§ 12.59 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft Meat and Livestock Commission Levy Scheme (Confirmation) Order 1968, laid before the House on 2nd July 1965, be approved. The purpose of the Order is to enable the Commission to finance its work. The Order has stimulated a good deal of discussion, both in another place and outside, and the related facts will be known as well to most of the interested Members of this House as they are to me. I do not, therefore, intend going into any descriptive detail. It would be discourteous of me to offer them more words which they have heard or read before. As I understand it, there is agreement on both sides of the House—there was agreement and there still is agreement—to set up this Commission, whose object is to improve the efficiency of the whole of the meat and livestock industry. The argument has been as to how the work of the Commission should be financed. There are some, probably including my noble friend, Lord Royle, who takes a keen and informed interest in these matters, who say that it should be financed out of public funds. I am sorry, but that just is "not on". The Act does not provide for it, and even though there 1436 has been some assistance for work which will become the Commission's responsibility, such as beef recording, there is no alternative to finding future money from the industry itself.
It is proposed that there should be a levy, and a levy applied at the point at which it is most economical to collect, namely, at the slaughterhouse. I emphasise that economy of collection is a real point. One of the arguments which have been advanced against extending the levy to cover imported meat is the argument about the efficiency and economy of collection, although there are, as noble Lords will know, other arguments against putting a levy on imported meat.
My right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland have listened very carefully to some of the objections that have been raised, and the rate of levy has been reduced. If it is to be increased again in the future, the Commission will have to come back to Ministers and to Parliament. I emphasise this because those who feel that matters may not work out as intended will clearly be able to express their viewpoint again if the possibility of finding an increased amount of money ever arises. In addition to this control which Parliament exercises, my right honourable friends have given an undertaking to consider representations of the trade if alter a year or so's experience of the scheme it appears that the levy is operating unfairly as between one section of the industry and another. I hope that with these assurances the House will be prepared to approve the Order. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Draft Meat and Livestock Commission Levy Scheme (Confirmation) Order 1968, laid before the House on 2nd July 1965, be approved.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords. may I first of all say to my noble friend that I am not one of those people who believe that the money ought to be raised from public funds. In the course of what I have to say, and I hope it will not be too long although I feel rather strongly, that will not be my argument, and perhaps it will come out in what I want 1437 to say that this is the fact. Your Lordships know that in another place this Order was discussed for some hours and into two nights, and as a result it might well seem that in your Lordships' House on a Friday afternoon it is somewhat academic to discuss the matter. I feel, however, that this is something which must be aired in this House and expression made of people's anxieties with regard to the terms of the Order, and therefore I want to oppose the Order in any words that I have to command. My noble friend has not gone into great detail, but he has explained the purposes of the Order, and therefore, even to that extent, I will not repeat what he has said, and so save time. I want to base my arguments on two aspects of the Order: first, that the demands of the Commission for their administration are too ambitious, and, secondly, that the levy is imposed on only one small section of the meat and livestock industry.
On the first point, I for one, and I feel sure most of your Lordships, when giving support to the establishment of the Commission never for a moment envisaged that a sum of money like £1,850,000 for initial purposes would be asked for. Out of that figure £675,000 is in respect of work at the moment being carried out by existing agencies and supported at Government expense. It is now proposed to pay for that by a levy imposed on a small section of the industry; and that is the point I am emphasising. I will spare your Lordships the detailed costs of each item, but I claim that the estimates are exaggerated and excessive and the Commission are endeavouring to set up a new and expensive empire. The Minister must have held this view to some extent when he reduced the levy, for example down to 4s, on cattle, and made proportionate reductions on the smaller animals.
In the second place, and perhaps more important, is the shocking way in which the money is to be raised. The Commission are taking the easiest way, ignoring any equitable method, by making the slaughterers of all animals pay the levy for all the Commission's expenses. The activities of the Commission will range over a very wide field of the meat and livestock industry, from the farm gate down to the retail butcher's shop, and the pyramid contains many levels—farmer, livestock dealer, auc- 1438 tioneer, slaughterhouse operator, local authority abattoir owner, wholesaler, other distributor and retailer—and there are very many farms and very many points of retail distribution.
If the position may be compared to an hour-glass, like the one on the Table of your Lordships' House, the point of slaughter is the neck of the glass, and that narrow neck is the easy spot for the Commission to impose their levy without any regard at all to fairness. It means that the slaughterhouse operator or, as the Order says, a person who presents the animal for slaughter-and in very many cases it is one and the same person; the presenter of the animal and the slaughterer of the animal in so many cases, particularly in private slaughterhouses, is the same person—has to finance the whole gigantic operation while all of us in the meat and livestock industry escape contribution. The producer stands most to benefit from this scheme, but he is not the one who is making the contribution.
During the passage of the Bill through Parliament several statements were made by Ministers in both Houses that the levy system, when it was imposed, would be fair. If the whole of the burden is to be imposed on one small section of the industry and that is regarded as fair, I give up; and I must say I lose faith in my political friends who made those statements.
There are many other elements of unfairness. My noble friend referred to imported meat. Imported meat, a large proportion of our supply of meat in this country, completely escapes the levy, and yet the scheme includes all kinds of meat; and all types of cattle going through that exportation escape. But they will have received subsidies and advantages from the Commission. Animals imported alive apparently will escape the levy, yet they come into the ramifications of the Commission in the same way. The Minister set up several committees to advise the Commission and those committees are statutory. That was done because obviously the members of the Commission are not experts in the industry as a whole. The distribution committee have opposed the levy almost unanimously, and I am informed that it was that opposition that caused the delay in the presentation of the report between 1439 April and early in July. Having opposed it as strongly as they possibly could, the Committee were completely ignored and the Commission came through with the Report out of which this Order arises.
The Distribution Committee is drawn from most branches of the meat distribution trade. But the private slaughterhouse operators have no voice on that Committee. It is true that the local authorities have three representatives. But there are in this country three times as many private slaughterhouses as there are public slaughterhouses. In any case, there are many places where the private butcher merely rents floor space in the public slaughterhouse from the local authority in order to slaughter his animals. According to the Order, these men pay the levy, not the local authority.
I think that there is nothing inherently wrong in the Meat and Livestock Commission being financed by the industry, but the levy should be imposed on all sections. If I were to express a view as to the best method to get the money for the work of the Commission, I would say that it should be tied up with the February Price Review, and that the expenses of the Commission should be taken into consideration during the course of that Review. If this were done, then every section of the meat and livestock industry would become involved and would bear their share of the burden. It is impossible, as was suggested in the debate in another place, for the levy to be passed back by recovering from those who sell the animals. Prices at auctions go up in £5 bids. Without statutory authority, how can you make a deduction of 4s. or 5s, from an auction price on a beast which is costing £100? The levy cannot be passed on to the consumer, when again it would be only 4s. on a beast weighing 800 lbs. and costing £100. It would be real profiteering if any attempt were made to pass it on, because such a small amount could not possibly be passed in proportion to the value of the animal. There are many other aspects of this matter, but I am conscious that I am talking too long and I do not want to weary the House. This Order received severe criticism from all sides in another place. I had many Lobby conversations 1440 with Members of Parliament during the course of the discussions on the Order, and I have read most carefully the reports. In the course of several hours I could find only one speech from the Back Benches supporting the Minister's contentions. It is true that when the Division was taken there was, I think, a majority of 47 in favour of the Order. But this was clearly a vote on the part of Government supporters out of sheer loyalty to the Minister. There is no doubt about that. This, in spite of so many of them expressing themselves in the debate, and many more having expressed themselves to me as being against the Order. We, as politicians, all know that this kind of thing happens, and that when the Division is called Members are loyal to their own Minister. In my view, this is precisely what happened. But that vote, I suggest, was no indication of the opposition which existed on Tory, Labour and Liberal Benches in another place the other night. I remember quite clearly that one speech in support of the Minister was rather half-hearted.
So the Order has arrived in your Lordships' House, and I am asking my noble friend to take it back for further consideration, and to ask the Minister to produce another scheme which will not hit so heavily one small section of the meat and livestock industry. In any case, this Order should be for one year only. Going back further than the suggestion made by my noble friend, that the trade might be consulted at the end of the year, I would much prefer that the Order should be made for one year aid for one year only, and that it should be mandatory that it be reconsidered at the end of the year. I feel certain that if this were done, the agitation which has been coming from the great proportion of the retail meat trade, from the wholesale trade and many others would be proved right at the end of those 12 months.
I cannot divide the House on this Order. I have memories of what happened when your Lordships threw out another Order in connection with Rhodesia, and all the constitutional problems which arose. Even were there to be a full House, and even had I some support, I should never dare, in these circumstances, to think of dividing the House. So I am appealing to my noble friend's sense of fairness and justice. The meat trade 1441 is up in arms about this Order, and already there is talk of non-co-operation in the scheme as a whole. If the Meat and Livestock Commission is ever to be a success, I suggest that it must have the good will of die traders who will have to operate it. Do the Commission want to run a scheme without the co-operation of the traders? I suggest that they would never hope to do anything of the kind.
If I have spoken for too long, it is only because I feel strongly, having been, although not now, associated with the meat trade for a large part of my life, and I hope that I shall have some sympathy from my noble friend.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I have listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, expressing the point of view of the butchers and, if I may say so, expressing it well. I feel that he has done us all a service by putting before us that point of view when we are debating this Order. As he reminded us, in another place widespread opposition was expressed to this Order, and indeed finally the House was divided against it. I have therefore considered whether I should advise my noble friends in this House to follow suit. However, I see that most of them are more concerned with eating the product of the livestock than talking about it at this moment.
I recollect that about a month ago the Prime Minister warned this noble House that at an early date it was "for the chopper". Rejecting the Order in regard to the butchers levy might be the right way in which to bring the chopper down. It certainly would provide an opportunity to see what sort of edge the Prime Minister's chopper has. However. with the Commons departing for their "hols" it would hardly be fair to bring them back again to sit next week. Therefore, I shall resist the temptation to join with the noble Lord, Lord Royle, even if he wished to divide the House.
I recall that when discussing Part I of the 1967 Act. I indicated my support in principle for the Meat and Livestock Commission, and I stand by that decision today. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will no doubt be relieved to hear that. On the other hand, I am hound to comment that the Minister and the Com- 1442 mission seem to have been outstandingly unsuccessful in putting the Scheme over. If the Commission does its job properly, as I hope it will, it will undoubtedly improve the general marketing of livestock throughout the country for the benefit of producers, distributors, and housewives.
The pioneering work that P.I.D.A. has done gives us an example of what can be done in this field. That being so, I feel that it should be possible to convince farmers and butchers alike that it is in their interests to support it. With regard to the levy itself, on the Committee stage of the Bill last year I did advise the Government that it would be wise to spread it over imported meat as well as over the home-produced meat, and this was a point to which the noble Lord. Lord Royle, adverted. I thought that this would help to make the incidence of the levy more acceptable. I am sorry that in the event that has not been one. I understand that there is power in the 1957 Act for the Minister to do that, and although the degree of benefit for the imported meat is not as great as that for the home-produced meat, it will undoubtedly got some benefit out of the progressive improvements of the structure.
I hope that this point may be considered perhaps in the future as a better method of spreading the incidence of the levy. The noble Lord, Lord Royle, had, I thought, a very cogent point when he said that the incidence of the levy at the point of slaughter seems unfair in its initial impact. I should expect that the cost of the levy will filter through in various ways to the final cost to the customer, to the housewife, over the counter. Just how that will happen I should not like to predict, but I think this is a point which must clearly be watched by the Minister during the coming year. If it appears that the whole impact of this extra cost has fallen direct on the slaughterer, and that the slaughterers' profit margins are thereby directly cut, then clearly some way must be found to spread the cost. I hope that, one way or another, it will be possible to make this levy acceptable to all concerned, producers, distributors, and butchers alike, because we want their co-operation in something which I believe can, in the long term, be beneficial to everybody.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ LORD WOOLLEY
My Lords, I support this Order, and I have listened with interest to Lord Royle's moving presentation of the butchers' point of view, and if he says that no one has given it other than lukewarm support, well at any rate I will try to remedy that by giving it full-blooded support. I do so because I know that for very many years this has been a neglected area in the whole agricultural economy, and indeed in the food economy. Livestock products represent the biggest single area in the agricultural economy, and very little has been done until, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said, the P.I.D.A. was created, which itself met with very bitter opposition at its outset and very much criticism. But it worked its way through, and to-day it is undoubtedly recognised as a very valuable element in the pig industry.
I believe that this Commission has the potential to do this on a very much bigger scale. I believe that the objective that we must always bid for in the end is consumer service. If it does not do something that is worth while for our customers, the housewives of this country, then I do not think that the Scheme will he durable or justified. However, I believe that it will. In the process I think that the Commission needs to have adequate funds. The noble Lord, Lord Royle, has suggested that the funds are extravagant. I do not go along with that view: indeed, I think it is a very modest sum. I am rather more concerned lest there has been rather too much cheeseparing in leaning over too far backwards to try to meet the opposition that has been aroused. However, I accept that the sum proposed is probably of the right sort of order. People who are concerned have gone closely into it. I see no sign of extravagance whatever; indeed, I believe that this rather small sum of money is very much less than some single pig companies in this country spend annually simply on advertising a product, let alone the whole of the research that is involved for a vast industry of this kind.
On the question of how the money should be raised, there are the alternatives that it could be public money or it could come out of the trading channels. There are many policies that can be 1444 effectively implemented only through the use of public money, and public money on a big scale. I am in no way doctrinaire about this, but I would say that, on the whole, it is better that the funds should be raised by the people who are participating in the Scheme, who are affected by it. There is a greater sense of involvement; there is a greater interest. There certainly will be a greater keenness to scrutinise the work of the Commission if people are paying for it themselves, rather than its coming out of some public largesse.
I do not think the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Royle that the cost should be met from money allocated out of Price Review money, is practicable. If my memory serves me correctly, this is not possible, and even if it were so earmarked, the money would be coming through the Treasury and it would be the very counter, the thing the noble Lord has said he does not agree with.
So we come to the question of who should pay out, and from whom does one collect. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord has said about this being done, so far as is practically possible, on an equitable basis, but he himself has referred to the many elements that are involved in this very great complex. He has talked about the producers and while it is true that in some cases the producer does everything, in that he breeds, rears and feeds the animal—the calf, sheep, pig, whatever the animal may be—and presents it for slaughter, this is not the usual thing. There are quite a number of links in this chain, as the noble Lord knows—indeed he has referred to them.
So if one were to take in all these people, and bearing in mind that the main objective and purpose and justification for any Scheme of this kind is that it will serve the public interest, then it would be necessary to bring in the public too. They are beneficiaries, we hope: if they are not, there is very little purpose in the Scheme. I think it is really beyond the wit of man to devise an administrative system that would allocate the cost equitably as between all these atomised elements in the industry. I think that when it came to administration the whole Scheme would collapse under its own clumsiness and 1445 cost, and this is one of the greatest dangers with Schemes of this sort. They may be very good ideas; but in practice they can create so much cost, so much administrative expense, that the end result is very dubious.
There may, of course, be some who do not want a Scheme at all. There are those who do not think this is the right sort of Scheme. There are many farmers who, for years, have wanted a statutory Meat Marketing Board. The present Scheme, of course, came from the Verdon-Smith Committee, which was set up by the Conservative Minister of Agriculture. Their Report landed on the new Labour Minister of Agriculture's desk, and the Labour Government have carried it forward. This is, as your Lordships know, an agreed measure. There is a good deal of tongue-in-cheek quibbling by some people about it. There are, as I read the debate, a good many people who are doing an expert piece of fence-riding. I have not noticed anybody coming out with any cogent and positive proposals as to how they would do this otherwise than the Government have done it. They are making nice noises to the butchers, no doubt because that is a good thing to do politically, since butchers are effective and important people. That is not what concerns me. I speak as a farmer, and therefore I may he suspected of saying "I'm all right, Jack-let the butchers pay." I assure your Lordships that that is not my intention. I do not wish, nor do the farming community wish, to escape from a fair contribution to the whole exercise. Indeed, I am in no fear that we shall escape it.
The noble Lord has said that the butchers will not he able to pass it back or pass it forward. Knowing my friends the butchers, I am sure that they will pass it somewhere and will not stand as the sacrifical lamb in the bleak wind of this tremendous burden and penalty, which, the noble Lord went on to say, was so small that they could not identify it. Either it is big enough to identify and do something or other about or it is so microscopic that it does not matter. I believe that this levy will work out in the normal trade channels. Sometimes one part of the equation will be a little more and sometimes the other. I am sure that there will be no unfair burden resting 1446 on the butcher, nor should we wish there to be. We want to see equity. I take the noble Lord's simile about the hourglass, which is a good one. You have to find the bottleneck or point at which the animal is transformed into s meat carcase. That is at the point of slaughter. Until that time you do not know what happens to the animal. Once k lied, it becomes meat.
The Meat and Livestock Commission deserve our support, and not our grudging support. They have a difficult job to do in a very complex field. A lot of cold water has been thrown on this matter, I think quite unfairly. It has to prove itself. We shall see, and we shall take a keen interest. I think it is a sound proposition. It will not stand the world on its head; there is nothing dramatic or miracle-working about it, nor do we want that; but it represents steady progress. I think that this is a sensible Order to finance the Commission. I hope that there will be enough money and I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Royle, that if after a period of time the financial requirements grow to a level of large and significant proportions, then an open mind should be kept as to whether or not at that time the Treasury ought to come into it. I do not think that is the case at the moment. I cannot tell what it will he in the future. I wish to support the Order.
§ 12.36 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, after the brilliant and comprehensive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, there is little left for me to say; but in view of the challenge which was issued by the noble Lord, Lord Royle, to those who strongly support the constitution of the Meat and Livestock Commission I feel that it is my duty to make perfectly clear that, so far as I dare to speak for Scotland, I believe that we are 100 per cent. in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, had to say.
In regard to imported meat and whether or not a levy should be pit upon it, I agree very much with my noble friend, Lord Nugent of Guildford. This matter ought to be looked into at some time in the not too distant future. I am not quite sure that it is right that one cannot put a levy on imported meat without giving that meat similar benefits in the market. I do not think that 1447 is a very good argument. What to my mind is a clear argument is that the imported meat is going to compete, with the advantage of not having to pay the levy which the home producer or home processor, the butcher, has to pay. The imported meat will get the benefits of certain of the advertising expertise which the Meat Commission will put in, and sufficient weight has not been given to this point.
The Chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission, Sir Rex Cohen, is an expert on the retail trade and he has a particular interest in, and knowledge and understanding of, the problems of labelling. If a proper system of labelling meat comes in and helps the housewife and results in the sale of still more meat, then the first people to get on to the band-wagon will be the people who send in meat from abroad. They are in a way better organised than even we shall be under the Meat and Livestock Commission. I wish that people would realise the tremendous advantage of meat importers in being able to grade and regulate their products for marketing in this country.
Unless we have this Meat and Livestock Commission working, and unless we provide them with the money to enable them to work to the full, then obviously our whole industry, not just the producers, will continue to be at a considerable disadvantage. I think that the meat trade is rather sensitive. I share the belief of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, that there are so many able persons running the meat industry that one cannot believe that they will not discover means of pushing the levy a little way back to the producer or a little way onwards to the consumer. When livestock are in short supply, it will go on to the consumer. When livestock are in full supply, then, as we know from past experience, it will come right back to the producer.
The noble Lord, Lord Woolley, said that a large part of British agriculture is composed of livestock. That applies even more so in Scotland. I believe that in Scotland about 80 per cent. of our total marketed output in agriculture is from animals, and nearly 50 per cent. of that is from meat animals. It is most important that our meat industry should 1448 be properly organised. Bearing in mind the task of getting the industry properly organised, the fundamental research which needs to be carried out, organised marketing, advertising, and the public relations work as between the industry and the rest of the country, if one thinks that 1½ per cent. is a large sum of money for the industry to put aside one has no idea of what is put aside by other industries for those purposes.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I do not think it is anything like as much as 1½ per cent. The total value of the livestock industry at the producer end must run into several hundred millions of pounds, and this is a sum of under £1½ million. I should think it is more like one quarter, or 0.1 or 0.2 per cent.
LORD BALER NO
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. I realise that I had a "damned dot" one place out. If you take the marketed output of the meat industry it is well over £100 million—that is, taking it from the point of payment by the housewife—the levy being £1.8 million. I am very glad to be corrected by the noble Lord. because it makes my point even more attractive than it was before.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Royle said that the meat trade was up in arms, and I think it would be generally agreed that they have a very fine champion in my noble friend. But as was seen, the producers also have their champions, and I am not at all certain that when my noble friend entered the lists he quite appreciated what opposition he was going to meet. After the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, had spoken I felt that I could get up and do what I understand a certain statesman did in Bristol on one occasion, and just say "Ditto" and sit down again. But probably I ought to try to answer one or two of the points that have been made.
I was glad to hear my noble friend say that he was not in favour of a public subvention. But if he wants it to come through the Annual Review it is, in effect, a subvention through the back door. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, that this is only another way of saying that it should come out 1449 of the public purse. My noble friend also made a point about representation of private slaughterhouse owners on the Distribution Committee of the Commission. This is a point which he knows was discussed during earlier proceedings. The fact is that within a Committee of manageable size—and this Committee has 23 members—places had to be found for very many interests. Wholesalers, retailers, processors and others, who, in practice, comprise the operators of private slaughterhouses, are all represented.
What my noble friend was really concerned about was the complaint that money was being extracted for the industry as a whole from this one narrow point. But I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley—and I think I am right in saying that to some extent it was made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford—that although the money is taken out at one point it will be diffused, or filtered through the whole of the industry, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, put it; or the retailers will find some way of "passing the buck" which is virtually what the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, said.
I emphasised at the beginning the economics of this matter. The estimate given to me from the Commission is that the costs of alternative systems of collection will be some three times or more the £125,000 which it is estimated will be the cost of collection under the present scheme. I am bound to say that I did not quite follow the argument of my noble friend Lord Royle, that because the Minister had reduced the rate of the levy, that was an indication of the ambitious character of the Commission, and that they were bent upon empire building. I should have thought the lesson to be drawn from this reduction was quite the opposite, and that no one had any intention of empire building.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, when the Commission make their original Report they asked for twice that amount, and I was accusing the Commission of empire building—not the Government. It was the Minister himself who reduced the figure.
§ LORD BESWICK
To the extent that there was this tendency towards empire building, I should have thought it had 1450 been squeezed out by the reduction in the rate of levy which is now proposed. There is one point outstanding, and that is the question of the extension to imported meat. I am bound to say that at first sight one naturally thinks that this would be a fair thing to do. Why should one impose the whole of the levy on the British producer? The fact of the matter is that the British producer himself hopes that the Commission will help his interests.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the fact of the matter is that one way or the other we are dealing with British-produced meat, and this is to help the marketing of British-produced meat. The producers themselves say, reading an extract from the Farming Leader—which is the N.F.U. of Scotland's journal—of June 18, that they do not want the levy to be extended to imported meat. In fact, they say:We should recall that the Union"—that is, the N.F.U. of Scotland—was instrumental in having sales promotion of home-produced livestock products included in the Commission's terms of reference. It is therefore illogical to expect meat importers to subsidise the promotion of products which are in competition with their tradeThey end by saying in this articleWe can do without their contribution.I think that fairly represents the point of view of the producers.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend will allow me to interrupt him again. It is easy for the producers to say, "We do not want any levy shared by the importing people." They are not paying the levy. It is the easiest thing in the world for them to say that.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am afraid that we are back in square one, and I shall not pursue this any further. The view of the Government, the view of the N.F.U., the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, is that this cost will, one way or the other, filter through or be diffused, throughout the whole of the industry. 1451 There is the point of imports, however, and that is a matter which has been seriously considered. Apart from the point which I have just made, that the British producers themselves do not want it, there are other considerations.
Those who supply us with meat from overseas would not take kindly to a system which imposed a levy upon what they exported to us. There would berepercussions which, in the long run, would not necessarily be in the best interests of this country. In any case, I think it has been generally agreed that it would not be fair to impose the same rate of levy upon imported meat. The rate would have to be smaller, its cost would be greater, and the net result would not be any help to the meat traders, for whom my noble friend Lord Royle has spoken so eloquently. Anyhow, there is a difference of viewpoint. The noble Lord has put his point of view and what we should now agree is that we should see how it works out in practice. If at the end of a year or so it can be shown that it is working out unfairly, then my right honourable friend has given a very adequate assurance that he will seriously consider what is represented to him by the meat trade. I hope, therefore, that we can now see this Commission launched and that we shall wish it well.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.