HL Deb 26 February 1963 vol 247 cc5-14

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order 1963, a copy of which was laid before this House on January 22, be approved. I think it might be for the convenience of the House if we were to discuss this Order in conjunction with the other Orders appearing on the Paper in my name.

The Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order is a simple matter of the mechanics of the Authority, and I think I can deal with it fairly quickly. If noble Lords will look at the definitions in Section 2 of the Meat Research Levy Order—the third of these documents—they will see that "fatstock" is so defined as not to apply to pigs in England, Wales or Scotland. This is because the Pig Industry Development Authority has undertaken to make a voluntary contribution towards the expenses of the proposed Institute each year, equivalent to the amount which would have been collected on pigs in Great Britain. The Authority's own funds are raised by exactly the same method as is proposed for the meat research levy—namely, by deduction from the fatstock guarantee payments—and this offer by the Authority will save considerable duplication of effort. Indeed, we should have been happy if we could have collected the whole of the meat industry's contribution on a voluntary basis, but the other branches of the industry are not at present organised in such a way as to make this practicable. But we have thought it best to lay an Order making it clear that the Authority may meet the pig industry's contribution to the proposed Institute in this manner.

The functions of the Authority under Part I of the Third Schedule to the Agriculture Act, 1957, include the promoting of investigations and research, but there is doubt whether a regular and continuing financial contribution such as that to the Meat Research Institute can be said to constitute "promoting". There is also an element of doubt because the P.I.D.A. levy is collected for the furtherance of the interests of the pig industry, and not for the purposes of meat research generally. The object of this Order is therefore to remove these doubts by giving the Authority the additional function of contributing to the funds of any organisation whose objects include undertaking investigations and research relevant to the problems referred to in the Third Schedule to the Act. It removes a technical difficulty without deviating from the objectives which the original functions were designed to serve.

It will now be logical for me to deal with the Pig Industry Development Authority Levy Scheme (Approval) Order. The purpose of this Order is to increase the income of the Authority by raising its levy from 2d. to 4d. per score deadweight with effect from April 1, 1963. The levy is imposed on every pig which benefits from the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme, and is shared between the seller and the buyer. Noble Lords will recall that the Pig Industry Development Authority was created under Part III of the Agriculture Act, 1957. This Act gave effect to the recommendation of the Reorganisation Commission for Pigs and Bacon, that such an organisation be set up with functions directed towards improving the industry's efficiency.

The present levy of 2d. per score deadweight was introduced in 1958. It was indicated at that time that the income provided by it would be sufficient for the first year or two of the Authority's existence, but that more money might be required as it extended its activities. The income from a 2d. levy—that is to say, about £500,000—is, is fact, well below the £1 million which the Reorganisation Commission forsaw would be needed for the discharge of the Authority's full range of functions; but the levy was not set higher than this at the outset, because many of the functions had to be developed from scratch, and the Authority did not wish to accumulate unnecessary reserves during its formative years. During its first two years, P.I.D.A. enjoyed an excess of income over expenditure, but since September, 1960, it has been drawing on reserves so created. The stage has therefore been reached where an increase in income is required if the Authority is to continue to discharge its functions effectively.

Since its creation the Authority has taken over existing work on pig progeny testing and recording and the premium boar scheme; to these it has added a boar performance testing scheme which, despite initial difficulties, holds promise of playing an important role in the future selection of breeding sires. A scheme for feed recording and a register of provisionally accredited herds have been introduced, and the Authority is subsidising artificial insemination for pigs as a means of encouraging the development of the technique and its wider use in this country. A most important field of expenditure has been the research and development programmes sponsored by the Authority. These programmes range over a wide field of veterinary, nutritional and management problems. The award of post-graduate scholarships has both enabled useful work to be done and assured a supply of research workers trained in this field. Some of the important subjects covered by the programmes have been carcase dissection; the development of the echo-sounding technique for assessment of lean-fat ratio in the live pig, which I saw demonstrated at the Selby station last Friday; and, more recently, the development of other methods for the better assessment of the carcase. The Authority has introduced the Meritmark, which identifies home-produced Wiltshire cured bacon; and it has undertaken a certain amount of advertising as well as general publicity and economic intelligence on behalf of the industry.

The cost of these activities already exceeds the Authority's income, and, because of this, the Authority has in recent months had to mark time on a number of extensions of its activities, which it proposes to embark on as soon as its higher income is assured. The largest increase would go to further research and development work, including the pig industry's contribution to the Meat Research Institute, which the Authority has undertaken to meet. Other fields of additional expenditure include improvements to the pig progeny testing stations; further work on carcase assessment; the expansion of boar performance testing, as soon as present problems are overcome; and a strengthening of the field staff. The Authority is also planning a campaign to assist the producer to reduce costs, with special attention to the need for efficiency in feeding practices. This campaign will be carried out in close consultation with the National Agricultural Advisory Service and the Agricultural Land Service.

Noble Lords may know that the Authority's application for an increase in its levy had a mixed reception when it was first made known in the spring of last year. As a result, the Authority has engaged in consultations with the industry's organisations. These have been most useful, and have, in addition, led to some modifications in the Authority's plans. The value of the consultations which have taken place, and the close collaboration to which they will surely lead in the future, is to establish the need for the Authority to carry the industry with it, satisfying the critics of any particular activity that, in undertaking it to the satisfaction of another section of the industry, the Authority is in fact serving the interests of the industry as a whole. It would clearly be most unreasonable to deprive the Authority of the resources it needs to discharge its responsibilities adequately, and I strongly commend for your Lordships' approval the Order now before the House.

I turn now to the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order. This Order, if it is approved by Parliament, will be made under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947. This Act, as noble Lords will recall, provides that charges may be imposed by Order on persons engaged in an industry, if it is thought expedient for funds to be made available for various purposes, one of which, and not the least important, is scientific research. The need for a substantial increase in meat research and for better facilities has been widely recognised for some time; and has been strongly urged both by the Technical Advisory Committee on Meat Research and by the Food Research Advisory Committee. These Committees are fully representative of the food industry and of the meat industry—producers, processors and distributors—in particular.

The Government accept the need for expansion and the object of this Order is to provide for a contribution from the meat industry towards the cost. The proposal is that the Agricultural Research Council—for which my noble Mend the Minister for Science is responsible—should set up a new Meat Research Institute to which the work on meat now being done by the Council's Low Temperature Research Station at Cambridge and the Food Technology Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be transferred. The Institute will undertake entirely new work, extending beyond that now done by these two bodies, and will concern itself particularly with new basic studies of the growth and properties of meat tissues and of factors influencing quality.

The programme is being worked out by the Agricultural Research Council which has recently announced the appointment of Dr. M. Ingram of the Low Temperature Research Station as Director of Meat Research. It is too early to give details, but it will probably be concerned with studies of the structure and composition of meat and their relationship to the breeding, feeding and management of the live animals. It will also no doubt include investigations into problems of tenderness and flavour, the effect on quality of pre-mortem and post-mortem treatments, and the examination of general problems underlying the processing and preserving of meat. In short, the ultimate objective of the Institute, which will serve the United Kingdom as a whole, will be to enable better meat to be sold more cheaply.

The capital cost of the Institute should be not less than half a million pounds, and the annual cost in the early stages is estimated at at least £100,000. Your Lordships may like to know that the organisation of the new Institute is already in hand. The Government are prepared to meet part of this cost, but it is felt that the industry itself should make some contribution; and the levy which the Order will impose is intended to cover about half the capital and recurrent costs. In order to save on administrative coats, which might otherwise have swallowed a disproportionate amount of the proceeds of the charge, it is proposed to make use of the existing Fatstock Guarantee Scheme machinery and to collect the levy by deduction from the guarantee payments in the method already employed for collecting the Pig Industry Development Authority levy. I am happy to say that the proposals have been generally welcomed. I hope that what I have said will convince the House that this is a very worthwhile project.

Moved, That the Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions) Order 1963 be approved.—(Lord St. Oswald.)

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the Orders which the noble Lord has introduced may I first say that I welcome his full and clear explanation of them. The Orders need to be read in conjunction with the Annual Report of the Pig Industry Development Authority, which can be obtained from the Printed Paper Office by any of your Lordships who are interested. It is an excellent Report, showing the records of the activities of the Authority, and covers a very wide field.

The noble Lord has referred to part of that Report in regard to research, advertising and other matters and I fully endorse his comments about the need for greater research and greater advertising. The annual accounts of the Authority are included in the Report, and it is clear that if the increased levy is acceptable to your Lordships this afternoon the income of the Authority will increase by about £1 million, as was suggested by the noble Lord. Last year the levy rose by no less than £140,000, and the total approached the £500,000 figure. The loss, as shown in the Authority's Report for the year before last, was £118,000; and last year it was £53,000. It is clear, therefore, that the Authority must have more money if they wish to carry on their work for the industry.

There is one further matter on which I should like to touch. The noble Lord referred to paragraph 6 of Part I of the Third Schedule to the Agriculture Act, 1957, but there is another paragraph, No. 10, which refers to another function which the Authority can undertake; that is, the undertaking of arrangements for advertising and increasing the sales of pigs and pig products. The noble Lord has dealt with the question of advertising, but I am concerned in this case with the lack of sales of English bacon. If we are right in assuming that possibly in the near future some proposal will go further abroad and that this country may import more Danish and other bacon, it will be to the detriment of the English product and English curers. It may be that the housewife shows a preference for Danish bacon, but I am struck by the way the grocers and others who sell bacon, do not advertise English bacon but almost invariably advertise Danish. A few days ago I was in a small country town and I inquired of four or five different grocers whether they could supply me with English bacon. Incidentally, I may say that, as a matter of habit, I never eat other than English bacon, and I commend to your Lordships that you, in your turn, should instruct your housewives to buy English bacon. That would very much help the sales of the English products against the imported product. I was offered Danish or Polish bacon; but not one of those shops—and this was in a pig-producing area—were able to offer me English bacon. I want to stress, not only to British housewives but to all concerned in the purchase of English foodstuffs, that there is no better bacon on the market than English.

2.58 p.m.


My Lords, may I add just one point in welcoming these proposals, with my noble friend Lord Wise? I should like to press the noble Lord who introduced these measures not to confine research simply to the production of pigs and of meat but also to what happens to it after it has left the farm. We are sometimes inclined to forget that the amount of money the farmer receives for his product is often little more than 50 per cent. of the amount the housewife pays. In other words, there is just as much money being spent in processing and handling the animal after it has been slaughtered as is spent in rearing it to maturity. Therefore, while undoubtedly it is of extreme importance to have as much research as possible to ensure that the money spent on rearing the animals is well and efficiently spent, and that the pig is properly housed and feeding-stuffs are properly compounded, surely it is no less in the national interest to make sure that the money spent after slaughter is also efficiently spent.

I do not think that even the most ardent advocate of the present system of processing and distributing would maintain that no progress at all can be made in these spheres. I am not sure whether the Orders before the House will make it possible for any money raised by these levies to be directed towards research in this second stage, between the farm and the shop counter: perhaps the noble Lord will make that clear. But if it is possible I very much hope that research will be initiated on this line. If it is not, I hope that thought may be given to it, so that in future it will be possible to devote some money, at least, to this form of research. Because I believe that it will be just as much of ultimate benefit to the consumer of meat and pig products as will any research devoted to the purely agricultural side.


My Lords, I am very grateful for the welcome that both noble Lords have given to these Orders. In fact, I think that the requests they made were all in the form of wishing to see the services emerging from these Orders extended as far as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, wished advertising to be included. As a matter of fact, this was one of the things discussed with the trade before the Orders reached the form in which I present them to-day. The trade is opposed to the money being used in this way, and I have to tell the noble Lord that, due to the opinion within the trade, any adoption of a national advertising campaign by levy income has now been dropped, and should such a policy be formulated it is now agreed that the costs should be met from funds other than the general levy.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us what he means by "the trade"? Which section or sections were opposed to this?


My Lords, the general weight of opinion was against it. I cannot identify within those consulted those who wished for one or the other, but the general weight was against the initial intention to include advertising as one of the activities which would be financed by this levy.


But, my Lords, surely if, as the noble Lord states, certain sections of the trade were opposed, he can tell us which sections of the trade opposed the possibility of activity on these lines.


My Lords, I can neither tell the noble Lord the list of all consulted nor, I am afraid, at this moment, can I tell him across the Floor, exactly which opinions were voiced by each individual body consulted. I am not able to do this, but I will try to do so later, if the noble Lord wishes. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, said that he hoped that these Orders would result in people eating more English bacon. Of course, one of the main purposes of this project is to make English bacon and bacon products more competitive and, therefore, more popular in the shops than he has found them to be. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, asked me whether some research could be channelled into processing methods after the carcase had been sent on. I did refer to postmortem processes, which include such things as curing, which I think the noble Lord had in mind.


My Lords, would the noble Lord amplify that? Does it also include actual handling and distribution or is it the purely technical side of curing? Does fresh meat also come under the ambit of this research; and the methods of handling meat and getting it into the shops?


My Lords, so far as I know, research would be devoted to the technical aspects of processing meat.


My Lords, the noble Lord has told us that nothing is likely to be undertaken on the lines indicated by my noble friend behind me. He told us that certain sections of the trade were opposed to any part of these levies being devoted to that kind of research. Will he now tell us whether the only opposition to research on these lines came from the distributors of bacon after it has been produced?


My Lords, I cannot tell the noble Lord that at the moment.


My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us this? Did the noble Lord and his right honourable friend agree or disagree with those who opposed the use on those lines of a possible levy?


My Lords, the ultimate consideration is found in the terms of these Orders to-day, after discussion with the trade.


My Lords, but surely the noble Lord is responsible for an Order that his Department has produced? He presents the Order in your Lordships' House, quite properly, and the only thing I had intended to say about these Orders, following the noble Lord's wide-spread speech, was, "Amen"! But at least I should like to know why a section of the pig trade resented any possibility of a contribution being made to research on either the processing or the actual distribution of the finished article.


My Lords, I have no details with me of the actual discussions that went on, which led to the present form and shape of these Orders. If it is possible for me to give details of this to the noble Lord at a later date, I will do so, but I am afraid that I have not the details with me, either in the papers I have or in my mind.

On Question, Motion agreed to.