it or reject it in its entirety. We have clearly said that we believe that some functions are right and could be used in a development scheme for better organisation and better development, but it is on "regulation" that we disagree with the Minister.
We therefore say that if he intends merely to bring this scheme forward for rubber-stamp approval—as it amounts to, because we can debate it, but cannot amend it to any degree at all—it is no safeguard at all for Parliament merely to have one discussion and for the thing to go through completely as it is, or to be rejected in its entirety. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that when the Whips are put on, rejection is a forlorn hope for any Opposition.
We shall therefore be presented with a fait accompli, and the only security is that provided by certain safeguards in the Schedule. That security is not nearly sufficient to give any assurance to those 135 concerned. As my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said, if the farmers realised what was being done there would be a far greater outcry. I believe that many of them do not realise the dangers inherent in this Clause, not only for the farmers but for all people connected with the livestock industry.
We have debated this subject at length in Committee and I do not propose to go further with it now, but I want to make it absolutely clear to the Minister that we feel most strongly about it, and that unless he is now willing to give us some accommodation we shall certainly have to register our strong disapproval of what he and the Government are doing.
§ Mr. Peart
The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has presented the case that he developed in detail in the Standing Committee. He has confined himself to the points of the two Amendments but, basically, he has put forward the same argument, which is that I am seeking to have a Meat Commission with tremendous powers; "Draconian powers" were the strong words used by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills). We have had a general condemnation of these powers. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) did not seem to me to share in this extravagant attack that has been made upon me and on the Meat Commission. He admitted that the Commission should have powers.
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) talked of his youthful past when he had different views. Probably it is because he is getting older that he now takes a different view. I do not know—there may be other reasons. It may be a genuine conversion to a freer concept of agriculture. He talked eloquently of, to quote his words, "a free economy and a desire to have more freedom within the industry." It may well be that he has come to this conclusion—more freedom in a free market economy.
It may well be that he has come finally to the conclusion that we should not have an orderly market; that we should not have import controls. If one accepts the concept of a free market one 136 must inevitably come up against this problem of the whole concept of standard quantities which my predecessors brought in, and which he supported. The hon. Member may be against support buying. It will be interesting to find that out when we discuss this matter on a future occasion, but I must say that he has changed a lot.
I remind hon. and right hon. Members opposite of a report of Tory Party policy in the Daily Telegraph of 1965—that is not very long ago. It speaks of a new and comprehensive Conservative Party policy for meat marketing. One of the Conservative Front Bench spokesmen on agriculture mentioned this plan, which had been approved by the Agricultural Committee of Conservative back benchers. It would be interesting to know whether the hon. Member for Lowestoft was on that Committee. We were told that the party opposite would set up a new meat marketing authority, and the report mentions powers I am now being attacked for taking by, for example, the hon. Member for Torrington. The Tory Party wanted very strong powers. It said that concentration was necessary and there should be the power to withdraw licences. There was talk about slaughterhouses and the power to provide and supervise wholesale meat markets. Some might be closed and others established. No wonder the hon. Member for Lowestoft wishes to forget his past.
§ Mr. Prior
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He has spoken about my forgetting my past or changing my views, but my sins are nothing compared with his. A few years ago the Minister was talking about commodity commissions, strict import controls and meat marketing boards. His right hon. Friend, now the Foreign Secretary, talked about "none of these half-baked things we get from marketing boards nowadays". What does he say about that?
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member knows that I have always believed in orderly 137 marketing. I have said on many occasions that we need the instruments to achieve it. Later we shall be discussing a very interesting Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) and his colleagues on import controls and the question of where responsibility should lie. I have always looked at the situation pragmatically, even when I may have committed myself to complete commodity commissions. At least the concept of a commission is a step forward. It may be that the concept of import control in relation to the Commission is something which we should argue about on another Amendment.
§ Mr. Peart
We are getting a little beyond time. This is Report stage and I am trying to answer points which have been put to me by hon. Members opposite. They have argued strongly. I do not complain about that, but they invited me to reply to some main points. They cannot have it both ways. They are suffering from political schizophrenia and are not sure what they want. They say they want orderly marketing. They have not the courage to oppose this Bill. Even when they were in power they did not have the foresight to do something about marketing. They had plenty of opportunities, but they were uncertain.
I shall not abuse hon. Members opposite by using extravagant language, for that can get us nowhere. I have always tried to discuss the issue of Clause 9 objectively. In Committee we discussed it through eight sittings and went into tremendous details. I have tried to explain fully on many occasions why we think this provision necessary and why these Amendments must be resisted and rejected. It is vital that the Commission should be able to cope with future developments in a rapidly changing industry. That is the reply which I have given to the right hon. Member for Grantham on many occasions when he has asked me to be more precise and has talked about the wide powers which I am giving to this body. I have said that it is vital for the Commission to be able to cope with future developments. I have explained why it is necessary to have full powers and why it would be absurd not to provide for all possibilities.
138 We have gone to considerable lengths to safeguard everyone concerned against abuse of those powers. We have improved the Schedules which we shall be discussing later. There are ample safeguards. This Commission, which is a new venture, should be given powers to do its job. It will be comprised of people connected with all parts of the industry in the structure of the committee system. They will not act rashly or stupidly. They will be sensible men who will prepare schemes, if necessary. In the end it will be for Parliament to approve them. There is that safeguard.
The effect of Amendment No. 11 would be to exclude from the purposes for which the Commission will submit development schemes to Ministers any schemes conducive to the better regulation of any section of the industry. This is the first Amendment in a series designed to reduce the competence of the Commission to deal with future developments in the livestock and livestock products industry. We cannot agree to limit the Clause in the way proposed. We have debated the reasons for this fully.
At the risk of covering some well-trodden ground, I will repeat the reasons why the provision is necessary. Both the structure and the methods of the industries covered by the Bill are changing, from the farm right down to the retail shop. The hon. Members for Lowestoft and North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) correctly said that a tremendous change is taking place in the industry. With the arrival of the Commission and its wide battery of services designed to assist the evolution of the industry, this change can be expected to continue and, perhaps, accelerate. The Bill is intended to provide a basis for central action on behalf of the industry.
The Commission, comprised of men drawn from the industry, will surely act with common sense. Hon. Members should not be suspicious of the responsible men who will be doing this job. The Commission and the industry will have to work together. Inevitably there will be change. They must consider future problems. The Commission must have this power.
In providing for these possibilities, we would be at fault if we did not cater for 139 eventualities, including the possibility of some regulation of the industry. It may be argued that a regulatory scheme will never be necessary. This may be, but at this stage we cannot know whether it will be necessary. Nobody will use regulatory powers if encouragement is sufficient, if the objective can be achieved by persuasion. We must have powers there in case they are needed. The Commission, Ministers, and Parliament all have to approve the schemes. Surely none of them would agree to any form of compulsion if any other method were sufficient.
Having said that these powers are justified, I must also draw attention to the considerable safeguards against their misuse. Clause 2 provides that there must be full consultation with the interests concerned. Then there must be the publication of a draft scheme and the examination of objections. I could go on repeating all the details, but I could not persuade hon. Members opposite, because they are doctrinal Tory politicians. I forgive them for that. I understand, but cannot accept, their point of view.
The same arguments apply on the other Amendments. I could not convert hon. Members. I have said that I must have these powers for the Commission. I think that they are right. Schemes will inevitably emerge. There may well have to be some rationalisation or concentration in the industry, but it will be for these practical men connected with the industry, not doctrinal opponents of orderly marketing.
I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that we are now trying to create a Commission possessing certain powers, which we give it in this Clause, to do a worth-while job in an industry which has never been properly examined before. There has been plenty of investigation, but nothing was done by my predecessors. We are anxious to do something. In view of the structure of the Commission, the production committee, the representation of the retail and wholesale side of the industry, and also, for the first time, an important consumer committee, we believe that we are taking an important step. I therefore invite the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Stodart
I have listened with great care to every word that the Minister has said, and I think I should be allowed to reply to his speech.
I am staggered by the right hon. Gentleman's slightly ingenuous remark that we on these benches did not have the courage to oppose the Bill as a whole. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was really serious when he said that.
There are, of course, two good things in the Bill, and I was the first to admit it on Second Reading. In fact, I did so on two occasions. We have never had any desire to oppose sound Measures, but the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that under this cover there are five different Bills. When he says that he and his hon. Friends have tried to explain why this Clause has been necessary and that he has done so repeatedly, all I can say is that if these have been genuine attempts—and, for the sake of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, I think we should assume that they were not genuine attempts—he and his hon. Friends are quite unworthy of holding their office.
Of course, it is reasonable that we should have orderly marketing. With this, I absolutely agree. It is a fact that as a result of the suggestions made by my hon. Friends during the first sitting of the Committee, the composition of the Commission has been considerably improved. But it is absolute nonsense to ask for powers for this Commission to impose quotas and to remove undertakings within a matter of weeks of the publication of the Government's own plan which called for the expansion of beef production up to the maximum possibilities of technical expansion. These things do not tie up, and the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that they do not. This is a point which has baffled hon. Members. We have asked for explanations, but we have not received any. Time and again the right hon. Gentleman has said that this is a matter that must be left to the Commission. Tonight, he has said that he has tried to explain it. Even these two statements seem to me to be slightly at variance. 141 I beg the right hon. Gentleman to realise that when he produces a plan of the kind which was produced with a considerable blare of trumpets, in which the need for expansion—selective, I admit—was underwritten in bold lines, and when he then produces a Bill which says that he must call for powers for this body to impose quotas—which, in any case, are the bluntest and most useless of instruments in the fiscal sphere—he cannot but expect the farming community to be, at the least, puzzled, and, at the most, thoroughly suspicious.
The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have been pleased on several occasions to quote the circular sent round by the National Farmers' Union on Clause 9, but I dare say that it will not have escaped his notice that at the annual
§ general meeting of the N.F.U. over the present three days there has been the most stringent criticism of the setting up of the Commission.
§ We have discussed this matter at great length. We were under the impression that we should be able to emphasise the disagreement which we have held from the word "go" upon this Clause in two votes. I understand that that will not be possible, and I therefore wish to make it perfectly clear that when we divide we shall be registering our strongest dissent with the Government on all the Amendments at present under discussion.
§ Question put, That "and" be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 118, Noes 192.143
|Division No. 231.]||AYES||[8.54 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Goodhew, Victor||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Astor, John||Grant, Anthony||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Pardoe, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Gurden, Harold||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Peel, John|
|Bessell, Peter||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hawkins, Paul||Prior, J. M, L,|
|Blaker, Peter||Heseltine, Michael||Pym, Francis|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hill, J, E B||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Brewis, John||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Holland, Philip||Roots, William|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hooson, Emlyn||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J||Hunt, John||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus, N&M)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sharples, Richard|
|Campbell, Gordon||Jopling, Michael||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Kimball, Marcus||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Smith, John|
|Clark, Henry||Kirk, Peter||Stainton, Keith|
|Clegg, Walter||Kitson, Timothy||Stodart, Anthony|
|Cooke, Robert||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Lambton, Viscount||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Costain, A. P.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Teeling, Sir William|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Loveys, W. H.||Tilney, John|
|Crouch, David||Lubbock, Eric||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||MacArthur, Ian||Wainwright, Richard(Colne Valley)|
|Dance, James||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W[...])||Maddan, Martin||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Maginnis, John E.||Webster, David|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Maude, Angus||Whitelaw, William|
|Eden, Sir John||Mawby, Ray||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Elliot, Capt, Walter (Carshalton)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Farr, John||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Forrest, George||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fortescue, Tim||Monro, Hector||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Murton, Oscar|
|Clover, Sir Douglas||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. More and Mr. Eyre.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Bence, Cyril||Boyden, James|
|Anderson Donald||Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.|
|Archer, Peter||Bidwell, Sydney||Brooks, Edwin|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bishop, E. S.||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Blackburn, F.||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Boardman, H.||Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Booth, Albert||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Beaney, Alan||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Buchan, Norman|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Harbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Oram, Albert E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hilton, W. S.||Orbach, Maurice|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Orme, Stanley|
|Cant, R. B.||Hooley, Frank||Oswald, Thomas|
|Carmichael, Neil||Horner, John||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Coe, Denis||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Coleman, Donald||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Park, Trevor|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hoy, James||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hunter, Adam||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hynd, John||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pentland, Norman|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Judd, Frank||Randall, Harry|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kenyon, Clifford||Rankin, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Redhead, Edward|
|Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Lawson, George||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Leadbitter, Ted||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dempsey, James||Ledger, Ron||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Dewar, Donald||Lestor, Miss Joan||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dickens, James||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rose, Paul|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lipton, Marcus||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lomas, Kenneth||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Eadie, Alex||Luard, Evan||Ryan, John|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Ellis, John||McBride, Neil||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ennals, David||McCann, John||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Ensor, David||Macdonald, A. H.||Slater, Joseph|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McGuire, Michael||Small, William|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mackie, John||Snow, Julian|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackintosh, John P.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Maclennan, Robert||Steele, Thomas(Dunbartonshire,W.)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (likeston)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Thornton, Ernest|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Tinn, James|
|Ford, Ben||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Forrester, John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Fowler, Gerry||Manuel, Archie||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Marquand, David||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Gardner, Tony||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Millan, Bruce||Wellbeloved, James|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Whitlock, William|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Molloy, William||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Hamling, William||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Hannan, William||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Moyle, Roland||Winnick, David|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Murray, Albert|
|Haseldine, Norman||Newens, Stan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hazell, Bert||Oakes, Gordon||Mr. Gourlay and Mr. Howie.|
|Heffer, Eric S.|
§ Mr. James Davidson
I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 9, line 41, at end to insert:', not excluding methods of import regulation '.I find myself partly in agreement with much that was said by hon. Members on this side of the House in the debates on the last two or three Amendments in relation to the excessive powers being given to the Commission. But, at the same time, I could not quite follow the extreme disaffection shown by some of them with the word "regulation". Many of them have served under Queen's Regulations at one time or another and I cannot see why they should be so concerned about the word.
144 The case for the Amendment is clear. If we are to give excessive powers to the Meat Marketing Commission we have to give them complete powers but one is missing from this Clause—the power to regulate imports. Clause 9 says…for the purpose of conducing to the better organisation, development or regulation of any section of the livestock industry …To me, this is obviously incomplete without the inclusion of import regulation of the particular livestock product concerned.
An example of this is the chaotic situation in the bacon industry, due largely to the fact that the Pig Industry Development Authority, to be superseded by the Commission, has had little 145 to say on the marketing side and no influence at all on the level of imports —a mater which has been entirely at the mercy of the Government, mainly because of the late Conservative Government's bacon market sharing agreement with Denmark and other countries, which was a quota system if ever there was one.
I do not want to delay the House on this Amendment, which is simple and straightforward. If we are to give powers to the Commission they must be complete and must include power to regulate imports. I should like the Minister's assurance that the Commission will be given a say in the level of imports of each commodity it is responsible for and I hope the opportunity will be used to move closer to the E.E.C's system of market management by target prices, import regulation and support buying where necessary.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) has, I presume, moved the Amendment with the official backing of his party. I was rather surprised that he mentioned his agreement with the Opposition on previous Amendments. I thought that he was much too reasonable a person to be attracted to that sort of attack on the powers given to the Commission.
§ Mr. Peart
I will not listen to debating points. The hon. Gentleman can return to this if he likes.
Then he chided the Opposition for introducing import quota arrangements and referred to the bacon market sharing agreement introduced by my predecessor in the Conservative Government. The bacon market sharing agreement was not attacked by Liberal Members when it was introduced. The Liberal Party may have changed its mind, but I cannot remember that in all our debates representatives of the Liberal Party in the House attacked the bacon market sharing agreement. If I am wrong, I will apologise, but I do not think that I am.
146 This Amendment could raise an extremely interesting debate, but I must say at once that the Government's view is that the Commission should not be given power to control imports. Whether there should be any such control and, if so, what form it should take is and must remain a matter for decision by the Government of the day. After all, this is an important decision, for it involves our international arrangements, as has been said. Several commodities might be referred to, but the bacon market sharing agreement is a very good example. This question involves matters of commercial policy and of our international obligations in the trade field.
I have concluded that at this stage it is right that the Government should keep this power, with its tremendous implications, in their own hands. These are properly matters for the Government to decide. No doubt the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) will make a speech about my concept of the Commodity Commission.
I have carefully studied the Amendment, in view of our international agreements, and I think that it is right that we should make this decision. These are considerations which any Government would be bound to have in mind if the Commission submitted a scheme likely to affect imports. We could not accept the Amendment, which might be thought to endorse the view that the function of regulating imports might be given in some form to the Commission, and I therefore ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Prior
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is that the Government are not prepared to take control over imports. I agree that they are right not to leave that to the Commission, because such control must be a job for the Government, and I think that the Liberals would agree, 147 but what we would like is the Minister's view about whether the Government should take power to have import control, and we have not had that view.
If he does not agree with this now, he is going back a good deal upon what he said only a few years ago, when he was all in favour of import controls. The Minister is again years out of date. Where he is wrong and hypocritical over this issue is that he is telling farmers at home to increase their beef production—granted ever since he said this beef production has very largely fallen—but he is trying to give the impression that he wants more beef at home. If we are to have more beef at home we have to accept some control over imports, or else we will be faced with the situation where imports can come in freely. We shall have greater production at home and we shall be faced with an enormous deficiency payments bill.
§ Mr. Prior
I sincerely hope that we do eat more meat.
One of the points of this Amendment is to try and help the balance of payments position. If one looks round the world it will be seen that the nations with whom we have the biggest adverse balance of payments are almost always those supplying us with a great deal of food. The Argentine and beef is the classic example.
I do not believe that we should lose any export trade with the Argentine if we had the courage to put on these controls. The logic of what the Prime Minister has said, and what the right hon. Gentleman has said at various times when talking about agriculture as an import-saving industry, with a great part to play, is that he should be prepared to adopt some form of import control and that the Minister should come along tonight and say that not only does he think that the Government should keep this decision to itself, with which I agree, but that they are not going to make any decision on this. He has rigidly refused to say whether he accepts import control as a facet of import policy. This is quite appalling.
There cannot be any real confidence in agriculture until we accept this, and this is why my party has changed its agricul- 148 tural policy during the last two years and why we fought the last election on this very basis. As more and more people, not only farmers, come to understand this they will support us. The equivocal attitude of the Minister tonight gives no one any confidence.
§ Mr. Godber
I endorse every word said by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), and I am very glad that he has said them. I agree with the Minister that it is not right to give these powers to the Commission. To that extent I could not support the Amendment, but I appreciate that this was the only way in which the matter could be raised. Like my hon. Friend, I was distinctly disappointed with the reply given by the Minister. There is no doubt that in the changing circumstances of today a greater degree of import control has to be considered and acted on, whether or not we enter the Common Market. This is something the Minister has to face up to, particularly in regard to beef.
If the right hon. Gentleman has not learned anything else from what has happened over the last 12 months he must surely have learned the folly of adopting a position whereby, through the imposition of large levies by Common Market countries, there is a diversion on to our market which depresses the trade, not only for the finished product, but which destroys confidence on the production side of the industry and falls very harshly upon those in the rearing section. It is all very well for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to say that this might attract more people to eat more meat. These are the people who have been hard hit. Those selling the finished product have had a tight and difficult time but those in the rearing and livestock growing areas have had a deplorable time, as the Minister must know.
Therefore, although I would agree with the Minister that he cannot accept the Amendment, I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity to say something far more positive and encouraging to the farming community. If the Minister had wanted to do so, he could have used some words which would have given much greater encouragement, particularly when his right hon. Friends in Rome are saying some very different things today. The Sun carries the headlineWilson's 'Yes' to Europe on Food".149 It is clear that some of the Minister's right hon. Friends are not afraid of saying things in relation to a changed attitude. I hope that the Minister will be much more positive about his attitude, because no one has been more equivocal on this issue than he has.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I endorse what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) about the control of imports in relation to the economic position. I wish to devote my remarks to the question of marketing, which is the crux of this Amendment.
The lack of control and regulation of imports gives the farming community and all concerned with meat marketing a feeling of frustration and helplessness. Any efforts which they make to become more efficient and to rationalise the marketing system are so often lost through lack of control and regulation of imports. We saw this particularly last summer and autumn in relation to meat from Eire. We have seen it regularly in relation to the import of cheap eggs from Poland and other Iron Curtain countries, and in relation to the fatstock marketing scheme where the system of abatements has completely broken down. Producers cannot see how they can influence the bringing about of orderly marketing because of what comes from overseas.
This is a problem which will increase as time goes on, particularly if we are outside the Common Market. Not only are we accepting cheap imports from other countries outside Europe, but increasingly we shall have to become the dustbin for subsidised food surpluses from Europe. I remind the Minister that Common Market countries are subsidising exports of dairy produce at the rate of £60 million a year. Where will these exports go—to Britain, the one country which is accepting quite freely the entry of this type of subsidised food.
There is a need for regulation not only in these wider spheres but in relation to the marketing boards. One of the most successful boards in marketing is the Milk Marketing Board in the liquid milk market because it has not had to contend with the upsetting influence of imports over which it has no control. It is the 150 one commodity from farms in this country which has not the problem of competing with the same article from elsewhere. The Potato Marketing Board and the Egg Marketing Board have done great work in improving the marketing of their produce and bringing about co-operation among producers. Yet often their efforts and work have been completely nullified by imports from abroad over which they have no control whatever.
I appreciate that it is difficult for the Minister to give the Commission power to control imports. I believe that the authority and responsibility for this should rest with the Minister. My only disappointment is that he has not exercised that authority strongly enough. I am disappointed that there is nothing specific written in the Bill to give the Commission power to advise the Minister. For that reason, I am glad that the Amendment has been brought forward.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I cannot understand why there is misunderstanding on both sides of the House about the meaning of this simple and clear Amendment. There is no question of taking away from the Government powers which, obviously, they must have. All the Amendment provides is that the Commission may submit to the Ministers a scheme not excluding the regulation of imports.
Presumably, the logic of the Minister's argument is that any scheme that is submitted under this Clause must automatically become Government policy. In fact, the Commission is there to advise the Government, to submit a scheme. The Government could say nay or yea, and there is no question of giving the Commission powers which the Government should rightly have themselves.
The Commission is there to inject sanity into an insane meat marketing world. The greatest agent contributing to insanity in meat marketing is unregulated imports. Therefore, it would be ridiculous to tell the Commission, "You are there to bring sanity into this situation, but you are specifically excluded from recommending to us the most important thing that you will have to deal with". I hope that my hon. Friend will not withdraw this Amendment, but will press it to a vote.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
The House owes a considerable debt to the 151 hon. Members who raised this Amendment because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the question of imports of beef, a vital question at the moment.
I believe that the Commission should be given powers to make recommendations to the Minister on the question of the control of imports. The Minister has made quite clear that he himself will not consider controls on imports or, perhaps, will neglect them. If he will not do it, then the Commission certainly must.
We have had a classic example in the last 18 months of complete failure to control imports in a situation in which we had every opportunity for controlling them. The Minister will have no doubt that I am referring to imports of beef from Southern Ireland. This is a classic case where controls should have been applied. Any Commission knowing its job would have made recommendations to the Minister, whether or not the Bill empowered it to do so.
We had, just over a year ago, two factors which gave Southern Ireland an edge in the export of dead meat over the meat plants buying in the same markets in my own constituency and throughout Northern Ireland. We had, first, the 2 per cent. export rebate, which meant that one could deliver a beef animal to a meat plant in Dublin, collect the export rebate, and sell it cheaper than one could deliver that same beast from a market in Northern Ireland to an Ulster meat packing firm. Then we had the poundage payment which the Southern Ireland Government made on every pound of export beef, which continued until July of this year.
Those two factors gave Southern Irish meat packing plants an edge of perhaps 1d. or 2d. per 1b. over meat packing firms in Northern Ireland. This will very nearly drive several of these meat packing firms into liquidation and will create considerable unemployment. It arises from the lack of control by the Minister over imports into this country. He had the perfect opportunity to control these imports when, just over a year ago, we signed the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement. We agreed to pay our British subsidy on 25,000 tons of Southern Irish beef. In other words, we would pay their subsidy for them. It has been seen already that the Southern Irish will always send 152 us that 25,000 tons of beef when prices are at their very lowest.
That was one factor that the Minister did not consider when that Agreement was signed. It would seem quite incredible, if one did not know something about those negotiations, that we should have agreed to pay that huge sum of money to pay the Southern Irish subsidy for them without at the same time negotiating for a degree of control over the rate at which Southern Ireland could send its cattle to us. When the history of this matter is written, the public will know just what happened when the Southern Irish were over here and the trade negotiations were going on. We know from very reliable evidence that there was pressure from the Prime Minister himself. In fact, one hears of direct personal intervention by the Prime Minister to have the trade agreement signed for purely party political purposes.
§ Mr. Speaker
It will be quite in order for the right hon. Gentleman to reply to the charges, but what the hon. Gentleman has said so far is linked to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Clark
I shall be delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman's reply when the time comes. All the evidence points to the agreement having been signed in a hurry to placate the large number of people who have come here from Southern Ireland and who are now resident and qualified to vote in the United Kingdom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
§ Mr. Clark
We have this occasion when beef imports should have been controlled. An opportunity was given to the Minister to control them, but he failed to put his views to the Board of Trade when the negotiations were going on. As I said at the outset, if the Minister will not consider these matters, any Commission in its right mind certainly ought to do so.
There is a disastrous situation in the Northern Ireland beef industry, which is 153 being outbid now by up to 2d. a lb. A report has just been made to the Minister of Agriculture in Northern Ireland—if this Minister has not seen it, he can certainly obtain a copy—outlining the true facts of the case. That report makes clear that the failure of his Ministry to negotiate any controls in the Anglo-Irish trade agreement has led almost inevitably to redundancy and, perhaps, closure of meat packing factories in Northern Ireland. This is why I have considerable sympathy with the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. E. Garrett (Wallsend)
I have heard my right hon. Friend speak on this subject in Committee, and now we have the same useless diatribe as we had before from the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark). By making remarks of that kind, the hon. Gentleman admits the inadequate outlook of Northern Ireland farmers towards their own industry. It is no good blaming the Ministry of Agriculture for their troubles.
The hon. Gentleman has widened the scope of the debate. If he wishes to pursue the matter, I could take it further, Mr. Speaker, with your leave, and argue truthfully about the situation of Southern Irish farmers vis-àvis the farmers of Northern Ireland. The issue is one of efficiency in Southern Ireland and inefficiency in Northern Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] Of course it is.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman has exhausted his right to speak, but he may intervene, if he wishes, before the hon. Gentleman sits down. However, I gather that his opportunity has passed and that the hon. Gentleman has sat down.
§ Mr. Peart
If I may have leave to speak again, I need not bother to reply at length because the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark), in his excitement, has exaggerated the whole case. He ought to know that the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement was not rushed. There was careful study conducted by both officials and Ministers. I regard it as a very good agreement. It was not done to placate Irish people in this country.
The hon. Gentleman is being offensive to many worthy Irish citizens in this country, people whom we need over here and whom I am glad continually to praise. I should hate it if wé were to look at them in any different light. I hope that we shall always look with favourable regard at our Southern Irish friends who come to stay here and become good citizens. We are anxious to have good relations with Southern and Northern Ireland. Speeches of the kind made by the hon. Member create the awful bigotry that we want to end.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak. He cannot speak again without the leave of the House.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 10, Noes 162.155
|Division No. 232.]||AYES||[9.33 p.m.|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Lubbock, Eric||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Pardoe and Mr. Bessell.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Blackburn, F.||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Archer, Peter||Boardman, H.||Buchan, Norman|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Booth, Albert||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Boyden, James||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Braddock, Mrs, E. M.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Beaney, Alan||Brooks, Edwin||Carmichael, Neil|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Coleman, Donald|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Concannon, J, D.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Howie, W.||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hoy, James||Palmer, Arthur|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hynd, John||Park, Trevor|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull. W.)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kenyon, Clifford||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dempsey, James||Lawson, George||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Dewar, Donald||Leadbitter, Ted||Randall, Harry|
|Dickens, James||Lestor, Miss Joan||Rankin, John|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lomas, Kenneth||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edwards, Robert (Briston)||Luard, Evan||Robinson, W. O. J. (Waith'stow, E.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rose, Paul|
|Ellis, John||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Ennals, David||McBride, Neil||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Ensor, David||McCann, John||Sheldon, Robert|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Macdonald, A. H.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Evans, Ioan L, (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||McGuire, Michael||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackie, John||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mackintosh, John P.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Maclennan, Robert||Slater, Joseph|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Small, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mc.Namara, J. Kevin||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fowler, Gerry||MacPherson, Malcolm||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire,W.)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Gardner, Tony||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Garrett, W. E||Manuel, Archie||Tinn, James|
|Gregory, Arnold||Marquand, David||Urwin, T. W.|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mendelson, J. J.||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Millan, Bruce||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Hannan, William||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Harper, Joseph||Molloy, William||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Haseldine, Norman||Moyle, Roland||Whitlock, William|
|Hazell, Bert||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Murray, Albert||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Newens, Stan||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Oakes, Gordon||Winnick, David|
|Hooley, Frank||Oram, Albert E.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Horner, John||Orme, Stanley|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Oswald, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Mr. Gourlay and Mr. Charles R. Morris|
§ Mr. Peart
I beg to move Amendment No. 16, in page 10, line 9, to leave out "removal" and to insert "relocation".
Hon. Members will recall that when we discussed the Clause in Committee I promised the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) that I would look at the wording of subsection (2,c) to see whether it would be possible to clarify the meaning of the word "removal". I regret that the hon. Member for Clitheroe is not in his place. I have examined the matter. I explained in Committee that the word meant "re-location" in the sense that a development scheme could provide that permission would he required for an existing undertaking to be set up elsewhere. It was not concerned with undertakings which were closing down altogether. I am advised that there is no objection to simply substituting the word "relocation" for "removal" I hope that, with that explanation, the Amendment will be accepted.
§ Mr. Stodart
As one who took part in that discussion I thank the Minister for accepting, by this Amendment, my hon. Friend's suggestion.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. James Davidson
I beg to move Amendment No 19, in page 11, line 23, at the end to insert:(h) authorising appropriate advertising campaigns.Further to the point I made in proposing Amendment No. 13, I am amazed that after the passionate words spoken from the Conservative benches about import regulation, very few on this side apart from the Liberal Members saw fit to support that Amendment. I trust that the farming community will note that the Conservative Party has—
§ Mr. Davidson
I was just coming to it, Mr. Speaker. It is really a continuation of Amendment No. 13.
157 We believe that advertising is an absolutely essential part of any scheme to develop a particular section of the livestock or livestock products industries. If, for example, under the terms of this Clause was decided to develop the sales of Scotch beef in Scandinavia, it would seem not only appropriate but essential to enable the Commission to spend money on an appropriate advertising campaign. The Amendment seeks to give the Commission power to include such proposals in any scheme that it submits.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) is anxious to make certain that the Commission does certain things, and here we are dealing with advertising campaigns. His purpose is to make sure that, within the competence of a development scheme made under the Clause, an appropriate advertising campaign could be authorised.
I draw the hon. Member's attention to paragraph 15 in Part I of Schedule 1 which specifically empowers the Commission to promote or undertake…arrangements for advertising the merits, and increasing the sales…of livestock and livestock products produced in Great Britain.I should have thought that such a provision satisfactorily met the purpose of the Amendment. The hon. Member may think that there could be additional aspects of advertising campaigns that could be authorised in a development scheme under the Clause which are not authorised under Schedule 1, but I am advised that it is not necessary to amend the Bill for that purpose.
I hope that I have indicated that, even under this Clause, we can do all that the hon. Member seeks. Subsection (9) makes it clear that the examples specified in subsections (2) to (8) are not to be read restrictively. The authorisation of appropriate advertising campaigns would be well within the provisions of subsection (I). I hope the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West, who moved the Amendment partly as a probing process, will accept my explanation.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Will the Minister confirm that the powers he referred to extend to 158 advertising abroad as well as in this country?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 10.—(CALF SUBSIDY SCHEMES.)
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 13, line 16 at the end to insert:(7) A scheme under the said Act may provide for supplementary payment to be made in respect of calves reared on grass in accordance with conditions specified in the scheme.I move this Amendment with some trepidation among so many agricultural experts. It is now many years since the last calf grazed in Wood Green, although until quite recently we had a very flourishing pig farm there. It was established to consume the famous "Tottenham Pudding" which was processed by Tottenham Council from kitchen waste.
The purpose of this Amendment is twofold. The first reason for it is to my mind much the more important. Rightly or wrongly there is great public concern about recent trends in farming towards intensive methods of keeping animals. The Amendment is designed to try a little to reverse that trend and to encourage farmers increasingly to use grazing for their calves. Public concern was expressed in a great deal of comment which led to the setting up of the Brambell Committee and its Report.
A great many people are desirous of eating only meat produced by open grazing methods. There are great difficulties, but the Ministry of Agriculture has itself consistently advocated a policy of earlier turnout for calves to grazing. I have with me a publication issued by the Ministry at the Royal Dairy Show in 1965. It is entitled "Calf Rearing; Use Grass—Cut Costs". The arguments put forward in this pamphlet amply support the Amendment. One of the important points stressed by the Ministry in advocating an earlier turnout to grass is that the health of calves so turned out is extremely good.
The public is very much concerned that the meat they eat shall have been produced in the healthiest way possible. This seems desirable from the point of view of the health and wellbeing both of the animals and of the consumer, who too often is overlooked in debates on 159 agriculture, and in consideration of agricultural methods. The Minister points out that if calves are turned out to grass earlier than normal a reduction in the cost of food amounting to between 30s. and 90s. per calf, depending on the earliness of the turnout is secured, less rearing accommodation is required because pens can be rested during the spring and summer, and labour is also saved.
With all these advantages it may be wondered why calves are not turned out earlier and why grazing of calves is not more frequent. Some farmers here may suggest that all this is already done. If it is done, there was no justification for producing this brochure and others like it. I know that many farmers have been sceptical when asked to use more open grazing methods for calves.
I believe that in agriculture it is easier to follow the trend than to try to reverse it, as the Amendment seeks to do, and that every encouragement should be given to farmers who want to reverse the trend away from intensive farming. At present, the subsidy arrangements favour indoor feeding and handicap grazing. Subsidies are liberal to all major farming activities, except to grazing. Since rents are high in farming, this is an additional difficulty with regard to the grazing of calves and other animals.
For this reason, I believe that an additional incentive is needed to encourage farmers to undertake more grazing. I believe that an assured subsidy is a greater incentive than a probable economy. The Amendment would give grazing its due share of public financial support. This need not mean any overall increase in the Government's payment to agriculture. The scheme could be financed either from the fertiliser fund or from the cattle and calf appropriation.
Enforcement would not be difficult. It would be just as easy for certifying officers to visit farms to supervise a scheme of this kind as to supervise other calf subsidy arrangements, as they ordinarily visit farms in spring and early summer in any case. The machinery could be simple and a farmer wishing to make a claim for subsidy under the Amendment in respect of calves turned out to grass in early spring would obtain a form on which he would enter the number of calves to 160 be grazed and describe them in the manner indicated on the appropriate form. He could show on a map the field they would occupy and the date of intended occupation and submit this form to the division executive officer. He would follow this with a regular report showing for each day the number of calves grazed and the hours they spent in the field. [Laughter.] This may sound fantastic, but it is not. It is a routine thing which could easily be done. This is the view of a number of agricultural experts. I am merely trying to point out that this is not an impossible scheme. It is perfectly practicable.
Subsidy would be paid only in respect of grazing notified in advance and this would make checking comparatively easy. Claims for payment would be made to the divisional executive officer and the inspection of fields would be carried out by the calf certifying officer, as with other calf certifying arrangements. Measures for ensuring payment in proper cases only are already provided in Clause 11, in particular subsection (1,c), which would make possible the authorising of inspection of farm fields by appointed officers.
The Minister has already made clear his interest in the welfare of farm animals and his desire at some stage to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Brambell Report and other farm welfare provisions. However, we do not know when this will be. We may have to wait a considerable time for it, and in the meantime the Bill is before us. This would seem to be a very good opportunity for inserting this small Amendment and, although hon. Members may criticise some of the practical details that I have mentioned, I am sure that they cannot criticise the importance of extending the grazing of calves which is already recognised as being a good and an economic thing and going some way towards meeting public concern about intensive farming in this very small respect. It does not begin to cover the whole field, but it does a small and useful job.
I hope, therefore, that the Minister will accept the Amendment, will try it out in practice and will see whether he can make a success of what I believe to be a beneficial scheme to farmers and to consumers, and indeed to the animals concerned.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
While I could not go the whole way in supporting the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) in the details of her proposals, I would go most of the way with her in accepting the principle that we should give every possible encouragement to the natural rearing and production of stock and that we should be very careful indeed about the conditions under which we allow the intensive production of stock to be carried on. I felt at one time, when the hon. Lady was outlining the procedures that should be gone through in order to pay this additional subsidy, that, in the end, it might well be the farmer himself, rather than the stock, who was going to be certified. I would wish to avoid that particular difficulty.
This question of the intensive rearing of stock is one which the Minister should certainly look at again. We have today a great spread of the system of beef production that is known as the production of barley beef. So far as I can understand it, beef reared under this system consume nearly as much drugs and chemicals as they consume natural food. [Laughter.] Oh yes, that is a fact. The same applies to sheep production. We are now entering a stage when many flocks of ewes will be kept intensively, on wooden laths, in a very confined space. The amount of drugs that have to be given to these animals to keep them in a reasonably healthy condition throughout the winter is very considerable.
Quite apart from the question of the more humanitarian approach to the production of these animals, I would rather approach this matter purely from the point of view of hard commercial interest. Hard commercial interest has always appealed very much not only to the farmers, but also to the general public. I should like to pose this question to the Minister. If we really are to encourage what financially may be seen to be the most economic methods of production, shall we in the end produce the quality and type of product that is best for people to eat?
There is another question. Is it really in the national interest that these young cattle which are put through the barley beef process should be slaughtered at so low a weight as 7½ cwt.? Would it 162 not be better that they should be run on to a somewhat heavier weight on pasture to produce a more mature product that at any rate has some taste, which is more than can be said for the average barley beef, that spongy article that tastes of a cross between a sponge and a piece of lemon cake?
Purely from the commercial angle, there is a case for saying that we should carefully consider to what extent the Commission will encourage the intensive production of meat products. I sincerely hope that when the Minister advises the Commission he will ask it to consider carefully the economics of intensive beef production, because if this process is extended and carried on we shall find ourselves—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the proposed words be there inserted in the Bill.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
The question of intensive beef production must be very carefully considered, because if we allow excessive pressure on the farmer to dictate that production we may well find that the acreage we have available for pasturing cannot be used fully and economically.
There is the question of the lightweight and the heavyweight beast. It would be simple for the Minister so to arrange his guaranteed payments that more encouragement was given to the production of heavyweight beef. That would be fair and would be the simplest method of achieving the object of the hon. Member for Wood Green.
I do not believe that there is any necessity for an Amendment in the terms she has put forward. But the principle she put before the House is valid, and the Minister should be urged, in the interests of the country and of healthy stock production, that weighting should be given for the heavier beast, the beast that has had to be reared and brought up on grass, when he considers his guaranteed payments at the annual Price Review. If he will only do that, the 163 hon. Lady's point would be met in large measure.
It is because we have had an accent on the smaller animal, the smaller joint, for a number of years, and because the whole of the guaranteed payment structure has been pitched to encourage the production of that kind of joint that we are being forced into intensive production of animal products. I believe that this can only go so far and I therefore ask the Minister, although he may not be able to accept the Amendment, to consider carefully his structure of prices and through that structure to encourage the production of the larger, more mature beast, which in the end will produce the best meat and the best food for the public.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
We have sometimes heard that a prophet is never without honour have in his own country. As I listened to the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) making his valuable and interesting speech, and the somewhat careless laughter that accompanied it at one point, I was reminded that he was not getting the honour he deserved on his side of the House. He said that he agreed with the principles of the Amendment. We accept that. It is a most valuable contribution. If we are agreed on the principles, then the details can be worked out by agreement.
What is important is that from the other side of the House we now have the assurance that the principle in the Amendment is accepted by one hon. Member, and I hope that in due course other hon. Gentlemen opposite will say that they accept that principle and also the particular principle that we want to build the heavyweight beast and not the lightweight beast that is built on drugs.
I said this in the House years ago, and it was not disputed then. The proof that has come from American research into intensive breeding has never been disputed. The figures were quoted here when the Conservative Party was in power, and its Ministers did not dispute the statistics because they are beyond dispute.
An animal fed on grass flourishes infinitely better as a beef-producing source than an animal fed largely with the aid 164 of drugs. That is beyond argument, and I am sure that it is accepted on both sides of the House. [Interruption.] I am sorry if my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. John Mackie) is suggesting that he does not accept that. He is a farmer, and a good one, one of the best farmers on the Government Front Bench; but I do not think anyone would dispute that.
The other aspect of the problem is that the intensive farming of calves—here we are limited to calves and cannot expand the argument beyond them—has produced a serious public reaction. Articles have appeared in books showing what intensive rearing means to the calf. The natural way for an animal to grow is outside, eating its natural nutriment, which is grass.
§ Mr. Jopling
The hon. Gentleman says that the best environment for a young animal is outside eating grass. At this time of the year the best place for a young animal is inside, where there is warmth, and where it can eat perfectly natural foods which have been preserved in the summer season for the winter period.
§ Mr. Rankin
Of course, it depends where one lives. If he had been with me last week in the South of France, seeing a great aircraft taking shape, the hon. Gentleman would have seen the snow that abounded there and would have realised that not only animals but human beings want to get inside. It depends on the environment of the animal. The young animal wants the comfort of its mother. That is where its natural heat and food come from until it is able to fend for itself. That is what all creatures want.
Now there is this revulsion because these conditions are being violated and these animals do not, as has been said, produce food of the best quality needed in order to rear a growing and expanding population. Thus, the Amendment becomes important because what we are proposing is a calf grazing subsidy. There is nothing funny in that, is there? Is there an objection to a calf grazing subsidy from the farming community? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Why? I hope that those who object will in due course tell us why they object to subsidies.
165 The farmers have lived with subsidies most of the years I have been in this House. Farming life has been revolutionised by subsidies, especially in milk production. [HON. MEMBERS: "There is no subsidy for that."] No subsidies for milk production? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is nonsense. Let us take the example of the farmer on the Isle of Arran who used to go round selling his milk from a cart. Now he has it collected at the end of the road and taken away for marketing. He does not need a cart and horse to go round now and every month he gets from the Milk Marketing Board a cheque which varies from £50 to 150 a month.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman seeks to reply to an interruption we must get back to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I must not yield to temptation. But it is true that these changes have taken place in the level of subsistence of the farming community. The hon. Member for Clitheroe can shake his head in any direction, but what I am saying is still true.
I am coming to the proposal for a calf grazing subsidy. No farmer can honestly say that he opposes subsidy. I see no dissent from that. The farmer does not oppose subsidies for raising certain animals so he will not object to a subsidy under this proposal. He will accept the fact that it will apply to calves. He will not refuse it.
The only point at which the farmer may have difficulty in accepting the proposal concerns whether the calf is to grow up by grazing or by being kept inside some container, large or small. That is where the objection takes root. Does the farmer want to keep the calf inside or let it out to graze? That is the issue. As has been said, there is no principle involved in that—it is a matter of detail. Different subsidies are paid for steer cafes and heifer calves whether raised on grass or by intensive farming methods. Would it be wrong to suggest that we should pay a little more to the farmer who raises his calves on grass and not by intensive methods?
166 10.15 p.m.
That is the only difference between us on this issue. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend or my hon. Friend agrees with me, but I suggest on my own responsibility that the idea would be made a little more palatable to those farmers who say that it is cheaper to raise animals by intensive methods if the Government were prepared to pay a little more in respect of the calf raised outside than for the calf raised mostly inside. I know that calves raised by intensive methods go out to grass for periods, but they are generally raised inside, and to encourage outside rearing we should pay a slightly higher subsidy for calves reared on grass.
I know that my hon. Friend is a humane farmer and from every point of view, the humane, the wise, the human and the animal's point of view, I hope that the House will impress on the Government the need to do something about the problem of how we raise animals to provide food for ourselves.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
All of us on both sides of the House respect the efforts of the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) to ensure that the housewife gets the very best food available without its being adulterated by modern chemicals, but I doubt whether she realises that in her Amendment she has produced probably the greatest indictment of the present Government for a long time, namely, their total failure to do anything to ensure that the livestock rearing side of farming, and in particular people who are still graziers, are ensured a proper, profitable return.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) made it perfectly clear that the whole of the barley-beef system is now very much in question. It is dubiously profitable and the housewife is not prepared to buy the meat with rather nasty yellow fat which comes from this system. The barley-beef system is dying because it lacks any merits of its own.
But I could not support the hon. Lady if she took the Amendment to a Division, because she has produced an extremely complicated scheme by which a farmer would have to certify that the calves had gone out to natural grass and natural grazing for so many hours of the day, every day of the week. I see that the 167 right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has fled from his place. He must realise the great difficulty which his civil servants have with the Winter Keep Scheme. Under the Winter Keep Scheme a farmer has to certify on 15th October that he has not used any of his kale or rape to start feeding his store lambs before 15th October. It takes the whole of the inspectorate the whole of the summer to ensure that that one provision is properly administered.
How the hon. Lady expects the Ministry of Agriculture's inspectors to ensure that people throughout the whole of the United Kingdom are fulfilling the conditions of this excellent scheme I do not understand. She failed to convince the House in her speech. We all respect the hon. Lady's sincerity but I doubt if there are many green pastures left in Wood Green—the hon. Lady would not be in this House at the moment if there were.
All of us would like to see the livestock rearing side of the industry made more profitable and see the Government change the emphasis on the subsidy system so that grass once more became a profitable crop. This is what we are suffering from at the moment. This is what we expect to see put right in the forthcoming Price Review. However admirable the hon. Lady's sentiments may be, the practical administration of them does not seem to be profitable. She has also totally failed to persuade the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and others in his Ministry to do anything to make grass a profitable crop.
§ Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)
This has been a very interesting debate, and we all agree that there is a lot to be said for the views expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler). However, to anyone with a knowledge of stock rearing it is quite clear that there are many practical difficulties. It is out of place to suggest that calves would live on grass outside all the year round. There comes a time when the grass gets bare and the calves go inside because young stock will not thrive on bare pasture, and they would be unsuitable for sale.
Stock rearers in general are convinced that the public want something brought up in a natural way and this is what most farmers do. Most of us still rear cattle under pretty natural conditions. Barley beef is an entirely different matter, and this is no doubt what the hon. Lady has in mind, along with the hon. Members for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) and Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin).
We should make a distinction between stock reared under natural conditions outside and then put inside and the barley-beef stock, raised under unnatural conditions. With these varying feed lots it has been found that they need a good deal of drugs. There is much to be said for the Amendment but there are too many practical difficulties. I hope that when the Price Review comes there will be a special premium for cattle reared under natural conditions as distinct from beef reared under these unnatural conditions, such as barley beef, which does not seem to be acceptable to consumers generally.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)
I do not think that any Member would dispute the sincerity of the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) who moved this Amendment, but I must say that when she came down to the practical workings of her suggested scheme I found them very indefinite and completely unworkable. Her first point was that the grazing for these calves should have financial support. There are various support grants for improving grass lard.
I do not see how this would work unless it were done on an acreage basis on any one farm at any one time. It would be impossible to say that X calves should be grazed on X acres in any one field for a complete season. That is one of the practical difficulties. Referring to the hon. Lady's idea of keeping a record of where the calves are, at least nine-tenths of my staff—which consists of three people—would resign on the spot because a great deal more of their time would be spent in filling up forms than is the case now.
There is the practical difficulty of the different climates in different parts of the country. In the north of Scotland we have a very much longer winter than people in the south of England. Therefore, a differentiation would have to be made between the subsidy paid in the south of England and the subsidy paid in the north of Scotland. It would work unfairly on those farmers who breed in the north of Scotland as opposed to those who breed in the south of England.
Another difficulty which I foresee in the scheme which the hon. Lady suggests is the definition of the word "calf". When does a calf reared on grass cease to be a calf? In another part of the Bill we make provision for the calf subsidy to be paid on animals up to three years of age. When would the subsidy which the hon. Lady suggests cease to be payable?
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) rightly dealt with the problem of the lightweight beast which is, as the hon. Member for Govan put it, built on drugs. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Govan wish to intervene?
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Gentleman has quoted me as saying "built on drugs". I just said, "Built by Boots".
§ Mr. Baker
I understand that there should be no advertising here, as on the B.B.C.
Can the Minister give us any idea of the proportion of cattle under one year old which are being reared by the static floor method and other intensive methods about which we have heard?
The hon. Member for Govan referred to the natural habitat of a calf. It is very pleasant to see a calf running round its mother's heels, having its tea or supper just when it likes. But the hon. Gentleman must realise that in dairy farming calves are removed from their mothers at birth. Does he suggest that calves should be put out to grass straight away? They are far better housed as they are housed at the moment, particularly in winter—well cared for in warm conditions in which they are nurtured and nourished.
Farming at present demands that a farmer should have a good economic head for him to be able to make his living at all, particularly in the conditions in which the Government are trying to make farmers work. We have disincentive all along the line and very little incentive.
One of the difficulties which the farmer must face in rearing calves is the disease known in my part of the world, and no doubt throughout the country, as scour. This disease causes more deaths in young calves than any other disease I know. The one thing which increases scour in cattle is unhygienic methods of rearing indoors. Therefore, the farmer, being an intelligent man who must look to his bawbees, makes certain that his calves are well housed and that the incidence of scour is kept down. That is an absolute necessity; it is an economic necessity.
The hon. Member for Govan said that farmers live on subsidy. He stated that one had only to consider the question of milk. There has been no subsidy on milk for a good number of years. [Interruption.] There is no subsidy—I repeat, no subsidy—on milk. It is perfectly true that the Milk Marketing Board has done a great deal to help the dairy farmer. The present Government have done precious 171 little. The direct payment to the milk farmer is via the Milk Marketing Board and not by way of a subsidy from the Government.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
Can my hon. Friend confirm that the only subsidy which is paid to Scottish milk producers is, in fact, paid by English milk producers?
§ Mr. Baker
No. I would not be able to say that. I conclude by saying that, while I respect the motives of the hon. Lady the hon. Member for Wood Green in introducing this Amendment—and I have every sympathy with her in her humane efforts—I do not consider the Amendment to be workable and, if necessary, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
One of the most remarkable features of the sincere protestations of those who wish to bring our farm animals into better conditions is that they give much of their attention to the animals and so little attention to human beings. The hon. Lady, and those hon. Members who have supported her, appeared to want the cattle to be out on grass largely because she is opposed to the confinement of animals and is opposed to drugs. I share this concern, of course, but I am bound to ask her whether she should not pay rather more attention to the confinement of people in factories, in coal mines, and in the House of Commons, where people are confined the whole time. They spend most of their working lives confined. The modern farmer expects the modern farm animal to spend most of its working life confined—in other words, putting on meat.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Indeed, it is eaten, or is intended to be eaten. I simply wish to draw attention to the paradox that people so often show more concern for the animal than for the human being, and more often the human being who has to care for these animals.
172 The hon. Lady's Amendment has given hon. Members an opportunity to cast a number of aspersions on the farming community. It should be made quite clear that very few farmers in this country confine their animals for the whole time. Furthermore, hon. Members receive a large number of complaints from their constituents saying that intensive rearing should be abolished. I understand those complaints, but whenever I have asked constituents to show me an example of cruelty to animals, as practised by the farmers of West Suffolk, those constituents who have complained have been unable to find such an example, because the basic fact is, as the House well knows, that those who are most concerned about the well-being of our animals are the farmers themselves. I say that as one who has been up many a night with a sick sow. I know that many of my hon. Friends have been up all night on calving or with other animals. Let it be made quite clear that there is no monopoly of concern on one side of the House for the animals. Those who are most concerned are the farmers themselves, and I reject out of hand the suggestion that the farmers of this country, and certainly those in my constituency, are cruel in any way to the animals which they produce.
The hon. Lady—and I grant her complete sincerity and her long record in this matter—has made a series of suggestions that are hopelessly impracticable. They are founded on a set of erroneous suppositions and on some illogicalities. The hon. Lady supposes, for example, that the modern farm animal is, in a sense, a natural beast. But there is nothing really natural about a pig which is as long as a greyhound in order to give us lean bacon for breakfast, about a cow which yields up to 1,500 gallons of milk a year, or about a chicken, whose natural habitat is the wild jungle. If the hon. Lady will look at the kind of chicken we require nowadays either for the table or to lay eggs, she will understand that there is nothing natural about it, in the ordinary sense of the word.
The hon. Lady supposes also that the modern farm animal is in some way healthier and happier out of doors. We all know what happens when people come along in the summer sunshine, when they do bother to come out to the countryside, and they see the cattle gambolling in 173 the fields amid the buttercups. They go away thinking how wonderful the outdoor life is for the animals. What they fail to realise, and what the farming community knows perfectly well, is that for most of the time in England it is raining, and frequently the animals are up to their hocks in mud. Often it is extremely cold. The outdoor environment is singularly unpleasant for the animals, and it is even less pleasant for the man who has to look after them. Without doubt, the so-called natural enviroment today is a combination of outdoors when the outdoors is most suitable and indoors when the indoors is most suitable for the benefit of the animal.
The hon. Lady supposed that the consumer was crying out for grass-fed beef. This may be so, but the consumer is crying out also for cheap beef. This is the paradox which we must face. Whatever its drawbacks, barley beef is better than no beef. In the state of our society now, it may well be that, in the long term, this is the problem we have to face. We have a population increase of one-third of a million a year. We have the equivalent of one Cambridgeshire every six years taken under roofs, and every year land goes from agriculture for the building of reservoirs and all kinds of other purposes.
If the hon. Lady wants all our cattle to graze outdoors, how are we to find the land for the building of houses, reservoirs, factories and the rest, and still graze all our beef on the range? It is not possible. We have more people. We have less land for farming every year. Some kind of technological revolution must come in livestock rearing as it has already come in arable fanning.
I oppose the Amendment, not because I am in any way opposed to the spirit behind it. Naturally, one wants to see the very best done for our animals. I hope that the Minister will implement in legislation the Brambell Report. Let it be said here that, with only one or two exceptions, the farming community supported the Brambell Report. But no farmer, and, I hope, no Minister, could possibly support the Amendment. The hon. Lady has got it exactly the wrong way round. Her idea is to subsidise the price of cattle raised on grass. Why? Those who want to eat only grass-fed beef should pay the extra sum it costs to raise grass-fed beef, just as they pay 174 a bit more for free-range rather than battery eggs.
The point is quite simple. We shall have to produce more of our livestock under intensive conditions. It is the duty of Parliament to regulate those conditions for the greater good of both of the animals and the people.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
There has been a lot of muddled thinking in some of the speeches we have heard. While I must oppose the Amendment, I have sympathy with the hon. Lady for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) in what she is trying to do. If she and her hon. Friends who have put their names to the Amendment had consulted a practical farmer, he would probably have been able to help them to make it a practical Amendment.
The hon. Lady is trying to get at the problem of the intensively-reared calf under conditions which, I think, are intolerable—that is. on slatted floors in complete darkness. The hon. Lady would have a real case if she had an Amendment which sought to stop that sort of practice. I am in full sympathy with her about that very unpleasant method of producing meat.
From a practical point of view, the Amendment is just not on, for some of the reasons that my hon. Friends have given and for one or two others that I should like to suggest. There is no question that on certain farms it is right and proper, in the interests of the calf, that it should be indoors and adequately housed in buildings for its early years. It would be very cruel to allow a calf out in the sort of weather that we experience in the South-West—blustering cold winds—at this time of year. It should be properly housed.
There is another side to it, and that is the problem of disease. I remind the hon. Lady that we have such things as husk, in which a young calf suffers very much through being allowed out in its early days to eat grass. It picks up the worms and then gets this rather unpleasant disease and dies. As a farmer, I have to house my calves for the first two or three months because of the danger of husk. Then there is the disease of fluke. It is ridiculous to expose a young calf to fluke-infested pastures in its early days, when it is vitally important and in the interest of 175 the calf to give it protection. It has to be reared for a proportion of its time indoors.
Another method of production which is becoming fairly common and which, I think, is very good is zero grazing, in which silage or grass is brought to the calves so that, again, they have the protection and warmth of indoors and what we call controlled feeding, which gives them the best chance of growing properly and healthily. Therefore, although I see what the hon. Lady is trying to get at and I sympathise with her, her Amendment is quite the wrong sort of proposal. I am sorry, therefore, to have to oppose it.
§ Mr. John Mackie
It might be of help to the House if I intervene at this stage. I find myself in some difficulty, and I feel that I must declare my interest. I did not think that the debate would be quite as wide-ranging as it has been. I must admit that I have been interested in it and in the many points which have been raised. I rear calves intensively, semi-intensively and extensively.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) on the detail into which she went and the technicalities she raised. Some of my hon. Friend's suggestions for administering the scheme she has in mind would, if implemented, put my Department in some difficulty.
My hon. Friend deprecates the fact that calves are not being reared in Wood Green today. I assure her that it would be possible to rear calves in her constituency perfectly humanely. My hon. Friend visited one of my farms some time ago. At that time I was particularly interested in dairy cattle, but I invite her to pay me another visit, as I am now rearing beef and calves intensively. She will see that calves could be reared quite satisfactorily in Wood Green.
One of my hon. Friend's main arguments was that it would benefit farmers to produce, and that the main demand was for, what one might call traditional or grass-fed beef. She claimed that it was more economical to raise cattle in that way and that the demand for such cattle was greater. That has not been 176 my experience. Only yesterday I had a quotation of 3s. 3d. for barley beef and only 2s. 11d. for semi-intensive grass beef, per lb. live weight, including subsidy.
Those figures will be of particular interest to the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) who seems to think that we should force the public to eat what we believe they should eat. I assure him that there is a big demand for barley beef. In this connection, the comments of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) show that one can rear calves perfectly humanely in single pens, certainly to begin with. I do not wish to go into the technicalities of this matter, although it is an involved subject.
The hon. Member for Clitheroe made rather heavy weather about the killing of calves at too light a weight. Last year between 500,000 and 600,000 calves were killed. What is the point of increasing the weight of the calves that are being killed if a great demand exists for the type of meat being slaughtered? I assure the hon. Gentleman that such a demand does exist. Indeed, the present position has been created by the demand, and while the demand is there, it is better to bring the calves to the weight of 7 cwt. or 8 cwt. than to try to persuade farmers to bring them up to a heavier weight.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Calves have been slaughtered not because of the reason given by the hon. Gentleman but because farmers have not been able to obtain a decent price for beef. I assure the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that there is not such a great demand for bobby calves. So many calves have been slaughtered simply because, particularly in the last few months, producers have not received decent prices for their beef.
§ Mr. Mackie
That is not the reason. Hon Gentlemen opposite have used every possible opportunity to make remarks of that description. I will not, however, engage in an argument at this stage on that topic, except to say that the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) made some of the most outrageous statements I have heard for a long time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), who I regret is not in his place, questioned the feeding 177 of drugs to animals and said that calves were being fed what he believed were wholly unsuitable drugs. That is nonsense. Think of the drugs consumed by the human race. Like many of the drugs being fed to animals, they are designed to prolong our lives and enable us to put up with all sorts of things, in Parliament and elsewhere. Therefore, when my hon. Friend said that we should deny animals health-giving drugs and we should feed them only on grass, he overstated his case.
As the hon. Member for Torrington said, it is very difficult when calves come from the dairy herds and are removed from their mothers. They then have to be reared indoors for at least to six or eight weeks, in unnatural conditions. I do not want to go into what is natural and what is unnatural, and I certainly do not want to go into whether the pen should be such and such a size, or the yard or fields so big, and so on. We would get into great difficulties there.
The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Baker) made some point about any subsidy of this kind being unfair to the north of Scotland, but I am not sure of that point. He also said, I think wrongly, that the calf subsidy is paid once and once only from eight months onwards on any one animal. We do not pay the subsidy up to three years, but I may have misunderstood him. I do not think that he was right about scour being a disease. It is the result of several diseases rather than a disease in itself.
We appreciate the motives and concern of my hon. Friends in introducing this Amendment, but I think that it would be wrong to provide different rates of subsidy here, or any other form of subsidy as against discriminating between different systems of management. In spite of what the hon. Member for Norfolk South-West (Mr. Hawkins) says, the purpose of the calf subsidy is to encourage, and it is greatly encouraging, the rearing of suitable calves for beef production, and not to encourage certain husbandry systems of which hon. Members may approve rather than other systems.
The way to control any undesirable practices in these systems is to deal with them, as I assure those hon. Members who have put their names to the Amendment we propose to do, in new animal welfare 178 legislation. That is where this should be done, not in a Bill to encourage rearing. I must therefore ask the House to reject the Amendment, although we appreciate the spirit in which it has been proposed.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler
In view of my hon. Friend's assurance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this point will be covered in new legislation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)2581
Is it the wish of the House that the Amendment be withdrawn?
§ Mr. Hawkins
I want to add a word or two on this subject, because although I am in favour of grass utilisation, and very much in favour—
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler
On a point of order. I asked the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment, and I did not hear any hon. Member challenge my desire to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Amendments can be withdrawn only by leave of the House, and I thought objection was taken. That is why I called Mr. Hawkins.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am very much in favour of grass utilisation. I think we all feel that in this country not enough emphasis is put on it. The best way of utilising it is to encourage the profitability of livestock. That livestock rearing is not so profitable is the reason why so much grass is ploughed up. If we made livestock profitable, more grass would be laid down, more leys, which is what we want, particularly in the big arable districts.
A lot of what has been said in this debate has been absolute nonsense. I would not like to talk of coal mining, because I know nothing about it, but many people who speak of the rearing of cattle know nothing about the subject at all. Calves will do well outdoors if reared on their mothers—nothing is better for bringing up calves than single suckling—but it is uneconomic. On most farms the calves are coming from the dairy herds—are they to be turned out at birth in cold, wet weather? The cold does not matter so much, but if the calves get wet 179 on their backs they will be dead, and very unpleasantly dead, in a few weeks' time. Would hon. Members opposite turn these calves out straight from their mothers in the dairy herds into the grass in wintertime, or in early spring when there is no grass at all?
I object to the views behind this Amendment. It seems to me that one of the views is that livestock farmers do not know how to look after their stock and are, in fact, cruel to their stock. I know that 99 per cent. of farmers look after their stock, very often better than they look after their own families. Indeed, in some cases, at night the last thing to be looked at is probably the stock.
I believe that barley beef is on the way out. There are a few farmers who have tried to jump on the barley beef band wagon, and I know one large concern in Suffolk which went in for it in a big way, but which has gone out rather smartly because the enterprise ceased to be profitable. If a farmer does not look after his stock, the stock will not look after him. If he does not manage them properly, house them and feed them properly, they will lose him money. Therefore, it is in the interest of the average farmer to look after his livestock. I sincerely hope that we shall have a debate on the Brambell Report soon. I am strongly in favour of many of the recommendations in that Report. Nevertheless, we are not discussing that at the moment, and I do not believe that it should be brought into this debate.
Much nonsense has been talked about the big joint. The average housewife today is living in a town, in a small family of two or three persons, and she will not take a big sirloin of beef from a 12 cwt. beast. Before the war the average weight of beast going through the Lynn market was in the region of 14 cwt. a head, whereas today is it probably in the region of 9 cwt. It is because of the demand from the public for a small joint that we are getting this barley beef.
I oppose this Amendment because it is highly impracticable, but I realise that there are strong humanitarian reasons behind it, and I hope that we shall have a debate on the Brambell Report before long.
§ Mr. Farr
I hope I may be forgiven for saying a word or two on this Amendment. I congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) on having introduced this very interesting Amendment which has made us all think considerably. My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) put the matter very well when he said that farmers in this country will not tolerate cruelty to animals. On the other hand, there has to be a certain amount of give and take and common sense in this matter.
I am afraid that we are at risk of losing sight of the matter of quality. I do not believe that from a beef animal that has spent a lot of its life indoors we get the same nutritious value or the same quality in the beef when it is slaughtered fat as we do from an animal that has been reared in the traditional way. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) gave his views and he did not seem too clear about the traditional way of producing beef. I should like to say a few words on that, simply because my own constituency in Leicestershire is largely productive of beef which, for generations, has been fattened in the traditional way.
One practice is for farmers to buy store cattle from Ireland or Scotland and then fatten them on the fertile plains before sending them to market. That is what has been traditional for very many generations, but now we notice a change creeping into the pattern of the farmers' occupation. No longer can one drive through the middle of Leicestershire and see fat cattle grazing on those fertile lands and the reason is simply that the economics of the business have made it impossible for those farmers to pursue their traditional livelihood. Consequently, a number have changed over to milk production, or to arable farming and the production of corn. This change has come about not because they have not still got the best grassland at their finger tips, but simply because the economics of the situation have forced them to do so.
I do not speak necessarily in support of this Amendment purely from humanitarian points of view, but from a commonsense point of view. Our traditional method of producing beef is the best in 181 the world, but unless some sort of encouragement is given to those graziers who employ this method willy-nilly, the hard fact is that they will be forced out of business—and let no hon. Member forget one fact: the substitute in the shops, and the hotels, and in the catering rooms of this House, will be nothing at all like the traditional Aberdeen Angus product which we are getting at the moment.
The hon. Member for Wood Green went into some very interesting details, and I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary when he says that some of the things for which she asked would be very difficult for his Department to implement. All I want to do is to support the hon. Lady in principle; but surely any difficulty can be overcome by a man of the dynamic nature of the Minister—[Interruption.] Some of my hon. Friends may question that, but the right hon. Gentleman will get the job done. I support the hon. Lady in principle. Never mind about the mechanics of the job; the pettifogging details, but I say to the House that unless we support this Amendment, or something like it, and not necessarily for the reasons advanced by the hon. Lady, we shall not continue to have the roast beef of England. If we continue to want it, the traditional roast beef, we shall have to think up something on these lines.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I intervene only briefly because I am not a farmer, and I will not enter into any argument about what is the best method for producing traditional roast beef, but, in seeking to withdraw her Amendment, I was somewhat alarmed when the hon. Lady said that she would withdraw because she understood her purpose would be carried out in other legislation. I sincerely hope it will not, because the hon. Lady is wrong historically. Perhaps I should say that she is wrong from a natural history point of view. Her assumption seemed to be that the most recent methods for producing livestock were unnatural and that those of, say, 20, 30 or 50 years ago were natural. That is untrue. All our domestic animals 50 years ago were living in unnatural conditions. They have not been in a natural environment for generations. The domestic chicken is descended from the jungle cock, which is a tree-top, fast-flying bird 182 and is just as unnatural in a farmyard as in a battery. The pig is descended from the wild boar, which is a long-legged, fast, fierce jungle animal.
§ Mr. Wilson
I will take the cow and the calf. They are descended from the aurochs or from the Chillingham cattle, which are nocturnal animals, living in forests, probably eating leaves and not grazing in fields at all—certainly not by day. The condition of the cow in the field is no more natural than are some of the more recent methods. I only hope that in any legislation dealing with this matter quite different considerations will be borne in mind than as to whether they are natural or not.
What we want is the maximum production of food in hygienic conditions which are not cruel to the animal. If we do that, the question of whether the conditions are said to be natural or not really does not arise.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sorry. Leave has already been refused and cannot be renewed. I must put the question. The question is that those words be there inserted.
§ Amendment negatived.