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Pig Farming Debate

23rd March 2011

Speaking in a debate on Pig Farming, Keith Simpson condemns actions of supermarkets which drive down farmers' profits and for misleading labelling which implies pork is British when it is not.

Mr Keith Simpson (Broadland) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend and neighbour on introducing the debate. If he will pardon the pun, this is like "Groundhog Day" for other hon. Members and for me, as we have been debating the pig industry for at least 10 years. Although I do not want to turn supermarkets into devils, it seems to me that they stand condemned in two ways. The first relates to driving down costs and forcing down farmers' profits, and the second is the labelling itself. They are better now than they ever have been, but all too often, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight) pointed out, they put the Union flag on something and it is only when one reads the small print that one realises that it is imported bacon or ham.

Mr Bacon: My hon. Friend is right. There have been some egregious examples involving some of the best known and highly admired supermarkets. Marks & Spencer, for example, was guilty of such practices, but I think that there are fewer of them now. The use of Union, English and Scottish-I was in Scotland for Christmas-flags in supermarket aisles is better and more appropriate, but we are not there yet and he is right that there is still work to do. Some supermarkets are leading the way on doing what I think would be the right thing, both for themselves in the long term and for the industry. I shall mention Morrisons in particular in a moment.

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Mr Keith Simpson: Am I right in thinking that supermarkets or their agents frequently inspect farms for hygiene, health and animal welfare?

Mr Bacon: They certainly do. They inspect or employ auditors independently to inspect British farms and say-Tesco has been saying this in correspondence with me over the past few days-that they do the same in relation to their foreign supply chain. I fear, however, that, when they have promotions at the discounted end of the market, that audit trail may run out and the provenance will not always be as clear as it should be.

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