§ 9. Mr. Steward
asked the Minister of Food how far the five shiploads of beef which have arrived in this country under the new agreement with the Argentine is store stale and dirty: if it was known to his negotiators at the time of making the agreement that some 60,000 tons was lying in the stores of the Argentine plants 10 and was likely to be in bad condition; why it was agreed to pay top prices for inferior meat; and what representations have been made to the Argentine Government to recover part of the cost.
§ Mr. Webb
We knew that the Argentine packers had some meat in store at the time the latest agreement was made; but there was no reason to suppose that the meat was unsatisfactory. Shipments received so far, contrary to recent misleading statements, have been generally satisfactory. The quantity found to be slightly out of condition has been very small indeed. If allowances can justifiably be claimed, claims will be made in accordance with normal commercial practice.
§ Mr. Steward
Is not this a typical example of how absurd it is for the Government to go on trying to buy meat for this country? How much better it would be for all concerned, including the Ministry of Food, if the right hon. Gentleman allowed the trade to do the job.
§ Mr. Webb
If I may answer the hon. Gentleman, his Question assumes that all meat coming to this country is always unsatisfactory, which is a very extraordinary assumption. As an example of condition, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that out of 6,000 beef quarters pitched at Smithfield during the week ending 9th June only two were found to be unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Has the Argentine Mixed Negotiating Commission authority to adjust the price if the meat has deteriorated appreciably owing to store staleness?
§ 13. Mr. Crouch
asked the Minister of Food if he is now in a position to make a statement on the Government's long-term policy for home-produced meat.
§ Mr. Crouch
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is at least three years from the time the calf is born before we get beef from it; is he not aware that the longer this decision is delayed the longer shall we have to remain on the present very meagre ration?
§ Mr. Webb
I cannot follow the hon. Member into those biological facts. This is a very complicated problem and we are anxious that whatever is done should be done on sound lines. We are in close contact with every section of the industry and we have now received the views of, I think, almost every section. We feel that it would be desirable to have a second meeting with most of them and in due course we shall arrive at our conclusion, but I would deprecate an early decision.
Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
In arriving at a long-term policy, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the special considerations that appertain to dual-purpose breeds of cattle, such as the South Devon, and see that any regulations which are made do not discourage the development of such breeds in the areas where they are customary?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Although the right hon. Gentleman says this is a very complicated matter in the long term, is it not rather extraordinary that since 1945 we have had no long-term policy of home beef production? How long must we wait?