Orders of the Day — Clause 6. — (Regulations.) 10.2 p.m.
I beg to move, in page 6, line 41, at the end, to insert:
And the Minister may, after consultation with the Commission, vary or revoke any regulation made under this section if it appears to him and to the Commission that it is desirable so to do in order to encourage the production of those classes, qualities and descriptions of livestock for which there appears to be the greatest demand.
Clause 6 gives the Minister power by regulation to prescribe the descriptions of livestock, some descriptions to receive higher subsidies than other descriptions. It is quite true that under the Bill as it stands the Minister has power to alter those regulations from time to time, and he might well alter them in the sense indicated by the Amendment even if the Amendment were not accepted. Therefore, if the House were to pass the Amendment, it would be doing no more than to make clear the policy which it is desired that the Minister should pursue. I think it has been agreed by the House —at any rate, it has not been challenged —that the policy of the Government should be to try to secure that the production of high-quality beef should be made as profitable as possible, but that it is not the business of this House or of i he community to preserve in perpetuity the prosperity of the production of beasts
which are not of the highest quality. We have had issued to us a White Paper which indicates provisionally what the descriptions are going to be in the first instance. Roughly speaking, an animal of over 6½ cwt. which has a killing-out percentage of 54 per cent. will get 5s. subsidy, and if it is over 7 cwt. and has a killing-out percentage of 57 per cent., it will have a 7s. 6d. subsidy, and there are several other conditions which have to be fulfilled in order to secure the higher subsidy.
I hope that that is not the last word which we are going to hear on this subject of differential subsidies for cattle, because I feel that the House, the industry and the community are very deeply in ignorance of what are the qualities in a beast which attract to it the best price in the market; that is to say, the industry ought to find out that for itself. Does anybody really know, have we any idea, what the market prefers as between the 9½-cwt. or the 13-cwt. beast? If this Amendment were passed, it would have the happy effect of directing the attention of the Commission and of the Livestock Advisory Committees to this particular problem. Foreigners mainly beat us when the cost of production of beasts is concerned. Either they have lower wages than we have, or they are able to produce beasts by turning them out on something like a prairie, which needs no attention. In one way or another, their costs of production are liable to be lower than ours. Therefore, if our industry is to survive, it must survive on quality, and on producing those qualities for which there is the greatest demand.
I believe that this House, the industry and the country as a whole are not nearly so well informed as they ought to be. That is not to say that we know nothing about the superior qualities of British meat; it is not to say that it was right, as was suggested by a supporter of the Government, that there are parts of this country which know nothing of the superior qualities of British meat. I would like to answer what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) on the Second Reading with regard to the qualities of British meat, to the very great detriment of a substantial town in my constituency. The right hon. Gentleman said on the Second Reading that in the town of Ilfracombe British beef was unknown, and that there was no North Devon mutton or beef sold in that town. I think that what he really meant was that there was no increase in the consumption in the summer, when the population rises considerably. I have had that looked into, and the fact is that the consumption of Devon beef in the summer is more than 5o per cent. above the average monthly slaughtering, while in the case of sheep it is well over no per cent. above the average. Therefore, in Ilfracombe we are not so ignorant of the relative merits of British and other beef as the right hon. Gentleman would have led the House to assume. But I do not believe that we know as much as we might know on this question.
Major Frank Heilgers (Bury St Edmunds)
I desire to support the Amendment. The Mover said that this country was not nearly so well informed about the qualities of beef as it ought to be, but I suggest to him that it knows what it wants, and it wants the small beasts. I am certain that it does not want big beasts like Devons.
Major Frank Heilgers (Bury St Edmunds)
I can only speak of what I have seen at Smithfield, where at any rate the combination of North and South Devon is considerably larger than the Red-poll, and I can assure the hon. Member that the taste of the country as a whole lies far more in the direction of the Red-poll. I support the Amendment, however, because, after all, it does give a chance to the Minister to vary or revoke the regulations if it is desirable to do so in order to encourage the production of those classes, qualities and descriptions of livestock for which there appears to be the greatest demand. I think, however, that if he goes to almost any market he will find that the Suffolk Red-poll is the beast for which there is the greatest demand.
Lieut-Colonel Sir Gilbert Acland-Troyte (Tiverton)
I must contradict my hon. and gallant Friend. He is completely wrong. If he goes to any market in the country, he will find that the Red Devon gets the best price.
I am on the side of the big beast. The Mover of the Amendment tells us that his only purpose in putting it down was to direct the attention of the Livestock Commission to the problem of discovering what quality was most demanded by the country. It appears to me to be hardly necessary to call the attention of the Commission to what will be one of the principal duties for the carrying out of which they are established. If the hon. Member will refer to the White Paper, he will see, at the foot of page 5, the statement:
The proposals … place a premium upon home bred fat cattle of eligible qualities, and indicate that it is the Government's desire so far as practicable to encourage the home breeder to improve and develop his beef cattle herds.
As to the Amendment itself, it is, as perhaps the hon. Gentleman recognises, quite unnecessary, for it is already laid down in Section 32 of the Interpretation Act that, where an Act passed after the passing of that Act confers the power to make any rules, regulations or by-laws, the power will be considered as including a power exercisable in like manner and subject to a like consent to rescind, revoke, amend or vary the rules, regulations or by-laws. It is therefore unnecessary to put any words of that kind into this Bill. No direction in the Bill is necessary to enable the Minister to make any necessary adjustments in the Regulations.