HC Deb 02 March 1964 vol 690 cc892-4
5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the breakdown of the talks on meat imports into the United Kingdom.

14. Mr. Oram

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about his negotiations with overseas supplies of meat and cereals for the voluntary regulation of imports into Great Britain.

37. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further steps he intends taking to conclude agreements with countries which import meat to this country; and if he will make a statement.

43. Mr. Peart

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to phase meat imports with home production, after the termination of the voluntary international meat agreements.

Mr. Soames

I would refer my hon. Friends and the hon. Members to the Answer on meat which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Sir G. Wells) on 20th February; and to that on cereals to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) on 11th February.

Mr. Ridley

Will my right hon. Friend be able to pursue this matter by bilateral agreements in view of the importance of not having a shortage of meat in this country? Is he aware that he will have the overwhelming support of all the farming community if he insists on maintaining a reasonable share for the expansion of British meat production in any negotiations that he carries out?

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend can be fully assured, on the last part of his supplementary question, that we did have this very much in mind during the course of the meat negotiations, which were not, as he knows, brought to fulfilment. As to the first part, we have, as I stated in the Answer to which I have referred, asked our suppliers to cooperate with us in discussing how best to phase their exports of meat on to this market during the coming year.

Mr. P. Browne

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will not introduce standard quantities for meat in this country until such time as these long-term negotiations are brought to a successful conclusion? While we all hope that he will be successful in these long-term negotiations, will he not overlook the necessity for short-term agreements with countries like the Argentine, as we have had in the past year?

Mr. Soames

I have always made it clear that standard quantities were part of a general arrangement which would have included control of imports of meat. As we failed to get this arrangement, we are not pursuing at this point, until we get such arrangements, the question of standard quantities for beef and lamb in this country. As to the future, we have an ad hoc arrangement with certain countries which comes to an end on 31st March this year. Those were arrived at, as my hon. Friend will remember, when there were very considerable shipments of meat regardless of the state of the market. The situation is very much different today, but, of course, we are anxious to get the best arrangements we can, short of the full agreement we were endeavouring to get, where phasing is concerned, on our market in future.

Mr. Peart

While not wishing to embarrass the Minister or the Government, do I take it that he will not now negotiate with the producers on standard quantities affecting the commodities that he has mentioned until we have reached an agreement with other countries?

Mr. Soames

It has always been clear right from the time when I made my original statement on 22nd May that the two went hand in hand. The situation regarding cereals is, of course, different from that of meat.