HC Deb 22 March 1967 vol 743 cc1683-5
5. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further action he will take for the coordination of imports with domestic egg supplies.

Mr. Peart

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave the right hon. Members for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) on 15th February.

Mr. Mills

Surely the Minister does not intend to allow this situation to drift on and on. It is his duty to give a lead, which he is not doing, on the control of imports. Does he realise that the industry is looking for this lead? Indeed, the Egg Marketing Board is looking to him to give this lead to the industry.

Mr. Peart

It is contrary to international obligations to ban imports of eggs, or to impose restrictions on them. I do not see that any case has yet been made out for altering these arrangements. I have told the National Farmers' Union that if it can convince me that imports are the cause of the present low price, I am willing to review the situation. I think that this is reasonable.

Sir H. Harrison

Will the Minister have another talk with the President of the Board of Trade, who has always taken a very rigid attitude about allowing what is relatively a small amount of imports of eggs to come in from foreign countries, because these imports affect the price of eggs in this country?

Mr. Peart

This has been the traditional pattern of our trading relations. We have international obligations. If there is a case of dumping, the case must be made, and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will consider it objectively.

33. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he has taken to implement the findings and recommendations of the Committee of Investigation for Great Britain into complaints by Western Egg Pasteurising Company Limited and a consortium of agricultural co-operatives.

Mr. Peart

As I said in reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) on 7th March, my right hon. Friends and I have invited comments on the British Egg Marketing Board's draft proposals for new egg processing arrangements. [Vol. 742, c. 256.]

Mr. Pardoe

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I remind him that 90 per cent. of the egg market will be carved up by the present monopolist-holders? Does he believe that this is in keeping with the recommendation of the Committee of Investigation, which recommended that the whole system should be based on open tender?

Mr. Peart

I think that the hon. Member, who thanked me for my reply, should await the discussions and examination of the comments on the proposals. This is sensible.

34. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied by the level of profitability of egg production; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peart

Yes, Sir. The Government consider that there continues to be a danger that production of eggs will increase faster than demand and accordingly decided to reduce the guaranteed price after this year's Annual Review.

Mr. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that present controls are causing a steady decline in confidence in the industry, and that this is bound to be increased by the cut in the guarantee price? Would he not agree that there is very considerable danger that before long there might be a shortage of home supply?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that there is a decline of confidence in the industry. There was a danger that output would outstrip demand. I cannot allow this. No Minister, of whatever political complexion, could afford to do so.

Mr. Henry Clark

Will the Minister confirm that large grants are being paid by the Government to multi-million factory units in Scotland?

Mr. Peart

I think that it is true that aid has been given in certain regions for certain concerns. I do not know whether the hon. Member is against this or for it.

37. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the average age of eggs bearing the Lion mark when purchased by consumers.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)

No precise information is available on this point.

41. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has studied the letter on egg production from the Chairman of the Leighton Buzzard National Farmers' Union, sent to him by the hon. Member for South Bedfordshire; and what steps he is taking to stimulate home egg production.

Mr. Peart

Yes, Sir, and I have written to the hon. Member. As last week's Annual Review White Paper makes clear, the Government consider that the underlying trend for production of eggs to rise faster than demand continues to be the danger.

Mr. Roberts

Although it is very difficult to act because of the dangers of production exceeding demand, would my right hon. Friend consider taking action to increase consumer demand for eggs and thus maintain the viability of this side of agriculture?

Mr. Peart

The question of publicity to encourage people to eat more eggs is something with which the Egg Board is concerned. We must leave it to the Board.

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