§ 19. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied with the operation of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement in so far as it affects the marketing of Irish fat and store cattle in this country; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peart
Neither the Anglo/Irish Free Trade Agreement nor the associated Agreement on Store Animals and Carcase Meat, includes any obligations specifically related to fat cattle. As for store cattle, the Irish Republic have undertaken to use their best endeavours, consistent with the circumstances of the trade, to ensure a certain minimum annual level of supply. But the Agreements have been in operation for only four months, and it is too early to judge 444 the working of the provisions on store cattle.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
Would not the Minister agree that the export subsidy given on fat cattle by the Irish Government amounts to dumping of fat cattle on the British market? Is it not quite inadequate to say that he has made representations to the Irish Government when this has had no effect in stopping these exports at all until the end of this month? What effect will this have on achieving the meat production target in the National Plan, or has that gone out of the window like the rest?
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
Is it true that under the Anglo-Eire Agreement the British taxpayer will be called to pay around £10 million a year for Eire agriculture?
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. and learned Member knows full well what the agreement means in relation to what will be paid on carcase meat and also the effect of shortening the period for stores from three months to two months. It does mean aid, but the hon. and learned Member is not against the agreement, and the Conservative Opposition approved it because they did not oppose it.
§ Mr. Godber
That is a really outrageous statement by the Minister. He knows about the opposition full well. Does he not know that the Opposition were very critical indeed? I criticised it in personal conversation and made speeches most strongly criticising it in the country.
§ Mr. Godber
If the Minister challenges me on this I ask him to look at the speech I made in Shrewsbury on 7th January last. I shall remind him of it particularly tomorrow.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Is the Minister aware of the very serious situation in the dead meat industry in Northern Ireland, and can he say to what extent the agreement may be responsible for this? What is he doing about it?