Clause 2. — (Bonus Payments and Loans in Respect of Forward Contracts.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Cereals Marketing Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th March 1965.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington 12:00 am, 9th March 1965

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 11, to leave out from "whereby" to "by" in line 22, and to insert: any person who—

  1. (a) satisfies the Authority that in the ordinary course of business he makes loans to farmers to provide them with working capital, and that a grower of home-grown cereals has applied to him for such a loan, or has received from him such a loan which has not yet been repaid, or
  2. (b) satisfies the Authority that he extends credit to farmers in the ordinary course of a business of supplying goods or services required for agricultural purposes, and that a grower of home-grown cereals has applied to him for credit to be so extended, or has received from him credit so extended which is still outstanding,
and who (in either case) fulfils such other requirements (if any) as may be determined in accordance with the scheme, may request the Authority, and the Authority shall thereupon be required, to furnish to him such information as may be determined in accordance with the scheme with respect to loans made to that grower. Perhaps I should preface my remarks by saying that this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to address the House since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne) was appointed shadow Minister and became spokesman on agriculture for the Opposition. I congratulate him and, speaking personally, I sincerely wish him well. I am sure that we shall have our arguments but, with his great experience of the House, I know that he will always express his case clearly for his party.

The principle of the Amendment aroused considerable discussion in Committee. I said to hon. Members opposite then that I would consider the matter further to see whether improvements could be made. I have done that and this Amendment seeks to define more strictly the persons who may be entitled to information about loans granted by the Authority. There was much discussion about the provision in subsection (5) of the Clause which deals with the disclosure of information about loans granted by the Authority.

These provisions are designed to implement an agreement reached between the farming and trade interests last September. Most hon. Members know about that agreement, which has, indeed, been the basis of our legislation. We are acting still in the spirit that information about these loans should be made available so as to safeguard the position of agricultural merchants and others providing credit to farmers. It was accepted that this principle should be part of our legislation, and that this agreement should be honoured.

It was also accepted on both sides that information about loans made by the Authority to growers should be disclosed only to those who had a legitimate interest in seeking the information. In other words, we are seeking to safeguard the position of the agricultural merchants and others providing credit to farmers—a provision that is accepted on both sides. The question that was discussed was whether the wording of Clause 2(5) in the form in which it then was was adequate from the latter point of view. I undertook to consider all the arguments that have been put forward, and this Amendment derives from that undertaking.

The effect of the Amendment is that the only persons who may be entitled to information about a loan granted by the Authority to a particular grower are those who can demonstrate two things to the satisfaction of the Authority. What are those two things? First, they must demonstrate that they are persons who, in the ordinary course of business, make loans to farmers to provide them with working capital, or that they are persons who extend credit to farmers in the ordinary course of a business of supplying goods or services required for agricultural purposes.

The second requirement is that the persons in question must be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Authority either that they have made to the grower who is the subject of the inquiry a loan or extended credit which is still outstanding, or that they have had a request from him for a loan or credit.

But persons who satisfy either of these general requirements are not given by this Amendment an unconditional right—I make that quite clear—to information about loans made to individual growers. As I have always argued, we must give the Authority some discretion. It must be for the Authority to determine in its schemes what other requirements, if any, should be imposed. I am sure that this is reasonable, and that hon. Members opposite will accept it.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Woodbridge and Sudbury (Mr. Stainton), who made important contributions, suggested that the Authority should have the right to refuse the information being sought where the credit status being investigated for future transactions or services to be rendered did not exceed a figure of, say, £250. As I have said, we must give the Authority a measure of flexibility. I am not certain whether it would wish to stipulate any figure in its schemes, whether for future or for current transactions, but the Amendment would leave the Authority free to do so if it wished. This is what I submitted in Committee, and I know that my hon. Friends have stressed that same point.

We have here an Authority that will be comprised of members drawn from the producer section and from the trade itself. They will have knowledge of the trade, and for that reason I think that we should give the Authority a reasonable measure of discretion. I hope that the Amendment will commend itself to the House as implementing in a fair and reasonable way the agreement reached between the farming and trade interests in September while, at the same time, ensuring that the farmer's privacy is safeguarded—that is important.

The farmer's privacy was stressed in Committee, and it is a valid point. Bearing that in mind, and remembering also the spirit of the agreement, the nature of the Authority and of those who will make it up, we feel this to be a reasonable Amendment, and I hope that the House will accept it.