§ 2.40 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the financial operation of the contract scheme proposed by the British Egg Marketing Board will not seriously injure the established producers' cooperative societies with their own packing stations supplying eggs direct to retailers, and so conflict with the provisions of the marketing scheme, as approved by Parliament, and nullify, so far as eggs are concerned, the declared policy of the Government to encourage co-operation in agricultural marketing.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, under present arrangements packing stations (some of which are owned by producer co-operatives) make payments direct to producers for the eggs they purchase on behalf of the Board. Under the new contracts scheme, the Egg Board will itself pay producers at fortnightly intervals. This was a matter for the Board to decide since, as Ministers have made clear, the detailed arrangements for the administration of the new scheme are the responsibility of the Board. I am not aware that this conflicts with the provisions of the marketing scheme or that it will nullify, so far as eggs are concerned, our policy of encouraging co-operation in agricultural marketing. I understand, moreover, that, following representations from packing stations on certain aspects of the scheme, the Board has announced that it is prepared to offer extended credit facilities to them for an interim period. The Board has also announced that the scheme will be subject to review in detail after it has been running for a reasonable time, and that suggestions from all sections of the industry will be given careful consideration.
§ LORD HURD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply and for the reasonable terms of the assurances he gave us. Will he furthermore ask the Minister of Agriculture to give direct assurances to the producers' co-operatives that when one of the producers' Boards is 105 going to launch something fundamentally new which the co-operatives think is injurious to their interests, the producers' Board will always have full consultations before bringing forward the scheme? It is Government policy, is it not, to encourage the agricultural co-operatives? This scheme seems to be rather a stab in the back for some of the existing farmers' co-operative societies.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I cannot give a complete assurance on this, but it certainly is the desire of the Minister to ensure that these co-operatives should be brought into the consultations as and when it is possible. So far as the "stab in the back" is concerned, I have heard that phrase twice in the last two days.