HC Deb 05 November 1934 vol 293 cc629-31

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied with the progress which has been made during the past three months in reducing the imports of meat into this country, both from foreign and Dominion sources, to a sufficient degree to enable the livestock industry of this country to carry on successfully; and, if not, what new steps lie proposes to adopt to obtain a reduction of such imports?


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the retained imports of beef of all classes during the three months June-September, 1934, totalled 3,376,738 cwts., an increase of 259,113 cwts., or over 8 per cent., as compared with the same quarter of 1931, the latter being the quarter selected as the first quarter for the purpose of the graded programme in the Ottawa Agreements; and, having regard to these figures, if he is now in a position to make any statement with regard to the negotiations with foreign and Empire countries on the subject of beef imports into the United Kingdom?


I am aware of the figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) which relate to the three months July, August and September, 1934. The position regarding retained imports of beef of all classes in these months is as stated, a substantial reduction in imports from foreign sources having during that period been more than offset by increased imports from Dominion sources. Compared with the corresponding period of last year, however, total retained imports of beef in the third quarter of 1934 showed an increase of less than 1 per cent. It will be recalled that it was stated in the White Paper on the Livestock Situation (Cmd. 4651) issued in July last that an appreciable improvement in the prices of sheep had taken place, but that in the se of cattle the situation was such that special assistance to producers was felt to be necessary for the period to the end of March next, pending discussion on long-term policy. These discussions are now proceeding, as I said in my reply on 20th October to a question by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), with representatives of the supplying countries. The special assistance was embodied in the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) Act, which is now in force.


Can my right hon. Friend indicate when he will be likely to be in a position to answer a question with regard to future policy?


I am afraid not. Discussions are now in progress.


Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether the reduction in retained imports of 1 per cent. indicates a reduction in the consumption of meat in this country?


There was an increase of 1 per cent.


Do we understand the right hon. Gentleman correctly when he said that he accepted the figures of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams); if so, is it customary for his Department to accept any figures the hon. Gentleman gives him?


If accurate figures are quoted from any quarter of the House, surely it is my duty to say that they are so.