HC Deb 28 February 1935 vol 298 cc1292-4

asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to abandon the present system of quotas and restrictions upon imports of foodstuffs into the United Kingdom and to substitute for it a system of tariffs upon agricultural produce with a preference to the Dominions, as foreshadowed in a speech made by the Secretary of State on Monday last in the presence of the High Commissioners for the Dominions?

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)

The Government have often stated that in their view quantitative regulation is not necessarily in all cases the most appropriate method of assisting the home agricultural industry. For example, the method adopted in the case of fruit and horticultural products has from the outset been that of import duties. As the House has already been informed, the Government would prefer, in the case of meat, to follow broadly the precedent of the Wheat Act, and proceed on the lines indicated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in the House of Commons on 18th February. It is not possible to lay down a general rule, as the circumstances of each case are different.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the speech of his colleague the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs did in fact purport to lay down a general rule and a general policy for the protection of agricultural produce, not merely for milk, fruit or butter, but a general line of agricultural policy?


I read my right hon. Friend's after-luncheon speech, and I remember very well that he said he was going to get down to brass tacks. Brass tacks, in my view, in this case were meat.


Is it to be assumed from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that in future no reliance is to be placed upon general statements of policy by the Secretary of State for the Dominions after lunch?


I do not think that would be quite a fair inference from what I said.

50. Colonel ROPNER

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider the desirability of issuing an explanatory memorandum with regard to the present agricultural policy of the Government as it affects particular products, and setting out as clearly as possible the nature of existing marketing schemes?


I shall be happy to bear in mind my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion. Statements of the Government's policy regarding milk and livestock respectively were made in two White Papers (Cmd. 4519 and 4651) presented to Parliament last year, copies of which I am sending to my hon. and gallant Friend. A comprehensive statement of the nature of the existing marketing schemes will be found in the annual report under Section 10 of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I hope to lay before Parliament shortly.


Will the Minister, in giving this information to the House, append to it a statement of the financial commitments and the effect on the price of the product?


All the requirements which were laid down in the Act of 1931, which was passed by a Government supported by hon. Members on the other side of the House, will be scrupulously fulfilled.