HC Deb 20 July 1971 vol 821 cc1232-3
1. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has had from representatives of the meat trade concerning the consequences of his policy of introducing levies on imports of meat.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)

The Government's levy proposals for meat were discussed with a wide range of trade organisations, and we received representations on many different points.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is concern in the meat trade that consumers' patterns of purchasing will be seriously altered, to the detriment of that trade, following the introduction of the levies? Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the statement by Sir John Winnifrith yesterday that on our entry to the E.E.C., beef will become an occasional luxury? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with that assessment?

Mr. Prior

I have not seen Sir John's statement of yesterday, but I see no reason why the patterns of consumption in this country should vary greatly. They do not in the Common Market, where prices are higher.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the changes involved in the Question will lead to a higher level of home-produced beef?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir. I think that this is very important. All the indications are that farmers are keeping a much larger percentage of calves than a few years ago, and this should enable the beef herd to expand very considerably.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the cost of a joint of beef for the average family has gone up by about 75p during the last 12 months and that this is having an effect upon the pattern of demand? Could he tell the House by how much the levies will increase the cost of beef to the family?

Mr. Prior

The levies on beef will not increase the cost to the family at all, because they will come into operation only at a considerably lower level than the current market price. I agree that the price of beef has risen very considerably over the last year. This is because of a world shortage of beef and not producing enough at home. Supplies next year will be better, and I think that in two or three years' time supplies will be very good indeed.