asked the Minister of Agriculture how far it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage producers to carry out schemes under the Agricultural Marketing Acts to develop more efficient and economical methods of marketing home produce if he is now prepared to approve those schemes which have been awaiting Government decision for more than two years; if he will advise producers that he is ready to consider further major schemes; and if he will favourably consider the restoration of powers to existing boards, such as the Milk Marketing Board, with due regard to the public interest.
It is most certainly the policy of the Government to encourage the promotion of schemes under the Agricultural Marketing Acts that are designed, with proper safeguards for the public interest, to develop more efficient and economical methods of marketing home produce. The three draft marketing schemes submitted to my predecessor and the question of the restoration of powers to existing boards raise policy problems of great importance and some complexity, which I regret to say are taking a long time to solve.
I can only say today that I fully appreciate the concern which is reflected in my hon. Friends' Questions and that I am doing my utmost to find a satisfactory solution of those problems, so that decisions, particularly on the three draft schemes, can be announced at an early date.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is a welcome move forward? Now that the main line of policy has been settled, will he give us an assurance that he will lose no time in consulting his Ministerial colleagues and producers' organisations in order to clear up such points of detail as still remain to be resolved?
Is not the Minister aware that his statement in the recent debate was regarded by the industry as facing both ways in that he both supported the restoration of powers to the Milk Marketing Board and detailed a large number of objections to it? Is he aware that if the M.M.B. had these powers back under the safeguards of the 1949 Act it would be a very valuable adjunct to the livestock policy which both he and we desire? Will he therefore give urgent consideration to the restoration of the powers?
I am very glad to have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that we have his support. I assure him that I shall lose no time in trying to come to a final satisfactory solution of this problem.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of uneasiness among farmers about the failure to restore the powers of the Milk Marketing Board? Is he aware that for several years since the war they have been looking for the return of these powers and that, while they are not surprised that they were not restored under the last Government, they look to the present Government to restore them at the earliest possible opportunity?
In the case of the dried pea marketing scheme does my right hon. Friend appreciate that this is a very important article of protein food, that the acreage has expanded very greatly in recent years, that it is a very good crop from the point of view of the fertility of the land and that it is most desirable that through a marketing scheme stability of price should be provided because this is a commodity which is not covered by guarantees under the Agriculture Act, 1947?