27. Mr. Vane
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied that the home producers of meat and bacon are able to obtain sufficient advance information about the likely supplies of imported meat reaching the British market in order to regulate their own sales so as to avoid accentuating price fluctuations.
A great deal of information is published, but I shall always be glad to consider any proposals for improving market intelligence.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a good thing if some official information on this point could be circulated?
I will look into that point, but I think that the source of meat which is of main interest at present is the Argentine, and the Argentine shipping programme is published three months in advance.
28. Mr. Vane
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied that he has ample powers to ensure that the imported beef, mutton 1374 and bacon which is necessary to supplement home supplies reach the British market at times when it does not compete with the main deliveries from home sources and so does not accentuate price fluctuations; and if he will make a statement.
The freedom that has been restored to the meat market is the most effective means of ensuring that imported supplies are co-ordinated with home supplies. The bacon market will be free from next October.
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it would be good Conservative policy that he should have some power to ensure that these fluctuations in imports should not in fact get out of control; and can he say whether he expects imports from the Argentine over the next twelve months to fluctuate at all greatly?
Naturally, I want the market to be as steady as possible throughout the year, taking the market as a whole. As regards the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I would not expect any great change in the present rate of shipments over the next six months.
Mr. T. Williams
During the discussions on the 10 per cent. tariff, did the right hon. Gentleman reserve any right at all to restrict imports if such a contingency as that envisaged by the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) arose?
The Agreement was for a period of four years, but there were various provisions contained in it for consultation if the Agreement was working out disadvantageously to the general interest.
29. Mr. Vane
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amounts of beef, mutton and bacon imported during 1955; and how these quantities are expected to compare with imports during 1956; and if he will make a statement.
Three hundred and fifty-two thousand, 355,000 and 308,000 tons respectively. We expect this year to receive considerably more beef, probably enough with increased home production 1375 to restore consumption to its pre-war level. There may also be a little more mutton and lamb, but slightly less bacon.
Would my right hon. Friend confirm that it is his policy personally, and the policy of the Government, that beef production in this country shall remain a profitable and a fair trade for the home producer and consumer?
Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that it is our desire that efficient beef production in the United Kingdom should be profitable.