HL Deb 18 December 1968 vol 298 cc807-10

2.52 p.m.

LORD HILTON OF UPTON rose to move, That the Draft Livestock and Livestock Products Industries (Payments for Scientific Research) Order 1968 laid before the House on November 26 be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in 1961 the Government of the day approved the establishment of a Meat Research Institute. This decision was taken following the consideration of a recommendation by the Technical Advisory Committee on Meat Research, representing production and distribution interests in the meat trade and advising on technical problems of livestock and meat production. Of significance in the context of the Order which we are now considering was the decision taken by the Government of the day in 1961, that the meat industry should contribute half the capital and running costs of the Institute. This decision was explained to representatives of the industry early in 1962, and on April 1, 1963, the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order 1963 came into effect. I do not have to remind your Lordships that this was under a Conservative Government.

Unfortunately, as time went by the method of collection then approved was seen to be unsatisfactory. The Government therefore decided that the levy arrangements should be discontinued and that a more satisfactory method of collection should be found. This decision was explained to a meeting of industry representatives in November, 1965. Shortly afterwards Parliament approved an Order revoking the 1963 Order, and collection of the levy ceased as from February 14, 1966. At about this time, preparations for the Agriculture Bill—later to become the 1967 Agriculture Act—were in hand, Part I of which provided for the establishment of the Meat and Livestock Commission. Since the Commission would be collecting its own levy from the industry, it was clearly sensible to make provision enabling it also to raise a levy to meet the industry's share of the costs of meat research. This proposal also was explained to the industry at the meeting in 1965 to which I have referred.

It is therefore under Section 16 of the 1967 Act that the Order now before your Lordships has been laid. The Order simply requires the Meat and Livestock Commission to make payments to the Agricultural Research Council representing the industry's contribution to the cost of meat research work. As noble Lords will know, the Commission is concerned with the industry only in Great Britain; separate arrangements are being made for the industry in Northern Ireland to make a contribution. The Order covers the period up to March 31, 1972. We propose that the industry should contribute in that period at an annual rate of £197,000, although for the current year we think it reasonable that the contribution should be limited to approximately half this sum to allow for the fact that the Commission did not begin to collect its levies until October this year.

Finally, I would remind noble Lords that the contributions required of the industry, through the Commission, fully accord with the principle, enunciated by the previous Administration, that the industry contribution should amount overall to 50 per cent. of the costs of meat research. The need for this research is, and has been for many years widely recognised. We now have, in the form of the Meat Research Institute, the instrument for carrying out that work to the maximum benefit not only of those connected with the meat and livestock industry, but of consumers generally; and I therefore hope that the House will be prepared to approve the Order. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Livestock and Livestock Products Industries (Payments for Scientific Research) Order 1968 laid before the House on November 26 be approved.—(Lord Hilton of Upton.)

2.56 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, for explaining to us the purpose of this Order. While acknowledging that it is a valuable purpose and that this is work which we should like to see continued, I am sure he is aware that levies in the meat industry are a sensitive subject at the present time—


Hear, hear!


I hear some support in parts of your Lordships' House. I should be grateful if the noble Lord would tell us whether the agreement which the industry has given to this levy in the past is still forthcoming in the new circumstances, under the setting up of the Meat and Livestock Commission, where, as the noble Lord will know, we have had some difficulties. I am not wishing in any way to decry the value of this research work, which I think is very valuable and which I wish to see continuing. But I should be grateful if the noble Lord would tell us whether the industry has agreed to pay this levy.


My Lords, I cannot let this opportunity pass without repeating a protest which I made in your Lordships' House at the time of the passing of the previous Orders. It seems to me completely unfair, because, after all, the people who will benefit most from what is now being suggested in this Order are the producers of livestock. It is completely unfair that the slaughterhouse operators, and they alone, will be responsible for the levy. I think a great mistake has been made here, in that the money necessary for this purpose will not be collected more equitably from the various sections of the meat and livestock industry. I would never dream of opposing the Order, but at the same time I think it ought to be put on the Record again that this is not a fair levy.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved this Order said that its provisions had been explained to the industry at a certain meeting. I think he referred to it twice. I wonder whether for the Record he could tell us what the industry's reaction was.


My Lords, first of all, may I say that I recollect very clearly the arguments made against the levy on the meat trade in our previous debate, and I then congratulated my noble friend Lord Royle on the case he made. I do not really think I ought to bore the House, especially as we have other Business, by repeating the arguments I then put against him. Suffice it to say that no one disapproves of, or is against, the actual programme of research which this amount of money will finance.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked me about the reaction of the meat trade. I think there were two reactions. One was that the original amount of money was too high. As a consequence, the figure that it is now proposed shall be paid by the Commission out of the levy is about half-way between the figure of the trade and the original suggest ion of the Ministry. That is a compromise. Their other reaction was that, in a sense, we had here taxation without representation; that there was no representation of the trade on the Meat Research Institute. It was agreed that this was unsatisfactory, and the Minister had; taken the point. It will be considered with the Treasury and the Department of Science and Education, as well as with the Agricultural Research Council; and the Commission has agreed that some arrangement should be made under which the trade would have reasonable representation when deciding the programme of research and, consequently, the amount of money which will be necessary to finance that research.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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