asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what complaints he has received as to the manner in which the British Egg Marketing Board granted exclusive rights to 12 processors to process all second quality eggs in the United Kingdom as from January 1964; and whether he will make a statement.
I have received a further complaint from Western Egg Pasteurising Company Ltd. It raises wider and different issues from the previous complaint on which the Committee has already given its decision, and concerns the general arrangements under which the Board's "seconds scheme" is operated. My right hon. Friends and I are therefore referring it to the Committee of Investigation.
May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on appreciating, under pressure, that it is no longer right to regard his Committee of Investigation's Report as final? May I also congratulate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on reversing, under pressure, the view that there was nothing further he could do to help his constituents? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First, since the Committee of Investigation will be looking into the position whereby a public board created a monopoly, the effect of which is to enrich twelve companies and face many firms, one of them in North Cornwall, with bankruptcy in four weeks' time, will he in the meanwhile make a temporary Order under Section 21, in view of the fact that the Consumers' Committee's Report has been referred under Section 19 to the Committee of Investigation, to allow this firm, any other firm, and any old-age pensioner, to buy second quality eggs while the Committee is sitting?
In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is no question of going back on what has already been decided by the Committee of Investigation. This is a new complaint which has been put in by the firm itself. It bears no relation whatever to anything that has happened before. It is a new complaint which goes before the Committee of Investigation. The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is, "No, Sir", because this was the specific point which was considered previously by the Committee of Investigation, and the Committee of Investigation reported against it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I raised the question of the granting of exclusive rights to twelve processors with his Ministry in July 1963? In view of what the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) has said, can my right hon. Friend say if his decision to refer this matter to the Committee of Investigation is a result of complaints made during the recent debate on agriculture?
No, of course it is not, any more than it was at the time when my hon. Friend raised this with me, as I remember, about twelve months ago. This is purely as a result of a complaint being put in formally to me by the firm concerned. It has nothing to do with anything raised on the Floor of the House.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will consult the persons involved with a view to securing agreement for the publication of the transcript of evidence taken before the Committee of Investigation considering the complaint of the Western Egg Pasteurising Company of Camelford.
My right hon. Friends would be willing to make copies available on request, provided that the Western Egg Pasteurising Co. Ltd. had secured the consent of the Committee, the Board, and the witnesses who gave evidence on the understanding that the proceedings would be private.
May I refer the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the terms of my Question and "whether he will consult the persons involved with a view to securing agreement" on publication? Will he answer that part of my Question? Secondly, does he agree that it would be valuable if the evidence were made public so that the nation could see how this Board went about its business and how it was possible for the Board to condemn the firm on 5th February, having inspected it on 6th February?
I am sure the hon. Member will realise that my right hon. Friend and myself are not parties to the case. I have answered the hon. Member's Question and I said that my right hon. Friend is willing to make this available if the Western Egg Pasteurising Company is prepared to get the agreement of the other parties concerned in the inquiry, it having previously been agreed that the inquiry should be held in private.