HC Deb 26 July 1967 vol 751 cc726-8
26. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he hopes to announce the result of his review of the Egg Marketing Scheme.

52. Mr. Grimond

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the urgency of the situation of egg producers, when he will state his future course of action for the industry; and whether in the meantime he intends to limit imports.

56. Mr. Hazell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about his discussions with the farmers' unions and the Egg Marketing Board on the marketing arrangements for eggs.

Mr. Peart

As a result of the discussions, it is clear that there are some matters, such as the Government's review of future egg supplies, including imports, and possible modifications to the Board's contract marketing scheme, on which early conclusions are needed. Urgent discussions will therefore continue. But, in addition, various far-reaching proposals have been put forward which involve a fundamental reappraisal of marketing arrangements and we have decided to set up a Reorganisation Commission under the Agricultural Market- ing Act, 1958, with the following terms of reference: To consider the present arrangements for the marketing and distribution of shell eggs and egg products, including the working of the British Egg Marketing Scheme, 1956, and any other matters relevant thereto, and to make recommendations for the future. This will enable the views of all to be taken into account. I fully appreciate the need for speed and shall ask the Commission to report early next year.

Mr. Crouch

I am grateful to the Minister for that statement in answer to the Question. I mean that. But will he bear in mind, in relation to a reply given earlier by the Parliamentary Secretary, that it is not only low prices to the consumer but a good return to the producer in this country that are most important?

Mr. Peart

I accept that. I have always stressed that in the end the consumer benefits if there is stability in the market.

Mr. Hazell

I thank my right hon. Friend for his Reply and I regret that I was not in the Chamber when it was given. I ask him to bear in mind that the producers' position is such at present that there is grave risk that the Egg Marketing Board might collapse altogether. I hope that he will take appropriate steps.

Mr. Peart

I do not think that the Board will collapse. I have announced the Reorganisation Commission, and I am well aware of the problems in the industry.

Mr. Pardoe

I welcome the statement, because I have been asking for a reorganisation and review of egg marketing for the past 18 months. Does the review cover liquid eggs and broken out eggs, and is the statement the one the Minister promised me last week in answer to other Questions?

Mr. Peart

Yes, Sir. The review will certainly cover the whole of the egg industry.

Mr. Godber

The Minister's statement is important, and I am glad that he has made it. We shall wish the commission well in any inquiries it makes, and I hope that he can assure us that we shall get an early report. Will he ensure not only an early report but urgent action and will he reaffirm the importance attached by all egg producers to getting matters straightened out? They badly need that.

Mr. Peart

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted the statement in that spirit. I fully appreciate his desire for speed and that is why I emphasised it in my statement.

Mr. Grimond

I apologise for not having been here when the Question was answered. I was detained on very important business. Will the Minister appreciate how serious the matter is, particularly for small farmers, and tell us when he can expect to give further news to the House on it?

Mr. Peart

I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman carefully reads my statement he will accept it.