Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd July 1959.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the light of the falling pig population, as shown by the recent censuses taken by his Department, what forecast he has made of the numbers of pigs to be marketed in Great Britain during the next nine months; and how this compares with actual marketings during the same months of 1958–59.
The total number of home-killed pigs marketed in Great Britain in the nine months July, 1958, to March, 1959, reached the exceptionally high figure of 7,573,000—considerably more than in the corresponding period of the previous three years. In view of the recent decline in the size of the breeding herd from the record level reached in May, 1958, some reduction in marketings is in prospect over the next nine months. It is difficult to forecast what the reduction will be, but it may well be in the neighbourhood of one-eighth.
That is a disappointing reply. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the concern that has been caused by the statement made in authoritative Danish quarters that the British Government have decided to withdraw the 10 per cent. protective tariff on bacon? Will he, therefore, take an opportunity of denying this statement?
My right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General has already made it quite clear that the Anglo-Danish talks are entirely exploratory, and will be resumed next week. On the more general point, I told the hon. Member—I think, last week—that I see no reason why the curing industry should not get a fair share of the pigs available, and I would remind him that last year's high figures were achieved at a very high cost in subsidy and imported feedingstuffs.
Although the Danish talks may still be at the exploratory stage, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is considerable anxiety amongst the bacon curers and pig producers lest concessions to the Danes may make the position of the British pig industry more serious than it is at the moment?
Naturally, I have listened with attention to what my right hon. Friend has said but, as I have just said, the talks are exploratory, though all these matters are being borne in mind during the talks.
Will the Minister at any rate give an undertaking that no such statement will be made unless there has been full consultation with the British industries?
As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, the talks being exploratory there is no possible opportunity for me to make any such statement as he asks for.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from the Cornwall Branch of the National Farmers' Union about the pig industry in Cornwall.
I have had no direct representations from this branch of the National Farmers' Union, but I have this morning received a copy of a letter they have written to my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper). I shall consider their views carefully and reply to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.
Is the Minister aware that fluctuations in the policy of his Department in recent years have caused great concern both to farmers and bacon curers in Cornwall, particularly to bacon factories in my constituency? Will he also take into account that there is a very high rate of unemployment in the county already which is also causing concern?
I cannot accept the implications of what the hon. Member has said. The figures up to the end of June this year show that more bacon has been produced in the first six months of the year than in the corresponding periods in the last two years. I do not think the hon. Member's question is a fair one.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only are the talks causing great concern to farmers in Cornwall and elsewhere but that, according to newspaper reports today, equal anxiety is being felt by the Danish agricultural interests?