HC Deb 22 March 1967 vol 743 cc1695-7
17. Mr. Loveys

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress is being made towards increasing beef production to the maximum extent of technical possibilities.

26. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what contribution has been made by the dairy herd to the increase in beef production called for in the National Plan.

47. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the increase in beef production asked for in the National Plan; and what was the production of beef in the calendar years 1964, 1965, and 1966, respectively.

Mr. Peart

Under the selective expansion programme, we are looking for an increase in beef production to the full extent of the technical possibilities. The beef herd has continued to expand. More calves have been retained, although calf slaughterings have gone up recently. But the dairy herd has not expanded. Home-fed production of beef in the calendar years 1964, 1965 and 1966 was, respectively, 828, 767 and 809 thousand tons, excluding exports of live cattle and of carcase beef. After considering all these factors during the Annual Review I concluded that additional assistance to certain sectors was needed. This is why I made the award I did.

Mr. Loveys

Is the Minister not aware that this sphere of agricultural production is falling far behind the forecast in the National Plan, as admitted in last week's White Paper? While realising that the greater part of our beef must come from dairy herds, there are far less technical difficulties in increasing production from beef herds, which have only been assisted marginally, particularly with regard to the end product, by the adjustments in the recent Price Review?

Mr. Peart

We took all those factors into consideration in deciding on the award. Looking at it, I think that it is well balanced, and it has been accepted by the industry.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is the Minister aware that the dairy herd actually declined last year? Can he say whether it is still his intention that the herd should increase by 420,000 by 1970, or is that just one more target in the National Plan which has been buried with the plan?

Mr. Peart

I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can say that, if he is really serious about the industry, when we have made an award of 1½d. per gallon to producers and when a considerable amount of money is being pumped into the industry. I wish hon. Members would be more objective.

Mr. Turton

Is not the position about beef more serious than the Minister makes out? His figures now and the figures in the Appendix to the White Paper show that in the three years during which he has been Minister beef production has been at a lower level than it was in the previous two years when Mr. Christopher Soames was Minister of Agriculture?

Mr. Peart

I have given the figures which were asked for. I am anxious to have production expanding again, and that is why we have made the award which we did. We have increased the guaranteed price. We have increased the calf subsidy by £1. We have increased the beef cow subsidy by £1. We have increased the hill cow subsidy by £1 5s. We have made a milk award of 1½d. per gallon. What more do hon. Members want?