§ 23. Mr. T. KENNEDY
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that there is no evidence that foot-and-mouth disease can be conveyed in frozen meat, and that chilled and frozen meat from the Argentine, where the disease has been prevalent for many years, is now admitted into this country, he can so vary the embargo against Continental meat imports as to admit of uniform conditions being applied to South American and Continental supplies?
As far as investigations have as yet proceeded, the Ministry has no reason to suppose that freezing or chilling, followed by detention in cold storage, is effective in destroying the virus of foot-and-mouth disease. The Ministry is therefore not prepared to add to the risks of the introduction of infection by allowing the importation of frozen or chilled meat from the Continent. As yet no evidence incriminating Argentine imports has been forthcoming.
§ Mr. KENNEDY
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that last week he told the House there was no risk of infection, and why does he make this distinction between the Argentine and Continental countries?
I never made the distinction the hon. Gentleman puts in my mouth. I said we were taking the matter up with the Argentine to avoid any possible risk, and that we had no evidence against it at present.
§ Mr. KENNEDY
Did not the right hon. Gentleman say last week there was absolutely no evidence that the disease could be conveyed by frozen meat?
§ 21. Mr. T. KENNEDY (for Mr. W. THORNE)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his Department has made any agreement with the Agricultural Department of the Netherlands with respect to the recent embargo against the import of meat; and the conditions, if any, he has intimated to the Government of Holland as a necessary pre-requisite for the resumption of meat imports from that country?
The answer to the first part is in the negative, and the second part does not therefore arise.
§ 22. Mr. T. KENNEDY (for Mr. W. THORNE)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that three weeks ago fine calves were to be bought in Smithfield Market wholesale at 5s. 4d. per stone, and to-day the ruling price is 10s. 8d. per stone, an increase of 100 per cent., pigs three or four weeks ago could be bought at 9d. to 10d. per lb., and to-day the price is 1s. 2d. and 1s. 3d. per lb. and whether the Government intends taking any action to prevent this rise in the price of the various kinds of meat?
I am aware that the prices of calf and pig carcases in Smithfield Market were higher last week than three or four weeks ago, but the increases were not so great as the hon. Member suggests. In the week ending 2nd June veal prices, as given in the official reports issued by the market authorities, ranged from 5s. 4d. to 4d. per stone and in the week ending the 26th June the range was from 7s. to 10s. per stone, an increase of about 794 35 per cent. The highest prices quoted for pork last week were Is. 1d. to ls. 2d. per lb. for pigs of under 10 stone, and the average for similar pigs in the week ending 2nd June was 10½d. to 11d. per lb. It was natural that the sudden stoppage of Continental supplies of veal and pork to the London markets should lead for a time to shorter supplies and higher prices on those markets, and there has not yet been sufficient time for the markets to adjust themselves to the new conditions. In order to satisfy the London demand supplies of home-produced pork and veal are being, and will continue to be, attracted to the Metropolis, and the extra demand in the country for animals suitable for the London trade should induce farmers to produce the type of animals required.
What steps is the right hon. Gentleman going to take to safeguard the consumer against these abnormal prices? A rise of 25 per cent. in meat prices is a very serious thing for the working class consumer.
I think these rises will probably prove to be temporary. They have not shown themselves in the provincial markets, and the figures which were put in this question are very misleading, because the prices given as ruling before the embargo are the lowest prices, and they are compared with the top prices after the embargo.
§ Major COLFOX
Is it not a fact that the embargo policy has been adopted in order to safeguard the consumer?