HL Deb 09 December 1952 vol 179 cc819-22

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will remember that the Agriculture (Calf Subsidies) Act which received the Royal Assent on October 30 this year enabled schemes to be made for the payment of subsidies on calves. The scheme which I am now asking your Lordships to approve is the first under this Act. Like the previous scheme under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1949, it is a joint one for England and Wales and Northern Ireland. The scheme will give Her Majesty's Government authority to pay a subsidy of £5 per head, not only on steer calves but on heifer calves which are suitable for beef production. The period during which calves must have been born to qualify for subsidy will be from October 1, 1951—so avoiding any break with the old subsidy—until October 29, 1955—that is, for three years from the date of the passing of the Act. This should give farmers confidence to plan ahead and rear the extra calves we need to increase our output of home grown beef. Some time before the scheme comes to an end we intend to review the position, and if we think the subsidy should be continued we shall invite the House to approve a further scheme.

Your Lordships will appreciate that the chief difficulty about a scheme like this is in deciding on the type of calf that should qualify. In the scheme we can give only a general description; the real test is when this description is applied in the field to actual calves. The object of the scheme is to encourage calf rearing for beef production and the subsidy is, in fact, another way—and, we think, a better way—of spending money which would otherwise have gone to increase the prices paid for fat cattle. Consequently we cannot pay the subsidy on heifers of the dairy breeds, so we have ruled out Jersey, Guernsey, Friesian and Ayrshire heifers. All other heifers, including dual-purpose breeds and crossbred calves sired by a beef bull, will be judged on their merits. All steers, whatever their breed, will be eligible, provided that they can either be used for breeding more beef calves or be reared and fattened to yield a carcase of reasonably good quality beef.

A great deal of trouble has been taken to see that the standards of judging the eligibility of calves should be as accurate and uniform as possible. The Ministry's certifying officers have been trained to a standard which has been set by the Chief Livestock Officer and his senior assistants, after they had examined a representative section of calves. We have done everything we can to make the standard as fair as possible. We must obviously rule out definitely stunted and unthrifty calves but we certainly do not intend to disqualify animals which show a reasonable prospect of making good beef. If, however, in the last resort, any farmer is genuinely aggrieved by a decision to reject his calf for subsidy we shall always be prepared to allow a second opinion to be given by one of the Ministry's county livestock husbandry officers, whose ruling will have to be taken as final.

We intend normally to allow calves to he inspected and certified from the time when they are eight months old up to when they cut their first permanent incisor teeth. As soon as these appear they will become ineligible, but there are two possible exceptions to this rule. We are willing to certify calves at six months old if they have been reared on a farm in a hilly area and the farmer is forced to sell them in the autumn because of a scarcity of winter keep. This concession is mainly intended to help farmers in the Scottish Highlands, but farmers in hill-farming districts in England and Wales may also qualify.

The second exception takes account of difficulties which might occur in the first year of the scheme if we adhered strictly to the rule disqualifying an animal that has cut its first broad tooth. The scheme applies to calves born on or after October 1, 1951, and because of the delay in approving the scheme some of these calves may be approaching eighteen months old before they are inspected. It is quite possible that a few rather forward animals may have cut their first permanent incisor teeth by that time, and to avoid hardships the scheme therefore allows the Minister to disregard the upper age limit during the first year, provided, of course, that he is satisfied that the calf was not born before October 1, 1951. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Calf Subsidies (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme, 1952, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved.—(Lord Carrington.)

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House I should like to say how warmly we welcome this scheme, and we hope that it will achieve its purpose of enabling more calves to reach maturity so that they can be used for beef. There is just one thing I should like to add. I am sure the noble Lord opposite will agree that this is an experimental scheme. It is experimental in the sense that it is the first scheme which has been made under the Act, and in the sense that it is different from any scheme which has been made under earlier legislation. I hope, therefore, that he and his Department will keep a very careful eye on the way this scheme works out in practice, and that if he finds any difficulties arise he will not hesitate to come back to Parliament for an amended scheme or, at any rate, to alter his administrative arrangements.


My Lords, in one part of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned that Scottish hill farmers would specially benefit by a certain type of exemption in the case of hardship, and that British marginal land or hill farmers might qualify. Would he explain whether they qualify on equal terms, or is there some other qualification?


They will qualify on equal terms.


My Lords, I do not understand why the Friesian heifer is excluded. I am a Jersey breeder and, therefore, have no interest in this, but perhaps the noble Lord will say whether any additional personnel will be required to operate this scheme.


Friesian heifers are excluded because the main purpose of the Friesian heifers is to produce milk. If we subsidise at the rate of £5 for every Friesian heifer, we are in fact subsidising milk production, whereas, of course, this is a beef subsidy. We are employing certain full-time certifying officers instead of the part-time certifying officers to administer this scheme.

On Question, Motion agreed to.