HC Deb 12 April 1967 vol 744 cc200-1W
Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what arrangements will be made to help the bacon curing industry following the ending of the temporary scheme of assistance; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Peart

The exceptional difficulties that have recently faced the bacon curing industry have arisen from the decline in the number of pigs, and the measures we have taken to restore the level of pig production were set out in the White Paper on the Annual Review and Determination of Guarantees 1967 (Cmnd. 3229).

These difficulties were alleviated by the temporary scheme of assistance introduced last December. In announcing that scheme I said that it was our desire to see a strong and efficient bacon curing industry, and that I should be discussing with the industry what action to that end might be necessary in the longer term.

In the light of these discussions, the Government have decided to introduce new arrangements designed to bring greater long-term stability to bacon curing. Essentially these arrangements will rest on a comparison between the price of pigmeat for bacon on the one hand and the returns from the market on the other. When this shows a situation seriously adverse to curers generally, assistance will be given from the Exchequer; and conversely, when the situation is favourable to curers generally a levy will become payable. Between the two will be an area of some loss or profit in which neither assistance nor levy will operate. This will ensure that there is a continuing spur to efficiency of operation. The arrangements will also provide for the rate of assistance or the rate of levy to be scaled down in certain circumstances having regard to the quantity of bacon produced, in the interests of other users of pigmeat, and having regard to the provision of the Bacon Market Sharing Understanding.

Details of the scheme are contained in a statement being issued by the Agricultural Departments today, of which copies are being placed in the Library of the House. These arrangements will be reviewed each year, when consideration will be given to the operation of the scheme in relation to bacon curing, and the pig-meat industry generally, and whether any changes may be required.

The scheme will come into immediate effect, and payments will be made in respect of bacon cured since the beginning of this month when the temporary scheme of assistance came to an end. The scheme will be financed initially by advances from the Civil Contingencies Fund pending a Supplementary Estimate, and legislation to provide for it will be introduced in due course.

Although these arrangements are necessary to bring greater stability to bacon curing, the Government considers that there is need for an examination of the structure and operation of the industry, which the Economic Development Committee for the Food Processing Industry has agreed to undertake.

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