HL Deb 26 June 1969 vol 303 cc271-4

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Cereals (Guaranteed Payments) (Amendment) Order 1969, be approved. I do not think I need to take up your Lordships' time in speaking at length on this Order. Its provisions are quite straightforward. It is concerned with the arrangements for calculating and paying to growers deficiency payments on barley which were originally set out in the Cereals (Guaranteed Payments) Order 1964, when the standard quantity/target indicator price arrangements were first introduced. The need for this amending Order arises from the changes in the arrangements following the determinations of Ministers which were announced following the 1969 Annual Review.

In the 1969 Annual Review White Paper, the Government set out the measures to be taken to give effect to their policy of encouraging an expansion of cereal production to the fullest extent technically possible and consistent with reasonable resource use and support cost. Last year we removed a limiting factor on wheat production by abolishing the standard quantity restriction, and in the Order now before your Lordships provision is made for the abolition of the standard quantity for barley.

Provision is also made for the ending of the arrangement under which, when the annual production of barley is below the standard quantity and the average realised price is below the target indicator price, the deficiency payment is abated within a range of production determined by Ministers. A similar arrangement for wheat was terminated last year. The current provisions relating to wheat, rye, oats and mixed cereals remain unchanged. I commend the Cereals (Guaranteed Payments) (Amendment) Order 1969 to your Lordships' House as a necessary step in the fulfilment of the Government's announced intention of promoting the expansion of cereals production while maintaining necessary safeguards for the Exchequer.

Moved, That the Cereals (Guaranteed Payments) (Amendment) Order 1969, be approved.—(Lord Hilton of Upton.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, for explaining to us the purpose of this Order. I welcome the change in the abolition of the standard quantity for barley. This is something which will be welcome to cereal growers. In noting the change in the seasonal price scale which the Minister of Agriculture put out in his Press notice, I observe that the result is to reduce the total range of the price scale over the whole season, so that now there is a range of only ls. 4½d. per cwt. over the whole 12 months. This seems to me probably too small to give farmers a strong enough incentive to hold their barley off the market at harvest time and then market it over the 12 months in an orderly flow, which of course is the whole object of the scheme.

I think that weight is given to my point by the fact that the range price scale for wheat over 12 months is 4s. a cwt. Will the noble Lord perhaps explain why the range is so narrow for barley, and whether he is satisfied that it will in fact be adequate to get an orderly flow of barley on to the market and make sure that we do not get excessive quantities put on the market at harvest time and immediately after?

The second point I should like to put to the noble Lord is this. Obviously the Ministry of Agriculture is in a reforming mood with regard to the deficiency payment arrangements for cereals and this, in the main, is to be welcomed. The noble Lord will be aware from his farming connections that, especially after the difficult conditions of last harvest, far too many had samples of home-grown grain have been put on the market, both wheat and barley. This is very damaging to the reputation of home-grown cereals and tends to depress the general price level for home-grown cereals as compared with the price of imported cereals, and therefore is bad for all the home growers. Will the noble Lord ask his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture to prompt the home-grown cereals authority into action in the coming 12 months to see whether they can devise an incentive scheme to encourage farmers to put their cereals on the market in top grade condition? It seems that the return on the market for high quality cereals is not sufficient in itself to encourage farmers to do just that, but it would undoubtedly be greatly to the benefit of all our home-grown cereal growers if our grain were put on the market in top condition. If the noble Lord will take note of this point and commend it to his right honourable friend, perhaps next year we may see in this Order a scheme of this kind introduced. With that, I have pleaseure in giving my support to the Order.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one further question? This Order brings barley into line with wheat. I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell us, as farming is a long-term operation, if it is the Government's intention to bring oats into the same system, and, if so, when?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for giving his support to this Order. I must say that I did not expect anything else. So far as the point raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, is concerned, I cannot say when oats are likely to be brought into line with wheat. I mentioned in my opening remarks that at the moment this is not catered for, but I think that my right honourable friend has this very much in mind, although I cannot give a precise date.

Replying to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, it is true that in recent years there have been difficulties about samples of grain being marketed in not very satisfactory condition. Obviously, what my right honourable friend, all farmers and people interested in buying and selling grain want is that it should be bought and sold in the best possible condition. Of course, I cannot give any guarantee, but I will certainly make sure that this matter is brought to my right honourable friend's attention to see what he can do about it in future.

On Question, Motion agreed to.