HL Deb 15 June 1965 vol 267 cc9-12

3.3 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Calf Subsidies (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1965, be approved. This Scheme, which was laid before Parliament on May 13, extends the arrangements for the payment of calf subsidies for a further period of three years, the maximum permissible under the Agriculture (Calf Subsidies) Act, 1952. If any changes are necessary within the three years it will be possible to make a variation scheme. There are four ways in which this Scheme differs from its predecessors. First, it is a joint scheme, made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland, for the whole of the United Kingdom. Secondly, the Scheme provides for the increase in rates of 10s. 0d. per head on both steer and heifer calves which was determined at the last Annual Review. For animals born on or after January 1, 1965, the rates of subsidy will be £8 for eligible heifer calves and £10 5s. 0d. for eligible steer calves. Thirdly, the new Scheme removes any doubt there might have been about the eligibility for subsidy of a calf which is ready for slaughter at the date of certification.

Lastly, the new Scheme does not provide for an unalterable minimum age limit. It is, however, our intention to continue for the time being the present arrangements under which calves are not in general inspected until they are eight months of age. There will, as before, be an exception to this: calves born in the spring in a hill area where there is inadequate winter feed on the farm, so that they must be sold in the following autumn, will, as hitherto, be inspected from six months.

To clear up any misconceptions, I should perhaps say that the Scheme now before your Lordships is not concerned with the extension of the subsidy arrangements which the Government announced at the last Annual Review. Under that proposal, subsidy will be paid on the carcases of home-bred animals which are certified on a deadweight basis for fat-stock guarantee and which have not previously received calf subsidy. This extension of the subsidy arrangements will in due course require further legislation, which your Lordships will of course have an opportunity to debate. We hope, however, to be able to start payments this autumn under the authority of the Appropriation Act. The calf subsidy is intended to encourage the retention and the rearing of calves for beef production. Over the years there has been a substantial increase in the number of home-bred calves which have been reared. The increase in rates provided for in this new Scheme will provide additional encouragement for those engaged in beef production. I therefore confidently commend the Scheme to your Lordships' approval.

Moved, That the Calf Subsidies (United Kingdom) Scheme 1965, be approved.—(Lord Champion.)

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords on this side of the House will welcome Lord Champion's description of this Order. It will indeed be welcome in all parts of the farming community because, first, it puts up the rate of calf subsidy by 10s. That in itself may not make a great difference, but the important part of this increase is the fact that it is an incentive to farmers to encourage their beef production. If this production is not encouraged quite considerably over the course of the next few years, we shall find that we have not enough beef animals to provide the carcases which will be required for slaughter.

Secondly, this Scheme widens the scope of animals to which the subsidy is applicable. From that point of view also it can be welcomed. Here I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Champion, or his right honourable friend, or whoever is responsible, for doing what I as a layman thought it completely impossible to do—I have never quite understood why—and that is to succeed in making one Scheme for the whole of the United Kingdom, instead of having two schemes, one for Scotland and the other for England and Wales and Northern Ireland. I am not quite certain whether it is the Scottish people who have capitulated, or whether it is the English, Welsh and Northern Irelanders who have been able to forgo a single scheme. But I feel sure that it is wholly to the good that we have one scheme only and not two.

I should be grateful if the noble Lord would explain one point with regard to this Scheme. He did touch upon it. The Scheme omits the date or the minimum age at which a calf is eligible. It is accepted practice that no calf is eligible for a subsidy until eight months old, but this does not appear in the Order, and, as I read it, it is perfectly possible for a farmer to apply for a subsidy in respect of a calf which is four or five months old, and there is nothing in the Scheme to prevent the Ministry from paying it off. I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will explain precisely what are the limits which prevent the Ministry from paying out a subsidy on a calf under eight months of age, and where those limits are set out. Apart from that, we on this side of the House wholly approve of this Scheme.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for the welcome which he has given to the Scheme. The incentive is to try to secure additional beef in this country, and the same consideration applies to the hill cattle subsidy which is designed for the same purpose. The fact that we have achieved one Scheme for the whole country seems to me to be an eminently sensible thing to do. It is not a case of capitulation either by the appropriate Department for England and Wales or by the Scottish Department concerned: it is a matter of mutual agreement which I regard as wholly satisfactory. The subsidy under the previous Schemes was confined to eight months for a calf, with the exception of bill calves where the winter keep might be short and the period was six months. The age limit has been found to be restrictive in some cases. It has not been included in the Scheme, but it has been made clear to farmers generally that the periods of eight months and six months will apply. It will allow a little latitude to the certifying officers in some cases where the calves may be just under eight months—a calf might be seven months and 28 or 29 days, or something of that sort. The limit has been a little too restrictive, and we thought that if we were to leave out the actual period it would be of some advantage to agriculture and also would save the time of the certifying officer.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, but could he be a trifle more specific? If a farmer applies for subsidy for a beast of four, five or six months, is there anything in the scheme to prevent the Minister so certifying? I know that it is the practice for them not to be certified, but is there any reason why they should not be certified?


None, except that the administrative considerations will be such as to prevent its happening in the sort of case which the noble Earl has brought to our attention.

On Question, Motion agreed to.