HC Deb 26 June 1961 vol 643 cc28-9
33. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the estimated cost of deficiency payments to the agricultural industries in respect of beef for the past six months.

Mr. Soames

The estimated cost of deficiency payments paid on fat cattle for the 26 weeks ended 3rd June, 1961, is £12½ million.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that this is a high total indeed? Is he aware that in a reply to me on 19th June the President of the Board of Trade stated that over £11½ million worth of beef was imported into this country in the first four months of this year? Will the Minister look into the question of these imports, which are causing farmers to receive a high subsidy? Surely it would be better to restrict imports and pay less subsidy to the farmers, who do not want so much.

Mr. Soames

Concerning the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question as to whether it is a large figure, it is, of course, a large figure, but it is less than 50 per cent. of the published estimate, adjusted after the Price Review, for the total deficiency payments for fat cattle. Concerning the second part about imports, in the last six months imports from abroad have been about 12 per cent. lower than for the same period last year, when the market at home was considerably higher.

Mr. Prior

Will the Minister talk to the butchers to see if he can stop them from averaging out prices of various commodities, such as beef and pork, so that we can get a true reflection of the falls in prices of beef to the consumer?

Mr. Soames

Of course, much averaging out goes on between different meats in the butchers' shops. It would be advantageous for the system as a whole if falls in the price of a certain type of meat were to be reflected in the retail price in such a way as to increase demand.