HL Deb 30 April 1968 vol 291 cc980-2

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Fatstock (Guarantee Payments) (Amendment) Order 1968 be approved. It may also be convenient to your Lordships if we discuss the Fatstock (Protection of Guarantees) (Amendment) Order 1968 at the same time, since the two Orders are complementary. The two Orders were laid before the House last month and came into operation on April 1. They cease to have effect unless approved within forty days of being made.

May I first speak generally about the Fatstock Guarantee arrangements? These provide for deficiency payments to be made on fat cattle, fat sheep and fat pigs to bring the average return to the producers broadly up to the guaranteed level. The first Scheme was introduced in July, 1954, when post-war food controls came to an end, and the first Payments Order was made in the following year. Since then, the precise arrangements have changed a good deal and new Orders were necessary in 1957, 1960 and 1964. The changes we are now making in the Payments Order are mainly technical. Power is being taken to provide for the delegation of certain functions to the Meat and Livestock Commission in Great Britain. It was made clear in 1965 that functions relating to certification for the guarantee would be transferred to the Commission in due course. This body was set up last year. The date of transfer is not yet settled but we wanted to have the necessary powers available in good time. In addition, minor changes are being made in the provisions relating to certification procedures so as to give greater clarity or flexibility where this is desirable. At the same time, the power to make special quality premium payments on pigs in addition to the guarantee is being deleted because it is no longer in use.

I turn now to the Protection Order. Large sums are paid out on fatstock guarantees. Over £60 million was paid last year, and it is essential to provide safeguards for the payment of the subsidies. That is the purpose of the Order which was made in 1958. This Amendment Order provides, like the one I have already mentioned, for the delegation of certain functions in Great Britain to the Meat and Livestock Commission. It also widens the provision relating to the marking of carcases approved for guarantee so as to strengthen the safeguards against fraud. It makes one or two other changes designed to bring references up to date. My Lords, I commend these Orders to the House.

Moved, That the Fatstock (Guarantee Payments) (Amendment) Order 1968, be approved.—(Lord Hilton of Upton.)


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, for explaining to us the purposes of these two Orders, and extend a word of welcome to them. With regard to the first one, which provides particularly for moving the function of certification of fatstock from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the Meat and Livestock Commission, I should be grateful if the noble Lord would answer one or two points. I welcome the Commission's having the function. I am sure that the direct contact with the market which the Commission will have as a result of their being responsible for certification will be a help to them in learning the complexities and intricacies of the fatstock market—and, Heaven knows!, those are infinite. This will help them in due course to face their very difficult task of trying to improve the general structure of marketing, and particularly of introducing quality grades, which I think will be of great benefit to the trade and to the housewife.

I should like to ask the noble Lord three short questions with regard to the change. First, would the noble Lord tell us what payment the Government will make to the Commission for carrying out this function and on what basis that has been assessed? Secondly, can the noble Lord tell us what was the cost last year, and what is the estimated cost this year, of administering the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme as a whole? I am asking not for the cost of the deficiency payments but for the actual cost of administering the Scheme. Lastly, can the noble Lord tell us what proportion of fatstock is now sold on a grade and deadweight basis, as opposed to being sold on the hoof, and whether there yet an increasing trend in this direction in the light of all the propaganda and education to try to encourage it?

With regard to the second Order on enforcement, I, of course, welcome any arrangement which can be made to increase the safeguards against fraud in this respect. The ingenuity of the market is infinite, as I well know, and includes such things as removing the ears from one animal and sewing them on another. Anything which can be done to stop up these channels will be to the good. I have pleasure in supporting the two Orders.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for the welcome he has given to the first Order. I am not sure that I can give him all the information for which he asks, but I promise that I will see he has it within a very short time. I have some information regarding the weight of fatstock through auctions, which was one of the questions asked by the noble Lord. The weight through auctions in 1966–67 was as follows: for cattle, 14.8 million cwt. or 65 per cent. of the weight of all certifications; for sheep, 300 million lb., or 64 per cent.; for pigs approximately 11½ million score deadweight or approximately 13.8 per cent. Obviously, I am not giving figures for:1967–68 because they have been greatly affected by foot-and-mouth disease.

I have some of the other information for which the noble Lord asked. The Commission will be reimbursed by the Exchequer for services carried cut on behalf of Ministers. These are natters for negotiation with the Commission on which nothing more can be said. I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied with what I have been able to tell him and that the House will agree to the Orders.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether those figures include Scotland?


My Lords, I cannot say offhand, but I will let the noble Lord know. I suspect that they do.

On Question, Motion agreed to.