HL Deb 07 April 1937 vol 104 cc834-66

THE EARL OF RADNOR had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government whether any action is proposed regarding the bacon pig industry; and move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have brought up this question of the marketing of bacon and pigs in this House for two reasons. The first is that I think it is very desirable indeed that there should be some Government pronouncement upon the future of the organisation at the earliest possible moment. Secondly, I have worded my Motion in such terms that there should be no restriction on discussion, and I think this House is peculiarly adapted for the discussion of the matters involved in a question of this nature.

The position, so far as the organised marketing of bacon and pigs is concerned, is that to-day the two bodies concerned, the Pigs Board and the Bacon Marketing Board, are virtually in a state of suspended animation, and have been in that state since the first day of January. The immediate cause is the failure of the 1937 contract. That contract failed in the first instance really because the curers, as they had a right to do, refused to implement the contract as the number of pigs entered did not come up to the minimum number which they considered necessary, which number was incorporated in the terms relating to the contract. As a matter of fact the figures fell short of the required number by something over 300,000 pigs, 14 per cent. or thereabouts. That state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. The Pigs Board have got in force at the moment a determination which enables them to get a certain income, and therefore to keep alive a certain organisation, but that determination is, I think, of doubtful legality, and if it did not have the good will of the majority of the pig producers it could not be made operative because, whether legal or not, it would be quite impossible for the Pigs Board to enforce it if a large body of producers refused to pay the necessary levy.

If the present state of affairs continues without a clear indication of the future of the industry, there will be a revolt by the producers against that state of affairs. Either the pig scheme has got to be revised, and revived, or it is going to disappear. The organised marketing and curing of pigs may disappear, and I think that is a great pity. I think it is possible that the scheme for the marketing of bacon and pigs has had more criticism and abuse than any other marketing scheme, which is saying a good deal, but in spite of that its achievements are really remarkable. There are to-day 25 per cent. more pigs in this country than the highest number ever before recorded, and the volume of English bacon, which was 1,485,000 cwts. in 1934, was 2,329,000 cwts. in 1936, a not inconsiderable rise. Yet, with that great increase in pigs and bacon, there has not been any genuine increase in price to the consumer, or rather, it has not been done at the expense of the consumer.

During the years 1934, 1935 and 1936 the average price for English bacon has been about 91s. per cwt. There was a comparable price in the days before the scheme came into operation—namely, in the years 1925 to 1930. Danish bacon during that period had an average price of very nearly 104s. per cwt. I may acid that during the 1934–36 period English bacon never went over 100s.; and during the 1925–30 period Danish bacon never fell below 90s. I have purposely left out the years 1931 and 1932, because they were years of abnormal importation of bacon, and therefore of abnormally low prices for bacon. One knows from experience—and figures could be pro- duced to prove it—that had there been no marketing scheme in operation the inevitable reaction from those very low prices in 1931 and 1932 would have been prices for bacon in a subsequent period a great deal higher than those we have experienced under the scheme. There is no question that the scheme has steadied tie market, not only for pig producers and bacon curers but also for the consumers.

Those are very remarkable achievements. I think I might add one other reason why it is most desirable that this organised marketing should continue; it is a matter which is very much in our minds at the moment, and it is that of war-time supplies of food. I know it may be argued, and probably very justly argued, that the pig is not a suitable subject to increase for war-time supplies of food because it exists largely on imported feeding stuffs, and it is much more economic to import the finished article than a larger volume of foodstuffs to feed the pigs on. On the other hand, if you have a large number of pigs in this country you have a walking reserve of meat, and a pig is capable of being killed for human food at any stage of its existence. You not only have that, but you have also the fertility which the pig can add to the soil of this country, a fertility which is estimated under existing circumstances, I believe, at something like £1,000,000 per annum—no inconsiderable item. I think those are sufficient arguments for something definite to be done in order to ensure that the scheme should be continued and revived.

I said the immediate reason for the condition of affairs as it is now was the failure of the 1937 contract, but of course to arrive at the real reason you have to go a good deal deeper into the matter. I think, however, that I can put it to your Lordships probably in one sentence. The position, I think, all through the scheme, ever since it began at the end of 1933, has been this: the Price that the public are prepared to pay for bacon has not, under the existing organisation, been sufficient to supply what are the perfectly just requirements of curer and pig producer in order that they may make their living. You have on the one side the price the public are prepared to pay, and I may point out to your Lordships that the public are extremely sensitive to any rise in the price of all foodstuffs, and I think particularly bacon. The moment the price of bacon gets beyond a certain point the immediate reaction of the public is a lower demand, which is a most undesirable result and, one might say, entirely precludes any increase in the price of bacon beyond a certain point. On the other side you have the perfectly just requirements of those who are concerned in the industry of bacon production, both curers and pig producers, and there is, or has been hitherto I think, a definite financial gap between those two sides. There has not been enough money to meet the demands of the industry.

It is difficult to arrive at cost of production. One can only judge by certain symptoms, and I think the fact of the extraordinary prolongation of contract negotiations, for instance, is a symptom that neither side is satisfied with what it gets out of the price that is paid by the public. I believe I am correct when I say that the contract negotiations for the abortive 1937 contracts commenced in April and, even with the assistance of a neutral chairman, the two sides failed to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion by October, and then had to go to arbitration. That is an almost incredible length of time for any contract negotiation, and is I think an indication that neither side felt that it could be satisfied with what it was going to get out of it. Another symptom is that ever since the inception of the scheme the number of producers entering into contracts has shown a steady reduction year by year. The only exception to that, again, is the contract for the current year, which has never come into operation, when there was a slight increase. So that there is this financial gap, and I think there is plenty of reason for thinking that under the existing organisation it is a very real gap.

I would emphasise to your Lordships the words "existing organisation." A solution has to be found to bridge that gap. There is an easy one. Ask the Government for a subsidy. That was done, I think, by resolution at the annual meeting of the pig producers only the other day. There is another possible solution on the same lines. In 1935—I think the date was June 7—Mr. Walter Elliot made a pronouncement on the subject of a levy subsidy, and concluded his statement with something to the effect that negotiations were going to be opened forthwith with the countries concerned. I should very much like to know from the noble Earl who is going to answer for the Government what has happened about those negotiations, because we never heard anything. I would not, however, press the levy subsidy as a solution too hard on His Majesty's Government, because when Mr. Walter Elliot made that statement he made it perfectly clear that he connected a levy subsidy with increased importations of bacon; that his intention was not to help the industry as it was then, but that the levy subsidy was simply an offset to assisting the industry to deal with an even lower price for bacon. Really, in fact, the levy subsidy was not to assist the bacon industry but to assist the consumer. Our position to-day is that we need from somewhere or another financial assistance to help the production side and not the consumer.

I do not like subsidies. I think they are bad in principle. I think, too, it is very doubtful whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is feeling well disposed towards the idea of handing out much more money at this time. Subsidies are also open to the objection that subsequent Governments can withdraw them without any difficulty whatsoever. Alternatively, you may say that the industry so subsidised is put into the hands of the Government. I would much prefer that the means to assist the industry and to fill the financial gap to which I have referred should be found within the Industry itself. I believe it is possible. I have gone into the figures as far as I can, and I believe that, given certain circumstances, and going by past experience, the money that is paid for bacon should be sufficient to provide what is required by the production side of the industry. But it means certain alterations in the organisation.

First of all, you cannot achieve any economy on the production side except through the means of the pressure of price—that is to say, if you want to eliminate inefficient producers you simply fix a price which is at such a rate that the inefficient producer either becomes more efficient through the necessity of making his living or he goes out of business because he cannot make it. That method has to be used very discreetly. It can only be very gradual in operation, and in fact, if you wish to have an expanding industry, it is a very dangerous thing to use at all, because if you start putting pressure on producers through the price they receive for their pigs you will at once proceed to reduce the number of pigs in this country, which to my mind would be a highly undesirable way of starting to reorganise the industry. In any question affecting this industry you must recognise the fact that one of the first essentials is an adequate supply of pigs. You cannot make bacon without pigs, and therefore you have to satisfy the producer of pigs in order to induce him to produce pigs.

The pig producer has to be satisfied as a first essential. Beyond insisting on his making at least an annual contract—and I consider that essential in any organised marketing of pigs—and insisting on his keeping that contract, which has not always been the case hitherto, I do not know that you can do much more to organise the production side. Turning to the curing side, there is the almost incredible number of 620 registered curers in this country to deal with fewer than two million pigs a year. Of these 620 curers, seventy-nine only claim to have a capacity of 500 pigs a week. In actual fact, I am informed that during 1936 only twenty-seven dealt with 500 cwts. or more of bacon a week on the average. I have taken the figure of 500 pigs a week simply at random, and not because I consider 500 pigs a week an economic size for a factory. I am inclined to think that the economic size for a factory is probably nearer 2,000 pigs a week, but if I had taken the figure of 2,000 pigs a week I fancy that the figures I have given your Lordships would have seemed so absurd that I should hardly have dared put them before the House. These, then, are the facts about the curers. I do not know what is in the mind of the Development Board with regard to redundant, uneconomic, and inefficient factories. All I say to your Lordships, so far as any economy or organisation on the curing side is concerned, is that under the existing organisation the Bacon Marketing Board remains in existence solely by leave of its constituent members—that is, these 620 curers all of whom have votes. If too much pressure is put on that infinity of small curers, each of whom has a vote, they will straight away vote the Bacon Board out of existence, and you will have a state of affairs which will take us straight back to what it was before the scheme came into operation.

With the curing industry the overhead charges are one of the most important items, and it is in the overhead charges, I believe, that there is a possibility of very considerable economy which might bridge this financial gap. Some years ago, in the days of the Pig Industry Council, figures were gone into for a number of factories as to what the actual overhead charges were. They varied with the through-put as compared with the capacity of the factory, and they varied on that return, I think I am right in saying, between over 40s. a pig and under 10s. a pig, according to the through-put. That is a very wide margin. We know that at the present time factories are not getting anything like an economic through-put. That was the reason they stipulated a certain number of pigs. I am going to suggest to your Lordships and to His Majesty's Government that the only way in which economy can be of effected within the industry is by taking the bull by the horns and effecting the amalgamation of all the bacon factories into one utility corporation, if you like, something on the lines of the Sugar Beet Corporation. It is a much bigger job than that, of course, because of the small number of sugar-beet factories and the very large number of bacon factories; but if such an amalgamation could be brought into effect, one can see an enormous number of advantages.

First of all, the Bacon Development Board's problem of how to deal with inefficient and redundant factories would be solved at once, because under one corporation any inefficient or redundant factory could be closed forthwith, and only those factories necessary to deal with the actual supply of pigs which was forthcoming need be kept open. Thereby you would ensure that the factories would have a 100 per cent. through-put and so reduce their overhead charges. No inconsiderable economy could be effected by directing pigs in every case to the nearest factory. I can give your Lordships an instance of the present-day chaotic state of the transport of pigs in this country. I was near Norwich some time last November, and there I met a man who said: "I am sending my pigs to a bacon factory near you"—my home is near Salisbury—"I get better terms." It was not so, but he imagined he got better terms by sending his pigs from near Norwich to the other side of Salisbury. He did not realise that he was probably losing a great deal of weight on the pigs because of their very long journey. That kind of thing would be quite unnecessary if there was one bacon factory corporation; and there are many other possibilities in such an organisation. I appreciate, of course, that there are other and important details which would have to be considered, but I think fundamentally, that particular problem could be considered, and very carefully considered, it might provide a solution of the major part of the difficulties of organised bacon marketing.

I would respectfully suggest to His Majesty's Government that this is the way they might approach the problem. Hitherto in connection with these marketing schemes they have set up a Reorganisation Commission with rather wide terms of reference, and with, sometimes, rather disastrous results. I would suggest to His Majesty's Government that in the case of pigs and bacon they should make up their minds as to the right lines on which to go, and then if necessary set up a Commission to investigate and see if it is possible to carry out what they think should be done. In case of an amalgamation taking effect, if they think that is possible, they should work it out in detail. It will take time, and it may be necessary for His Majesty's Government in the meantime to provide a subsidy to keep the industry alive. I would suggest in those circumstances that there should be a very definite time limit to such a subsidy, because we want not a partial solution, not a temporary solution, but a solution which will give us a long-distance chance of making a real pig industry out of our bacon business in this country.

I have not mentioned the question of pork, which is an extremely difficult problem. I have not mentioned it for this reason, that if a satisfactory solution can be arrived at for the bacon business more or less on the lines that I suggest, farmers will not deserve to have any assistance either from the Government or in the form of organised marketing unless they are prepared to take the long view and, if necessary, give up the pork market—which though it may at times show better returns in the long run does not—so that at any rate one branch of the industry should really have a genuine return over a long period. I hope anyhow, whatever may be the reply of the Government to-day, that my noble friend in front of me (the Earl of Feversham) may at least be able to make a definite pronouncement which will offer some hope to those who are producing pigs in this country and so prevent any reduction in the number of pigs with the possibility of injury to the industry in which so many of us are interested. I beg to move.


My Lords, nobody in your Lordships' House is better qualified to raise this subject than the noble Earl who has just sat down, and I think all who are interested in agriculture will be very grateful to him for having at this time, when the matter is really urgent, brought this subject before your Lordships. I am a very timid person, and I am not sure that I can endorse his ultimate solution of the difficulties of the pig situation. Nationalisation of the bacon industry may be some day necessary, but I really hope, as that is bound to take so long and to cause so much opposition, that there may be easier methods of arriving at a solution. At any rate on one subject I am glad to find that most of us who are interested in this matter are in agreement, and that is that the sooner some scheme starts again, the sooner the pig scheme is resurrected in some form, the better for all who are interested in the pig industry.

On this subject, at any rate, we can all grunt in tune. The fact that there has been a temporary failure is, of course, undoubted, and the failure was certainly for a fairly obvious reason, but we can profit by the mistakes that have been made in the reconstruction efforts which we hope the Government are going to make soon. Meanwhile, as the noble Earl has pointed out, the pig scheme has not been a complete failure. He gave certain figures. I saw some figures given the other day by Lord Portal, the Chairman of the Bacon Development Board, which were even more convincing than the figures which the noble Earl below me has given. Lord Portal said—and I do not think there is any question that the figures he gave are correct; they certainly correspond with all I have seen—that the output of bacon since the inception of the scheme has been nearly doubled, the pig population has increased by 40 per cent.; and, another very important fact, the quality of the bacon pigs which have been sent to the factories has enormously improved.

I remember how at the beginning of this matter any old pig, whatever its shape, quality or size, was considered to be good enough for a bacon factory. Noble Lords will realise how impossible it was in those circumstances for the curers of this country to produce bacon on the standardised, organised level on which it is produced in Denmark and other countries. There is no wonder, under such conditions, that bacon production was extremely difficult in this country, the quantity and sizability of the pigs which were forthcoming for these factories being unsuitable. Now I hope very much that the Government will soon be able to produce a plan, or at any rate cause a plan to be produced. I like to think that these marketing schemes are not Government plans but are plans produced for their own benefit by those interested in the industry. I hope also that the scheme which is produced will be based on contracts. I do not think there is any other method by which we can hope to have a satisfactory scheme, because without contracts you cannot take the long view and you cannot arrange for the proper control and restriction of foreign imports, which undoubtedly is a matter of very great importance. Whatever we do we must never cause such a shortage of bacon in this country as to make the price soar, so that the poor people in the country who so largely depend on bacon for food should suffer and, in consequence, naturally complain.

The causes of failure, I think, are very easy to find. They are undoubtedly due to the fact that there was considerable dissatisfaction over the contract terms which the curers were able to offer for the pigs they were taking. The curers were anxious to save the weak factories to which the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has alluded, and therefore were not able to grant terms good enough to satisfy the producers. The producers, on the other hand, were harassed by a constantly increasing rise in the price of foodstuffs, and they could not meet their costs of production from the prices which the factories were able to offer. Long negotiations, as we have been told, took place. Throughout the whole of the summer these negotiations dragged on and, finally, there was arbitration. By that time the terns could have been fairly satisfactory, but it was too late. The British farmer and producer of pigs is not a person whose mind moves very quickly, and he had by that time thoroughly lost confidence in the curers whom he found himself up against. He sold off his pigs to the best advantage he could and came to the conclusion that contracting was no good to him.

I should like to remind your Lordships that in the scheme which was originally suggested by the Reorganisation Commission, of which I was Chairman, we suggested that the Bacon Development Board should be a body on which the bacon curers and pig producers should be represented in equal number with three independent members to deal with those points of conflict which were bound to arise between the people who produced the pigs and the people who bought them and produced bacon from them. These time independent members would have provided an automatic system of arbitration which would have acted long before the delay that occurred, and no doubt a contract could have been drawn up in time to save the collapse of the scheme which eventually so unfortunately happened. Well, that scheme was not adopted. I dare say it was not the best one: I dare say there are many better. But I hope the Government, or whoever produces the scheme, will secure some system of independent arbitration by which the difficulties between these two contracting bodies may be settled before any future scheme crashes as the late scheme has done.

The second thing I should like to see, in spite of my noble friend the Earl of Radnor, is a form of levy subsidy. I do not think that is going to be so difficult as he suggested. I know that when Mr. Eliot mentioned it he did so as a means of showing that it was a way of keeping the bacon supply without the price rising against the consumer. I think a levy subsidy can be made to keep down the price of bacon to the consumer and also to make the production of pigs sufficiently profitable to enable pig producers to go on producing them. There are those who suggest that this should be done by a levy on all pigs. That seems to me to be utterly impracticable. It would be diffi- cult to collect the levy in this country. You would have a levy only on your own pigs and the foreign exporters would not be affected at all. We should be raising a subsidy on our own pigs and applying it to our own industry, but that would not help us much against the foreign competition which is part of the problem. If, however, you had a small levy on all classes of bacon, foreign and otherwise, that could either be applied to give a better price to the producer or it could be given to the curer to make up to him for the low price of bacon, and that naturally would enable him to pay a better price for pigs. Such a subsidy, administered by a body like the Development Board, could be made to grease the wheels of industry so that the price of bacon might be kept down, and at the same time the producer would be able to produce pigs without suffering loss.

One point which is not always realised is that the cost of feeding stuffs and the price of bacon are not related. When the cost of feeding stuffs goes up it does not follow that the price of bacon goes up. Therefore you require some fund from which you can draw which can be applied to either side to make the industry go on. If the two were so related that a rise in the one caused an automatic rise in the other the problem would be easier. When the price of bacon rose the curer would give more for the pigs. That is not what happens at present, and it is because of that that we need some more elastic fund on which we can draw. One suggestion which has been made is that there ought to be a control of all pigs. I do not see why that is necessary. I believe that if the bacon contract works satisfactorily the pork market will look after itself. If you can get a sufficiently satisfactory arrangement about bacon contracts the residue will all be sold in the open market. When a sufficient number of pigs is retained in the bacon industry to enable that industry to carry on, the pork industry will look after itself. Obviously, the control of pork as well as bacon is much more difficult. When the Reorganisation Commission went into that matter we came to the conclusion that if we could get a satisfactory system through bacon contracts the rest of the problem would settle itself.

There is one point on which I hope some action will be taken. There will be considerable trouble in the North and West of England if what is called equitable distribution of pigs is too severely enforced. You cannot get the stubborn North-country farmer to see that it may be to his advantage in order to support unnecessary factories in the South to send his pigs there. He will send his pigs to factories with which he can keep in touch, and where he can hear about grading and the quality of pigs and hear criticism of them, but he will not willingly submit to bureaucratic direction by any National Board to send his pigs where the organisation wishes him to send them. We got a ridiculous situation in the North of England when we were allowed to put up an extra factory because the consumption of pigs in Yorkshire was so great that it was more than the Sherburn factory could deal with. We were allowed to build at Malton a first-class up-to-date factory. Then we had two factories both with a capacity of 2,000 pigs a week, but suddenly we found that the Malton factory was to be subject to an absurd quota giving a far less number of pigs per week than its capacity. Obviously, the factory could not pay under those conditions. That was a factor which would have caused the scheme to break down if it had not broken down already.

I hope that whatever is done nothing will be done to dragoon pig producers in that way. If the managers of a factory cannot find any one to send pigs to it I should not let them pay an extra premium if they wished to maintain the factories existing. It would be far better to let inefficient factories come to an end automatically. I believe that this scheme has failed because producers have lost confidence. We can get that confidence back if the Government do something quickly, but whatever is done must be done soon, and very soon. If you can keep the national contract and keep the national price and keep the national grading by some form of levy subsidy, then I believe we can get a satisfactory scheme to follow the one which has come to an end. The sooner the scheme is brought into effect the better it will be for those interested in the industry.


My Lords, you have listened to two past masters on this subject and I should hesitate to participate in this debate but for the fact that it does so materially affect the question of food supplies in time of emergency as our experience at the Ministry of Food during the Great War exemplified. For that reason I rise to say a few words, not as to the remedy—because I am perfectly conscious that my noble friends Lord Radnor and Lord Bingley, having watched the development of the scheme set up as a result of the deliberations of the Lane-Fox Committee in 1931, are better qualified to suggest remedies than I myself can possibly be—but because I wish to join with my noble friend Lord Radnor in deploring more than I can say the breakdown of this contract system at such a time of crisis as that with which the country is now faced, and at a time when we are exploring avenues to discover how best to raise the largest amount of food, not only from the large farms or at the hands of the more important stock breeders, but on land in the occupation of every type of farmer, small holder, cottager and allotment holder throughout the country.

I am going to venture to suggest this: that in the national interest the two branches of husbandry in which it is most important to maintain confidence—and I thank my noble friend Lord Bingley for his insistence on that word—and stimulate enterprise are milk production and swine husbandry. It is interesting to note that they are, in the very nature of things, linked the one with the other. I am sure it is the experience of all those who have any experience of small holdings in any part of the Empire that the small dairy farmer must keep pigs if he wants to stabilise his economic position and make use, of course, of the by-products of milk production and milk conversion in the feeding of his pigs. Lord Radnor was just a little bit sceptical, I noticed, about the value of the pig in time of emergency. There were experts in Germany who went so far as to say quite confidently after the last War that, if it had not been for the policy of the German Government during the War to encourage pig production in preference to that of any other form of meat, the War would have lasted at least one year less than it actually did. In fact, the concentration of the scientists in Germany upon the production of pigs on the one hand and potatoes on the other undoubtedly did a great deal to maintain the resistance of our chief enemy during that critical period.

After all, there are no two products of a farm that can be more rapidly reproduced than pigs on the one hand and potatoes on the other. Lord Radnor emphasised the fertilising value of the manure of these animals, but he is a little bit afraid whether, owing to the fact that a large proportion of our pig foods come at the present time from abroad, pigs, even allowing for their rapid reproduction of meat and fat, might possibly not be the best animals to encourage in time of emergency. I would only say in that connection that I think it is rather unfortunate that we feed our pigs so largely upon imported feeding staffs, and I am perfectly certain that, if we made up our minds under Government encouragement to look to a larger quantity of our home-produced food to provide a proper balanced ration for every type of pig, a solution might be found to this difficulty, at least in times of national emergency. I go so far as to suggest that the farmer, small holder or cottager who keeps pigs is doing a more patriotic act than any other producer can do in face of possible national or international emergency. I may perhaps incidentally say that so strongly were some of us convinced on this subject during the last War that there were formed in some counties, notably in my own, pig and potato production schemes, with a considerable amount of capital behind them, so as to encourage the very smallest potential producers of each of these commodities to bend their mind to the production and reproduction of these valuable war-time foods.

Lord Bingley quite truly described the farmers—or at any rate the pig farmers; I do not know whether he wanted particularly to stress the sluggish mentality of that type of stock owner—as having minds that moved somewhat slowly. Of course, that is perfectly true, but they are very alert-minded on one subject, as past experience has shown. That is, that when there does not appear to be a reasonable profit to be made out of pigs, they proceed to slaughter their female animals. That is exactly what is happening at the present time, and what may develop into a very serious reduction of the augmented pig population which the Pig Marketing Board and the Bacon Marketing Board have between them developed in recent years. The real remedy, I venture to suggest, but a remedy which in this individualistic country is of course extraordinarily hard to develop rapidly, is co-operation. Denmark has been mentioned, and I might perhaps also mention New Zealand and other countries where it is the natural inclination of the farmer to develop cooperative activity in every direction, not merely in production and sale but also in the conversion of his farm products into the commodities that the public require. I believe that in the long run the only effective and permanent solution will be the ownership of the factories, or the bulk of the factories, by the farmers themselves and their working on a co-operative basis. My Lords, you will be perfectly justified in saying that this has been tried. It has been tried, and unfortunately in years gone by has failed somewhat signally. During the last decade, however, we have learned a great deal. The farmers in this country, through force of circumstances and under wise direction from the Ministry of Agriculture, have come much more together, and are more capable in my judgment of working together on cooperative lines, even in the matter of bacon production. At any rate, I think it is worth a trial.

As I say, I hesitate to express an opinion upon the various remedies which have been suggested by Lord Radnor on the one hand and Lord Bingley on the other. I respectfully suggest to the Ministry of Agriculture that both the remedies mentioned by the noble Lords are worthy of consideration. You have, in the matter of what Lord Radnor describes as the amalgamation system, the precedent of the beet-sugar factories, and of course in other directions, such as wheat, you have the valuable precedent of the levy subsidy. I am rather wondering whether some system that combines both those principles might not usefully be developed. Of course, I agree with Lord Bingley that we do not want to nationalise our manufacturing industries if we can help it, but I begin to wonder whether, as has happened before in recent years, if the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that unless small and redundant factories were to disappear in the best interests of the bacon industry and of the pig producers in the early future, pressure would be exercised by the Government in the direction of some such scheme as now operates in relation to the production of sugar, the solution might not be found without the actual taking-over by the Government of all the bacon factories in the country.

What I should, however, like to emphasise before I sit down is the great importance of continuing to encourage the small holder and the cottager to keep pigs, and to make it possible for him to keep pigs at some reasonable profit and advantage to himself. This is surely the backbone of what might be called the poor man's rural industry. I would go farther, and suggest that if the small holder is not going to be encouraged in his natural activities in this country, you are going to find it exceedingly difficult to produce from this country well-equipped migrants to occupy the vacant spaces of our Dominions overseas. You cannot leave it to the ordinary agricultural worker to find a living for himself in our oversea Dominions unless he has developed some knowledge of business, and some realisation that he has got to depend upon himself, and on his own business acumen and intelligence, to earn a living on the land which he cultivates and occupies himself.

But there is one particular point in relation to what I may call the cottager's pig-keeping which I think is worthy of mention, and that is the question of by-laws. Over a very large area, in at least the County of Gloucester, there are pig cots as part of cottage properties where in past times a pig was kept and formed a very valuable part of the food of the cottager and his family, and there was no possible interference with his pig-keeping. Nowadays, not only in the towns but in some of the much smaller communities, an embargo is placed upon the keeping of pigs, because it is deemed to be a source of danger to human health. I should like to see much more discrimination exercised in this matter of by-laws and the refusal to allow the small man to keep his pig as he did before. Of course the pig is denounced as an unclean animal. Personally, having perhaps one of the largest herds of pigs in this country, I entirely repudiate that calumny upon that important animal. The pig is indeed, if you give him a chance—and I think Lord Radnor will support me in this—one of the cleanest of the domestic animals that we possess. But in most instances we do not give him a chance. Always assuming that a pig can be kept in a clean condition and under hygienic conditions, I would like to see a relaxation of the by-laws, which in purely rural areas prevent a cottager keeping a pig. Bearing in mind the great importance of this particular type of human food, which can be so rapidly produced, and is of such importance to the smaller occupiers of agricultural land in this country, I venture to hope that the appeal which has been made by Lord Radnor will not fall upon deaf ears.


My Lords, I think all who are concerned with the home-produced bacon industry have reason to be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, for introducing this debate in your Lordships' House. It is obvious that if we can in this country produce an article of food as largely used by the people of this country as bacon is, then we should do so rather than hand over such an important trade to other countries. I do not believe that it is beyond the capacity of the Minister of Agriculture and his colleagues to start up the machinery of a new bacon scheme, free from the defects of the last one, and to bring some benefit to the farming community without injuring in any way the consumer. Much has been said, and more written, about the failure of the last bacon scheme, and I think that farmers and others concerned have shared a great deal of unjust criticism. I doubt if many of us who have tried extremely hard to make the venture a success were sanguine enough to expect that all would go smoothly and well at the first attempt. For years the methods adopted by other countries to develop their bacon trade intensively have been rammed down our throats, and we have been enjoined to copy their methods. Of course other countries have great experience of this trade, but I do not know of one which is situated as this country has been. We have had to recognise the fact that even if the scheme succeeded beyond our wildest hopes we would still have to import about four-fifths of the bacon requirements for this country. So we had to be big importers and at the same time foster a new industry. That has been an extremely difficult operation.

If the main problem before the Ministry is now to judge whether it is worth while patching up a scheme that has broken down, then a survey of past experience is essential. Other noble Lords have dealt with the operations of the various Boards. Perhaps I may be allowed to say a little about the producer's side of the business as far as Yorkshire is concerned, and I would remind your Lordships that of all the contracting producers in the country about one-eighth are Yorkshire farmers. I can claim to speak with a certain amount of personal experience of agriculture in general, and also of the production of bacon pigs. I am myself farming over 4,000 acres, and judging from notices received this last week I shall probably next year be farming about 6,000 acres myself. So my experience will widen and my banker's anxiety increase. Perhaps the fact that one cannot let farms readily, and that good tenants are giving up, is some indication of the unwholesome state of agriculture—in the East Riding of Yorkshire at any rate, where barley growers and beef producers have had a desperately lean time, however efficiently they have conducted their business.

We seized on the bacon scheme as something that held out a hope, something that promised a reasonable return. Yorkshire farmers tackled the bacon scheme with commendable energy. I do not wish to trouble your Lordships with a mass of figures, but it is significant that the number of pigs delivered to the factory rose from 63,700 in 1934 to 111,600 in 1935, and 157,800 in 1936. That is not the whole story. Numbers do not necessarily connote success. Quality is equally important. In 1935 56 per cent. of the pigs were graded in Class 1, while in 1936 the percentage so graded rose to 85 per cent. There has been a complete transformation in the type of pig owned by tenant farmers. A few years ago the farmer's pig was an appalling mongrel. To-day that shiny, hairless, blue and white monstrosity is well nigh extinct, and has been replaced by a good sort of bacon pig, showing much Large White blood.

Before the scheme was started there was a large farmers' factory in the West Riding. It failed through lack of support. This factory was quite up-to-date in all respects, and it came into commission again with the birth of the scheme. It is a farmers' co-operative factory, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, will be interested to know, and it has been managed by a first-class firm of curers who have entirely won the confidence of the Yorkshire farmers by their efficiency and their straight dealing, and it was entirely due to the good relations established between the firm managing the factory and the farmers that before long the factory was working to full capacity. The noble Lord, Lord Bingley, has mentioned the fact that the numbers of pigs increased to such an extent that before long we had to ask for a licence for a second factory. That application was at first refused; the Bacon Development Board came into being and turned it down, but after much pressure a licence was eventually granted. The factory is very well situated, close to a junction of the North and East Ridings. It was designed jointly by English and Danish architects, and it is claimed that it is the biggest, the most efficient and most up-to-date factory in Europe.

The noble Lord, Lord Bingley, has mentioned with indignation, which I share, the fact that no sooner was it built than it was sand-bagged. According to this iniquitous quota system that factory, which could take about 120,000 pigs a year, was handed a quota of 21,000, and the Sherburn factory, which could take 140,000 pigs, had a quota of 71,000, and other smaller concerns suffered equally. It did not seem very sane that surplus pigs, as has been described, should be ordered to go elsewhere out of the county to the weak and inefficient factories. It is quite clear that vested interests were at work, for these pigs which went to the inefficient factories did so at the expense of the efficient and up-to-date factories, which had been properly supplied, in quantity and quality, by farmers with the right sort of bacon pigs. It is true that later this quota was modified, but not sufficiently to restore confidence to the producers. A pig may be a very homely looking animal, but it happens to be temperamental to the extent of losing a considerable amount of weight on a long journey. It is true that pigs are graded on dead, and not live, weight, but the relationship between the two is unknown, and it is strongly held that a pig that loses ten to twenty pounds live weight on a long journey will also lose considerably in dead weight, and therefore probably be rejected when it gets to the factory. I can only give my own experience. When I sent pigs to the West Riding factory—about fifty miles—over 12 per cent. were rejected on the score of under weight, although they had started their journey with a margin in hand. Since I have sent them five miles to the new factory not a single one has been rejected. It is not surprising that farmers dislike sending their pigs anywhere, any distance, to fill up redundant and inefficient factories in other counties.

I do not suggest that the quota scheme alone killed the scheme. Prices of foodstuffs rose and made the margin of profit, already very small, melt away completely. I think we all appreciate that the problems are not very easy of solution, but many of us feel that they could be met and overcome. In the scheme that died on us the contracts were for far too long periods. We had to contract for twelve months ahead—contract for pigs as yet unborn; and, with the glorious uncertainties that exist for pig breeding, and the incidence of troubles like swine erysipelas and other diseases, we feel that a contract for about four months ahead is quite sufficient. Before a new scheme comes into being there are certain matters that must receive attention: first of all, the fluctuating cost of foodstuffs—and perhaps a short term contract would meet that—secondly, the fluctuating bacon prices, and I am inclined to believe that there must be a levy that will create a fund to flatten out the difficulties in that direction.

In conclusion, I have tried to show what a county that has worked the scheme vigorously has achieved. I think we have made progress. We have certainly revolutionised pig breeding completely. The pig population has increased, and the quality has improved out of all recognition. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has mentioned the manurial value to the land, and that is a matter that does not escape the notice of those of us who look to the productivity of our soil. Lastly, there is the matter of employment, and at our new factory at Malton we need seventy men to run it. A great number were trained in the Sherburn factory, all local unemployed lads, and every single one turned out well. The great pity is that now, since the scheme broke down, a great many have had to be dismissed, and we feel that it is time to get them back under a new scheme which will be based on the experi- ence that has been gained. It should come into operation very soon. It is perfectly true that at the present moment we are getting better terms from the factory than we ever had before, but that is not enough. We want continuity of policy. There is much to be done before we can develop our trade to the fullest extent. For instance, the accommodation for pigs in our country is generally pretty bad, but who is going to spend money on building modern and up-to-date pig stables unless there is some security for the future? I trust that the noble Earl who will speak for the Government will be able to give us some definite assurance that a scheme is being hatched out and will soon come into operation, and convince us that the Government will not accept defeat just because of defects in the scheme that has broken down.


My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Earl for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I should also like to suggest that this is a particularly opportune time to do so as the matter is becoming more and more urgent. The annual meeting of the Pigs Board was held quite recently and it was interesting to note at that meeting that the general view of the majority of those present was one of sympathy towards the Pigs Board and the hope was freely expressed that its work would not meet an untimely end. It is not strange that it met with many difficulties. What is strange is that such an experiment on such a vast scale should have met with so considerable a measure of success in so short a time.

After all, it is only fair to emphasise the figures which have already been quoted, that the pigs in this country have increased since 1933 from 3,246,000 to 4,044,000 in 1936. Those are very impressive figures, and I believe that of all the live-stock industries of the country it is only the pig industry in which any increase of a substantial nature has taken place. There is, however, a grave fear that we may slip back to the position we were in before the pigs schemes were started and I think this is not merely an agricultural question; it is almost a national question. The welfare of the small holder is closely linked up with the progress and prosperity of the nation as a whole. The small holder is one of the greatest assets in his sphere towards building up our country life and maintaining a flow of sturdy blood into the big cities. If it were not for the Pigs Board those who produce figures would never have been able to assess the weight of the various factors and forces which are arrayed against them. We know that the huge imports of bacon through factors and agents and other interested parties have built up a problem which the small holder and the ordinary agriculturist is quite unable to face. It takes a big organisation able to compile statistics and put the case properly forward in order to counter some of the steps which are taken by other countries to seize our market.

May I suggest that the scheme has broken down not so much because of the failure of the Pigs Board but because the bacon side has broken down? It was extremely difficult two years ago to say what form the scheme ought to take. It will be remembered that in that recent scheme the price of feeding stuffs was definitely linked up with the price of bacon and the feeding stuffs price was 7s. 6d. per cwt. against 12s. per score dead weight. There was a definite relationship between the 7s. 6d. and the 12s. It was foreseen that there might be a variation in the price of foodstuffs; therefore the scheme provided that the 7s. 6d. might become a higher figure, up to a total figure of 9s. per cwt. for food, with an equivalent increase in the price of the pig. It did rot provide for the price of foodstuffs going beyond what seemed then to be the almost astronomical figure of 9s. In fact, however, that figure has become, not 9s., but 10s. 2d. without any equivalent increase in the guaranteed return for the price of the pig. The result is that the pig scheme has broken down because farmers found themselves under contract to supply pigs with food dear and no proper price on the other side to meet their feeding costs. Therefore the scheme had to be abandoned, not so much by the farmers as by the Board because they were put in this ridiculous position that no longer was there a proper relationship between the price of foodstuffs and the price of the pig, and it became impossible for farmers to carry on a losing contract of that kind.

Another reason is that there has never been any proper adjustment—"co-ordination" is a horrible word—between pigs sold for bacon purposes and pigs sold for pork purposes. There is no doubt that the fact that the pig scheme dealt only with bacon pigs has helped the pork market very much. I consider that a fuller and wider control must be exercised in future over both kinds of pig, whether used for bacon purposes or for pork purposes. I venture to express that view because in the milk scheme it was found that a certain class of milk producers—namely, T.T. producers—were left out of the scheme, the result being that T.T. producers increased so much that they threatened the financial stability of the milk scheme as a whole. In just the same way the pork market threatens the financial stability and position of the bacon producer. I entirely agree with what has been expressed in regard to the size of factories. I believe it is quite true that in Denmark a factory operates under a firm contract of 2,000 pigs a week, and in many cases it runs up to 5,000 pigs a week. Therefore, it is ridiculous for a factory handling 500 pigs a week or less in our country to attempt to compete on level terms with pigs sent over here from countries where factories are working on a basis of 2,000 pigs a week or over.

A further point to which I would call attention in regard to any future scheme—and the sooner a scheme is brought into being the better—is the question of supervision and inspection by some independent body such as the Development Board of the pigs sent to factories. There is no doubt that many pigs sent to factories have apparently been wrongly classified. I heard of a case only the other day where two pigs from identical pens and of identical live weight were sent to a factory, and when slaughtered one was rejected as being over weight and the other was rejected as being under weight. It is impossible for the farmer to understand how that could happen. I heard also, in regard to returns from factories, that the kill out has varied from 68 per cent. to 80 per cent., and it is very hard for the pig producer to believe all he is told. I know of a producer near where I live who challenged a return he received, and he was invited to inspect his pig. He went to the factory, and they purported to show him his pig, cut in half. They said: "There is your pig, and there are the weights." The farmer replied: "That is not my pig." "How do you know?" they asked. He said: "I took one of the teeth out, and this pig has got all its teeth in its head." Evidently that was his system of identification, and it indicated that a mistake had been made. We want an independent body whose business it would be to assure the producer first of all that the classification is right, and, secondly, that the grade is correct, because it is only by retaining the confidence of the producer that any pig scheme can continue to be successful. We must, as far as possible, remove all possibility of error in regard to these important matters.

I do not agree that a short-term contract is better than a long-term contract, because, although the life of a pig needed for food is short, the breeding herd's life is considerably longer, and the man who builds up a herd wants to know where he is for a considerable period of time. I hope the Ministry of Agriculture, who I know have been working very hard in this matter, will be able to set up machinery in future which will deal more promptly with the kind of difficulties which are continually arising in the case of the Milk Board, the Pig Board, the Potato Board, and other Boards. In setting up these Boards we have embarked on a great national experiment, and difficulties when they arise should be dealt with promptly. The question of a new scheme is of great importance not only to our small holders and big holders, but also, I venture to think, to the nation as a whole. May I again, in conclusion, with all respect, thank the noble Earl for bringing this question to the attention of the House?


My Lords, we have had this evening a most interesting and constructive debate on a subject which is of very great importance, not only to agriculturists but, as Lord Eltisley has just said, to the nation as a whole. We have had this evening speeches from some of those members of your Lordships' House who are best qualified to speak on the bacon pig industry. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, to whom we are indebted for bringing forward this Motion, was, as your Lordships know, nominated by the then Minister of Agriculture to serve on the Pigs Marketing Board at its inception in 1933, and he was subsequently chosen as one of the three special members on the Board. I gather that the noble Earl was also for some time not only a member, but later Chairman, of the Pig Industry Council. That is a body which tendered valuable advice, not only to the Minister but to the industry, and I think it cannot altogether be denied the credit or responsibility for the appointment of the Reorganisation Commission for Pigs, and indeed for the form of that body's recommendations.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made a valuable contribution to this debate, and I have heard that in the days long before a scheme to put the bacon pig industry on its feet had percolated into the minds of the National Farmers' Union, Lord Bledisloe had formulated such a policy. The noble Lord, Lord Bingley, who made such a thoughtful and valuable contribution to this debate, was, as is well known both inside this House and outside, Chairman of the Reorganisation Commission whose Report, published in 1932, became the text-book for the reorganisation of the marketing structure of the pigs and bacon industries. The "Lane-Fox Report" and the "Lane-Fox level of total supplies" are indeed well-known words wherever pigs are kept, and that is tantamount to saying throughout the length and breadth of the countryside. We have also had the advantage of speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, has an unrivalled knowledge and experience of agricultural practice and conditions in my own County, Yorkshire, and we have all in consequence listened with keen attention to the views he has put forward.

The situation as it exists in the pig industry is somewhat peculiar. The problem that we have to face is a national problem, and I will not in my remarks embark upon the arguments that were put forward by the Yorkshire factories, for I think it would be better to confine myself to the national issue. But I would just like to say this. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, has explained and given a true account of the circumstances under which the new factory at Malton was inaugurated, and has said that the capacity for curing was reduced very considerably to the figures that he mentioned, but it would not be justifiable to say that the pigs produced in Yorkshire went to factories that were inefficient or less efficient than those of Yorkshire. Whatever may be the difficulties of the Yorkshire producer, I think it must be said in justice to other curers of the nation that there are factories outside the County of Yorkshire which are run with equal efficiency.


I never disputed the point.


I think the noble Lord said that the pigs which the Yorkshire producers wished to go to Yorkshire factories were going to factories less efficient.


Some of them.


I think those were the noble Lord's words. I have said that the pig industry is of national importance, and perhaps I may be allowed to demonstrate the truth of that in this way. Last year—that is 1935–36—the agricultural output of England and Wales was valued at £208,000,000. Live stock accounted for nearly one-third of that output, and pigs, including both bacon and pork pigs, accounted for more than one-third of the value of all the live stock produced. Therefore a ready mathematician would calculate that the value of the output of pigs was for that year £22,500,000. I am sure that no one will be found to dispute the contention of the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, that it is essential to safeguard the interests of the pig producer of this country, and indeed to take whatever action may be necessary to secure that end. The specific proposal that he has made with a view to remedying the present situation both deserves and will receive the close attention that should be rightly accorded to the views of one who is able to draw upon such a wealth of practical experience of the situation of the bacon and pig industry of this country.

The root of the industry's marketing structure since the marketing schemes came into operation in 1933 has, of course, been the contract system, and, as we have heard on more than one occasion this evening, that contract system broke down. Of the factors which contributed to that breakdown the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has placed particular emphasis, I think, upon one. He suggests that the system has failed because curers have not been in a position to give pig producers an economic price for their pigs. It is of course true that there has been some dissatisfaction each year among producers with the contract terms in general, and in particular with the contract price during certain months, and more especially when the open market price has been more favourable than the contract price. It is also true that producers have consistently pressed for a price based upon food costs; but, as Lord Radnor very properly emphasised, notwithstanding the criticisms which have been levelled against the Pigs Board under this and other heads, the statistics that have been quoted by the noble Earl and by the noble Lord, Lord Bingley, and the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, tell a story of marked expansion in the pig population and also in bacon production.

I will not refer to such figures as have already been quoted, but suffice it to say that the home industry now accounts for nearly one-third of the total supply in this country, whereas in pre-scheme years less than one-sixth of the total supply was home produced. It is of course plain that the whole of the increased production of pigs has been for the bacon industry, and has been I think the result of the marketing schemes that were introduced in 1933. But the success of the schemes cannot be measured solely in terms of pig and bacon output, for I think it was Lord Bingley who very aptly remarked that there has been a great improvement in the quality of home-produced bacon, which those of your Lordships who furnish the breakfast table with bacon will, I am convinced, both appreciate and welcome. There is a maxim which has general approval and especially so tonight, that there is no smoke without fire, and such a marked extension in the bacon industry would, I think, have been inconceivable if the marketing schemes had not made production economic. Indeed, the system of import regulation that has accompanied the marketing schemes has raised the wholesale price of bacon from the ruinous levels to which Lord Radnor referred that prevailed in 1932, and has indeed brought a large measure of stability into the market. Under normal conditions this level of stability should have been sufficient to enable producers and curers of reasonable efficiency to carry on and also to develop their busi- ness, but during the past six months there has been, as we have heard to-night, an important and formidable change in the economics of the industry. The prices of feeding stuffs have risen considerably, in fact they have risen by one-third; and there is no doubt that this rise had much to do with the unwillingness of the pig producers to contract for a sufficient supply of bacon-pigs during the present year.

The fluctuations in the cost of feeding stuffs, which are the result of world conditions and which are of course outside the control of the industry, create very grave difficulties. If I may say so, the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, was perfectly right in drawing attention to their importance and to the need of measures to counteract them. The noble Earl mentioned the possibility of a levy subsidy fund being created on which curers could draw when a combination of low bacon prices and high feeding stuffs did not allow curers to pay prices for pigs which would show the producer a profit. I think that that is a plan that could conceivably offer a way out, but in my view the proposal suffers from one pre-eminent disadvantage which I rather think the noble Earl understands and appreciates himself. That is that the distribution of a levy fund involves certain assumptions regarding the reasonable costs of curers. The noble Earl suggested no figure, and I think he very properly refrained from suggesting a figure, for any figure suggested would quite possibly be either too high or too low as compared with that which obtains in certain factories at the present time, especially having regard to the size of units of factories and the standards of efficiency that exist in the curing industry to-day. Any average figure must, of course, cover a wide range of actual costs. I think it would be very unsatisfactory as a basis for the distribution of public funds. But it is of no great assistance to point out drawbacks to the suggestions that have been made unless it is to show that this problem is by no means an easy one. I can assure your Lordships that the Government are giving very earnest consideration to this problem, but I do not think that it can be fairly claimed that a solution can be found so to speak overnight.

With the importance that has been attached in the course of this debate to what I may term rationalisation in the curing industry there will be, I think, general agreement, although the noble Lord, Lord Bingley, in his speech, very properly qualified that agreement by pointing out the necessity that rationalisation should proceed only on slow and sure lines. It is admitted on all sides that the industry has to carry heavy overheads in the form of unused capacity, and in this regard the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, referred to the situation of the curing industry in Denmark. In Denmark there are some eighty factories, with an average through-put in 1932 of almost 2,000 pigs per week. In this country, as the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, said, there are 620 curers and only seven are at present handling more than 1,000 pigs per week. It must be obvious that low through-put seriously increases costs. One British factory has estimated that an increased through-put from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. of capacity would reduce costs by one-third.

The problem of factory rationalisation in our bacon industry is no more simple, however, than the problem of fluctuations in feeding stuff prices. Bacon factory rationalisation has two aspects: firstly, the introduction of efficiency standards appropriate to the different sections of the industry, for example, dry and tank curing; and, secondly, the elimination of redundant plant and the careful planning of new premises. The first approach to the problem must be, as Lord Bingley said, by way of investigation and classification of the existing units, and the establishment and gradual introduction of standards of efficiency. Progress must be in stages, and must I think be cautious and sure. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made an analogy of the sugar industry which was rationalised last year, but I think it would be wise to guard against such an easy analogy. Both are, of course, processing industries, but, apart from this, they have little in common. The sugar-beet industry was not faced with the same problem of redundancy in such an acute form as is present in the curing industry. Furthermore, the sugar-beet industry consisted of a few large-scale units, all of comparatively recent construction, while on the technical side of the industry the sugar-beet was well suited to standardisation and unified control. On the other hand, the curing industry is composed of a large number of businesses of varying capacity and efficiency. The majority of the 620 curers are small, and therefore it is not an industry in which efficiency can easily be measured.

I have thought it necessary to offer these few observations on some of the proposals that have been advanced this evening, but I would wish to assure your Lordships that I do so in no destructive spirit. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has asked me, speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government, to make some specific statement on the future of the bacon industry. I would like to assure the noble Earl that at present the several sections of the industry—the Pigs Marketing Board, the Bacon Marketing Board, the Bacon Development Board, as well as the National Farmers' Union—are separately considering the steps that should be taken. It is for the Department I represent to ascertain the maximum amount of agreement that there may be between these bodies before we can formulate any further scheme. I should perhaps mention that in the meantime, while the future of the marketing schemes is under examination, the Government are continuing to regulate imports of bacon and hams. Imports are being regulated in the light of recommendations made by the Market Supply Committee, who are receiving the assistance of the Bacon Supplies Consultative Committee, which represents all the interests concerned—the interests of retailers, wholesalers, co-operatives, and so on.

I would wish to assure the noble Earl that there will be no undue delay over this question of reorganisation. I think, however, that the noble Earl will agree with me that this is a case where too hasty decision might bring an evil legacy in its train, and in their consideration of the matter the Government will, I feel sure, find the greatest assistance in the views that have been expressed by the noble Earl and by the other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I hope that I have covered most of the points which needed some reply from the Government's spokesman. I can only emphasise once again that this is a subject which is receiving the very closest consideration and attention of His Majesty's Government, and I hope it will not be long before I shall have the opportunity of bringing something more concrete, that will satisfy the noble Earl, before your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I think the debate we have had on my Motion fully justifies the remark I made when I opened my speech, that your Lordships' House was a particularly suitable place for a discussion of a matter of this nature. I am not going to make any comments on the debate, because we have been here quite long enough. I should like, however, to make one remark about the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, who expressed as a personal opinion a good many views on the subject of the levy subsidy, which apparently he dislikes. He did not answer my question whether there has been any result from the negotiations that Mr. Walter Elliot said he was going to initiate forthwith in June, 1935, and I am wondering whether, in view of what he said, there is an indication of a reversal in the Government's policy and that they have dropped the question of the levy subsidy.


If I may, with your Lordships' permission, just clarify that point; I did not answer the noble Earl's first question with regard to what had happened to Mr. Elliot's policy of the levy subsidy, because the noble Earl himself answered it subsequently in his speech. He said it was quite clear, when that proposal was made, that it would not react as a subsidy in favour of the home producer. What it was going to do was to alleviate the consequences to the home producer of the expected fall in the price of bacon owing to the increased supplies coming into this country. That was the answer which the noble Earl himself gave, and that was the explanation given at the time by the then Minister of Agriculture in answer to a Question in another place. I do not think that the noble Earl can in any circumstances take it to himself that there is any reversal in the Government's policy.


Then what was the result of the negotiations which were started in June, 1935? Did he get the consent of those foreign Governments to the application of a levy on foreign importations of bacon? We have had no answer to that question ever since the pronouncement was made, and that was nearly two years ago now. Perhaps the noble Earl will pass it on to his chief, who may be able to make some announcement in the near future. It is a question, although my personal feeling is that I do not want to pursue the levy subsidy too far, in view of what was said. As you have heard from my noble friend Lord Bingley, he is very anxious, and there are many like him, to see this levy subsidy put into operation, and it may be a solution. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Bledisloe very much indeed for his very valuable contribution to the debate. His War experience at the Ministry of Food has a very useful application at this moment. I might also perhaps remind him that, as the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, remarked, the Reorganisation Commission did evolve directly from the Pig Industry Council, of which I was first of all Vice-Chairman and then Chairman, and I think the Pig Industry Council evolved quite directly from my noble friend Lord Bledisloe. He is therefore responsible to me for many weary hours spent in talking about pigs! I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer, but I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have spoken. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.