§ Mr. THORNE
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that re- 50W cently it was decided to cease grading and marking beef at Smithfield Market, and concentrate the work at the Islington abattoirs; that this took away from the buyer the choice to have his beef graded and marked, and forced grading and marking upon him at the dictation of the wholesalers; that, in consequence, the grading has greatly deteriorated, and numbers of badly finished, half-starved, sides of beef, deficient in fat-covering and short of meat, both in loins and ribs, have been sent to market as prime English; whether he is aware that this practice has provoked protests; and whether he is prepared to restore the grading to Smithfield Market and leave it to the free choice of the butchers, with a proviso that his graders pay more regard to the rules?
§ Mr. N. BUXTON
The work of grading sides of home-killed beef slaughtered in London has always been carried out, for the most part, at the Islington abattoir. At the end of February, my Department notified the Smithfield wholesalers that, on and after 7th March, no beef would be graded at Islington or Smithfield unless the wholesaler agreed that the graded beef should also be marked. It is still open to wholesalers to refrain from having a proportion of their beef graded and marked, but I am advised that very few of the wholesalers exercise this option because they are satisfied that there is difficulty in selling beef which is not graded and marked. The suggestion that the standard of grading has since greatly deteriorated is without foundation in fact. Excepting one instance, I have not received any protests, and I am not prepared to revise the decision referred to. I would remind my hon. Friend that the progress made by the National Mark Beef Scheme and the question of its future administration are now under consideration by an Inter-Departmental Committee appointed jointly by the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself. This Committee will take suitable steps to ascertain trade opinion on the working of the scheme in all its aspects.