HC Deb 01 June 1949 vol 465 cc2117-8
Captain Crookshank

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Food, if he will make a statement on the negotiations with the Argentine Government for the purchase of meat and feedingstuffs.

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir, the following statement has been issued in Buenos Aires: As a result of the conversations which took place on Saturday and Monday between the members of the British Mission and the Ministers who form the National Economic Council and following the deliberation of this organisation an agreement has been reached in principle for a new commercial and financial treaty with Great Britain. From now on it will be the task of the respective technical sub-commissions to work out in the Ministry of Economy the text of the agreement which has been reached. The agreement will be signed shortly.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether part of that agreement is a demand for a guarantee of gold backing of sterling, and is not that derogatory to the efforts being made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues to keep sterling at its present point?

Mr. Strachey

The hon. Gentleman should not come to any conclusions of that sort.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to soften the blow as much as possible to the newspaper which has announced that the meat ration would have to be cut by 5d.?

Mr. Turton

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what quantity of meat is involved in this agreement?

Mr. Strachey

I think we had better wait for specific points until the text is available.

Mr. Osborne

Would the Minister explain to the House what he means by "agreement in principle"? Have the basic figures and prices been agreed or have they still to be decided and can he say what prices we are going to pay and what prices they are going to pay?

Mr. Strachey

This is an agreed text issued by the negotiators of both sides, and I do not think I should amplify it.

Mr. Stanley

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea how long he thinks it will be before the full details are available to the public?

Mr. Strachey

I should very much hope that the full text of the agreement will be completed and signed within days rather than weeks.

Mrs. Manning

If only to assuage the feelings of the housewife, could not my right hon. Friend go so far as to say if we are to have a larger meat ration at a date which is not too far distant? Could he go as far as that?

Mr. Strachey

My hon. Friend should remember that the agreement is not signed yet.