HC Deb 19 May 1965 vol 712 cc1436-7
12. Mr. Dean

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by how much the prices of imported beef, butter and cheese have increased during the last three years.

Mr. Peart

The average prices of imported beef, butter and cheese for the three months ended 31st March, 1965, were respectively about 28, 29 and 15 per cent. higher than in the corresponding period of 1962.

Mr. Dean

Does not that increase show how unwise the Minister was in this year's Price Review? Would not he agree that the long-term trend of these imports is bound to be upwards because of increasing competition from other exporting countries? Will he give an assurance that, in next year's Price Review, he will give greater encouragement to the home producer to increase production?

Mr. Peart

I cannot understand the hon. Gentleman's reasoning because many factors which affect, for example, commodities such as beef are beyond the control of the Price Review. In any case in the Price Review this year we have encouraged a sensible expansion of the beef industry.

Mr. Snow

Does my right hon. Friend consult the President of the Board of Trade on this matter? Some imports of butter and cheese come from countries such as New Zealand and Denmark which have persistently favourable balances of trade with us. To that extent, surely there should be greater encouragement of domestic production?

Mr. Peart

Of course, I consult my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but we have treaty obligations and we must bear in mind our traditional suppliers. Obviously, I am anxious to increase home production. Here again, however, if I had increased production from the point of view of getting more milk for manufacturing, this would have reduced the price to the producer here and would have harmed the small farmer.

Mr. Brewis

In that case, when imports of butter and similar products are increased the price also increases and it costs the country much more.

Mr. Peart

The prices of butter from some of our main suppliers have been going down.