HL Deb 21 March 1939 vol 112 cc366-70

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Feversham, I beg to move that this Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Lucan.)


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends I think it is appropriate to say that, although we have offered at no stage any opposition to this Bill, we do not wish to part with it without stating that we regard it as an exceedingly feeble Bill, and without saying a word on the circumstances which have prompted its production. This Bill is another of the many by-products of a very mistaken way of dealing with this important branch of agriculture. It will be within your Lordships' recollection that there was another somewhat larger Bill before us not long ago which aimed at tinkering up certain defects which had become manifest in the existing method of dealing with this section of the industry. May I just remind your Lordships of those circumstances, because they explain this little Bill?

Under the Agricultural Marketing Act it was intended that there should be a proper factorisation process organised on behalf of the producers. That would have meant that there would be a small number of efficient factories and that the farmers—the producers—would have obtained the whole of the net returns of their product sent to the factories, after the necessary expenses of course had been discharged. What actually happened was that the interests concerned with the factorisation were allowed free play, and we are presented with the grotesque consequence that over 800 of these factories, small and large, have been allowed to spring up in this country. Owing to the fact that their basis of trade is to pay the producer of pigs the lowest possible price, otherwise these uneconomic factories cannot possibly make a living, we have found the result to be that the producers have declined to produce the pigs. Therefore these factories in large numbers up and down the country are deficient in an adequate supply of pigs. That is because this multiplicity of little factories has been permitted by the Government.

In order to try and bolster up this entirely wasteful system, the Government first introduced various subsidies which were directed to supporting it, and at long last, last year, under the Bacon Act, a Commission was set up to try and reduce this absurdity to reasonable dimensions. What is now happening, I understand, under the Bacon Act is that the Commissioners are first trying to reduce the number of these factories. Of course, they have got to pay one another out, and the people who finally provide the money are the unfortunate producers who find themselves beaten down in the price they can obtain from the factories.

This particular little Bill is to try and meet another difficulty which has arisen out of this extravagant process. These hundreds of little factories, being without an adequate supply of pigs, find it very difficult to make both ends meet. The Government are now going to give them a little extra subsidy, indirectly, in order to help them to make a little bit more out of the lard they produce. So far as that is concerned, it will give a certain number of them a certain satisfaction, I suppose, but I hope we shall all recognise how absurd is this manner of proceeding. There ought to be a small number of efficient factories operated by and on behalf of the producer. I understand that eighty factories in the whole country would be ample, although more than 800 have been allowed to spring up under this absurd arrangement. Now, I suppose, they will gradually be reduced by the Bacon Commission, and the farmers and the public will be paying for it. This is another little contribution we have got to make as one of the consequences of the extravagant method the Government have adopted because they would not face up to the vested interests which at present are making profit out of the producer. I thought it was only right to allow myself this little explosion to finish, so that your Lordships would not be under any mistaken impression that, because we have not objected to the Bill, therefore we approve of it. As a matter of fact we think very badly of it. It is the bad product of a bad policy.


My Lords, I am only sorry that the noble Lord did not give notice to my noble friend that he was going to deliver an attack on the Bill, because that would have given him an opportunity of replying more effectively than I can. I am somewhat surprised at the noble Lord not knowing that people connected with agriculture are very well aware that the pig population goes up and down, and has done so for a number of years. It is liable to rise very quickly, and when prices become bad that pig population falls. It has very little to do with the existence of these factories. I am surprised at the noble Lord from another point of view. I always looked upon him as a Socialist, perhaps only a part-Socialist, but I am inclined to think he ought to belong to some Fascist country, because he is really proposing that there should be no freedom to individuals to set up factories at all and that the Government should step in and stop it.


Your own Bill deals with that—it restricts their numbers.


We have to deal with it in a corporate capacity. What the noble Lord apparently wants is that the Government should step in and prevent any individual from setting up a factory. Our policy is that it should be done through the operation of the industry itself, which is a very different matter. I am not an expert on these matters, and I can only express my surprise at some of the remarks which the noble Lord made. I shall, of course, refer them to my right honourable friend, and perhaps he will deal with them more fully privately.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.

House adjourned at seven minutes past five o'clock.