§ 2.54 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (EARL WALDEGRAVE)
My Lords, I suggest that your Lordships may find it convenient to consider together the three Orders on the Paper. All three have the same purpose of supporting the arrangements which give effect to guaranteed prices under Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1957. These three Orders make use of the Ministers' powers under Section 5 of the 1957 Act to make by Order such provisions as are necessary to ensure that guarantee payments are given only to those entitled to them. This is, of course, essential to protect the Exchequer. For eggs and fatstock the Orders will end our reliance upon emergency legislation for this particular purpose. That is something which I am sure your Lordships will welcome.
I will describe briefly the most important provisions of the three Orders. They all require the keeping of certain records. I know full well that provisions of this sort are not popular, but we must recognise that some inspection of records is essential for the proper safeguarding of the guarantees, and that the payment of large sums of public money imposes certain obligations on those who receive such public money. We have tried to strike the right balance between covering 956 every conceivable possibility and avoiding imposing unnecessarily irksome requirements. I think that the provisions we propose are fair and reasonable, bearing in mind the large sums involved. We paid out £180 million on cereals, eggs and fat-stock last year. We believe that the Orders will not in fact involve anybody in much extra paper work.
As well as the requirements about records, each of the Orders provides powers of entry for authorised officers of the appropriate Minister at reasonable times. I think I can safely say that this power, which has been available to us under the Defence Regulations, has been used in the past with circumspection and will continue to be so used. The Orders also provide power to obtain possession of vital evidence which may be needed for prosecutions.
In connection with eggs, the Order specifies the approved marks which packers will be required to stamp on all hen and duck eggs qualifying for subsidy. In regard to fatstock and their use for breeding—which perhaps has been a difficult point—the Order similarly provides for marking every animal or carcase approved for guarantee payment in such a way that an attempt to get a second guarantee payment on it will be detected; and it prohibits the presentation again of any animal or carcase that has already been approved for a guarantee payment. Fatstock guarantee payments are intended for animals which are ready for immediate slaughter and to be used for meat. It would be an abuse of the guarantee system for animals on which payments have been made to be used for breeding, and we are therefore prohibiting the use of certified animals for this purpose.
The powers which are being taken up in these Orders we believe to be the minimum necessary to safeguard public money which is intended for the support of our agricultural industry, and I commend these Orders to the House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Fatstock (Protection of Guarantees) Order, 1958, be approved.—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.