HL Deb 15 December 1966 vol 278 cc1757-63

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Apple and Pear Development Council Order, a copy of which was laid before the House on November 29, be approved. The Order is presented for your Lordships' approval in accordance with the requirements of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act 1947. The purpose of the Order is to provide a development council for the apple and pear growing industry in England and Wales, a purpose which is in accord with the wishes of that industry I should perhaps here call attention to Section I (3) of the 1947 Act which requires that, before making such an Order, the Minister shall consult any organization appearing to him to be representative of substantial numbers of persons carrying on business in that industry and such organizations representative of persons employed in that industry as appear to him to be appropriate; and also that he shall satisfy himself that the establishment of a development council for the industry is desired by a substantial number of persons engaged in that industry.

I can assure your Lordships that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has satisfied himself that a substantial number of growers of apples and pears want a development council for their industry and that he has the support of the National Farmers' Union, the National Union of Agricultural Workers and the Transport and General Workers' Union in promoting this Order.

As to the Order itself, this is designed to increase the efficiency and productivity of the industry and the functions which are assigned to in under schedule I of the Order are, we think appropriate for that purpose. They will enable the Council to undertake the all-important task of publicizing home-grown apples and pears as well as a number of other subsidiary but useful functions, all aimed at making the industry more efficient and productive.

My right honourable friend has decided that it would be fair and equitable for the growers—who will be called upon to meet the entire cost of the Council—to be in a majority on the Council and he pro- poses to appoint initially twelve grower members; he will also appoint three members to represent the interests of those employed in the industry; three independent members (who will include the chairman) and three having a special knowledge of the marketing and distribution of apples and pears. The Order requires that growers having five acres or more of land planted with apple and pear trees shall register with the Council by a certain date, and it also provides penalties for non-registration and for failing to furnish returns, produce books and other matters.

Article 10 of the Order enables the Council, with the approval of the Minister, to levy registered growers at a rate not exceeding 30s. per acre of land planted with apple and pear trees, although a grower with lightly planted land may, if he so chooses, elect to be levied on every fifty trees instead of on each acre. This will, we envisage, result in a sum in the order of £ 125,000 per year on which the Council will carry out its work. My right honourable friend is satisfied, as he is required to be under the provisions of the Act, that the incidence of the charges as between different classes of undertakings in the industry is in accordance with a fair principle.

The remaining provisions of the Order are in a common form and do not, I suggest, call for further comment by me other than to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that cider apples and perry pears are outside its scope. Accordingly, Schedule 3 to the Order lists the known varieties of cider apples and perry pears, and makes interesting reading. I was amazed to find that there are some 150 named varieties of cider apples and 101 named perry pears—and what lovely names most of them are, my Lords! As I read through them last night I found joy in being reminded of many names familiar to me in my boyhood days in a cider county—names which I had long since forgotten. Joy, that is, until I came to the name Morgan Sweet, which reminded me of a painful occasion when I was discovered with pockets bulging with Morgan Sweets, and my ingenious explanation of how they got there fell, to say the least of it, on doubting ears. My Lords, despite that painful memory, I am happy to commend the Order to your Lordships.

Moved, That the draft Apple and Pear Development Council Order 1966, laid before the House on November 29, 1966, be approved.—(Lord Champion.)

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for describing the Order so graphically to the House? We are glad to know that he has recovered from his early experience with Morgan Sweets. This is an Order very much to be welcomed. The setting up of this Development Council comes at the end of a long struggle over post-war years to get something of this kind set up; and the description of the Council which the noble Lord has given us should, I think, give confidence that this is the right kind of Council. If I may say so, I think he is right to give a majority on the Council to the growers, as their living is very much at stake and the levy can amount to quite a considerable sum of money.

This Council will, of course, give publicity to the sale of home-grown apples and pears which will be very valuable. I see that it can also do such things as promote research; and, of course, it can promote the export trade. The noble Lord will know that the apple trade, particularly, "had a go" in Germany recently at the Berlin Exhibition. The new grading scheme which the noble Lord and his ministerial colleagues are now putting into action for top fruit is a very valuable background to any publicity that is given to home-grown fruit. This will ensure that top-grade homegrown apples and pears will go into the shops and that there will be the proper kind of publicity to bring that to the attention of the housewife. In my opinion our home-grown apples are the best apples in the world—there is no apple to compete with the Cox's Orange Pippin in flavour—but they have to face the very efficient competition of apples grown in all parts of the world which are extremely well presented in very well-graded packs and very well advertised; and it is certainly high time that the home growers organised themselves to match up to the challenge of the imported produce. Certainly my impression confirms the noble Lord's, that there is general agreement in the industry, a last, that it is the right move to set up this Development Council.

I should like to pay a tribute to the leaders of the National Farmers' Union and to the leading growers who have worked so hard in these post-war years to bring this organisation about, and particularly to my own old friend Giles Tuker, who has been very much in the lead in this matter. The history of the industry has been a very troubled one. It happens that some ten or eleven years ago I was active in another place in moving the Order to setup the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, which received Parliamentary approval from this House and the other House but which, unfortunately, when it went out for a vote by the growers, was voted down. There was at the time very substantial opposition from the big growers in Kent, who thought they could do better on their own, and the result was that the idea of a full-scale marketing board was thrown out; so the leaders of the industry (Mr. Tuker was very much in the lead in those days) had to start all overagain.

They felt sure it was right to try to organise the industry to bring the growers together, and they very successfully set up a small voluntary body called the Apple and Pear Publicity Council, which raised its own funds to do just these things. They managed, with great difficulty, to raise £20,000 a year, compared with the £125,000 a year which this Council can raise by a statutory levy. Of course, this bigger figure is needed, and it is only right that the shoulders of everybody in the industry, of all the commercial growers, should be bearing their share of the amount. The levy provided for here should. I think, be the right one to give them the money they need.

This Councl will have the effect of bringing the industry together to organise the presentation of its produce in a really effective way, and I believe that it may well be a very valuable prototype for the rest of this hard-pressed industry. This is the first commodity in the horticultural industry that has set up a Development Council. I hope that noble Lords opposite will watch this to see whether, if it is a success, as I hope it will be, others in this very hard-pressed industry might follow in the same way with Development Councils for their products. The product approach, I believe, is the right one. There are plenty of problems already facing the industry, but if we go into the Common Market they will be even more intense and it will be even more desirable for the growers in this industry to cooperate in the more effective presentation and marketing of their products; and this may well be the best device for doing it. So I warmly support this Order. I am sure it is going to prove valuable to these growers.

I should like to ask the Minister a question on the appointment of the independent chairman. Of course, he is a factor of great importance to the future success of this Council. I should like to know whether Ministers have any thoughts on the kind of man they are looking for—he needs to be a man with vision—and when they expect to announce the appointment. With those words, I wish the Development Council every success in its functioning, and give my support to the Order.


My Lords, just before the noble Lord replies, may I say that I also am interested in and support very strongly the proposal that has come before us to-day? May I ask that among the members of the Council who are to be appointed, a list of whom was given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, there may be a consumer; that is, someone who knows about eating apples as well as about producing them? May we ask that among the independent members there should be someone who is a consumer? Also, I think it is possible that we might have one or two women on the Council, since they are the shoppers and the buyers of this product.


My Lords, I should just like to make an observation on what the noble Lord opposite said. I hope that, as a result of his speech, the establishment of this Council is not going to lead to the Cox being given greater publicity than it already has, which would be most unfortunate. The Cox is quite a good apple. It is a ladies' apple. There are at least twenty other kinds of apples which are on the same level as the Cox, but all this publicity that has been given to the Cox has tended to push the others out of the market. It is difficult to get some of the best English apples in the shop. I hope that this Council will see that we get a variety of apples.


My Lords, I am just wondering why the figure of 21 was chosen for the Council. It seems to me to be rather a large Council. I should have thought that 14 would have enabled us to keep the same proportions and that it would have been a body more likely to achieve success. In my experience, once you get over a dozen or 14 members on any of these bodies they tend to leave all the work to someone else. Possibly the noble Lord could say why the figure of 21 was decided on.


My Lords, may I say that I think the third Schedule to this Order is certainly the best Schedule that has come before this House for a long time. I hope that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack will take it as an example of what a Schedule should be. It will be seen that on the last page there is a list of varieties with their synonyms. Perhaps the high-water mark is reached in the following entry: "Tumper", for which the synonyms are "Tum, Tom, Tump".


My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome this Order has received. I rather liked the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, in this respect. I must admit that this Schedule seemed to me to be pure poetry. I almost recommended it to Mr. John Betjeman as something which might meet his approval and cause him to favour us with a few verses on it. Speaking generally I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken. I particularly welcome the emphasis which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, laid on the export trade of this marvellous product of ours. I think it is right that we should sing our praises in this connection. So many of the apples that I seem to buy, which come from abroad, have beautiful exteriors and a wonderful complexion; but behind the complexion, as in some other sorts of creations there is a rather sour interior. I would join with the noble Lord in his tribute to the National Farmers' Union and the leading growers. This has been a long process, a process which they were anxious to establish, and I believe that the co-operation which has been given over the years and has led to this successful conclusion is something for which we must be grateful.

As to the chairman of the Council, of course we have had some thoughts about this matter, but we are not yet ready to announce the composition of the Council. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, talked about the necessity for consumers to be represented. I am afraid there is no provision in the Schedule for consumers to be represented as such. But her point about women being on the Council I will, of course, convey to my right honourable friend, who is at this moment deciding on the composition of the Council.

So far as the noble Duke's remarks are concerned, I tend to agree with him that so often these Councils and bodies tend to become mass meetings, rather than small working councils; but we felt that we had to ensure that all the groups which are important in this connection were sufficiently represented. I believe we have struck the right number; they will be able to work through subcommittees as and when required. By these means I believe we shall be able to overcome some of the difficulties which the noble Duke envisaged. I think this is a very good Order, judging from the way it has been received, and, as I did before, I happily commend it to the House.


My Lords, may I point out that this list does not include eating apples like Cox's Orange Pippins, or cooking apples like Bramley Seedlings, and a great deal of research work, starting from the days of Sir William Hardy, was devoted particularly to those apples; and it is from this work that the very successful development of our export trade has grown to such a notable condition that it competed very successfuly with foreign apples.

On Question, Motion agreed to.