HC Deb 24 June 1971 vol 819 cc1725-61
Mr. Speaker

I understand that it is the wish of the House to debate together the four Orders in the name of the Minister: That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) (Beef and Veal) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 802), dated 13th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved. That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) (Milk and Milk Products) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 803), dated 13th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved. That the Fatstock (Guarantee Payments) (Amendment) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 801), dated 14th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved. That the Import Duties (General) (No. 3) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 851), dated 20th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be approved. and also the following six Prayers: That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Price Stability of Imported Products (Levy Arrangements) (Beef and Veal) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 854), dated 21st May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Price Stability of Imported Products (Minimum Import Price Levels) (Beef and Veal) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 855), dated 21st May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Price Stability of Imported Products (Levy Arrangements) (Milk, Milk Products) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 856) dated 21st May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Price Stability of Imported Products (Minimum Import Price Levels) (Milk, Milk Products) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 857), dated 21st May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be annulled. That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Minimum Import Price Levels) Cereals Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 632), dated 7th April 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd April, be withdrawn. That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) (Beef and Veal) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 473), dated 19th March 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th March, be withdrawn. I also understand that it is the wish of the Opposition that the Division should take place on the first Order.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that there are 10 Orders and Prayers to be debated together, all of which have real implications to the great mass of people. We have an hour and a half in which we are expected to debate then?. May I have a Ruling from you that in the interests of the House they should not be taken in the way proposed, and that if we do not have debates on each individually, at least later in the Session they should be grouped in smaller groups.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that is a matter for me. I have simply said what I understood was the wish of the House. I think that technically if objection in taken they can be debated individually.

Mr. Loughlin

I am in some difficulty. I do not want to be awkward just for the sake of being awkward. I have been in the House for 11 years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I want to deal with the matter as expeditiously as I can with justice. I object to the taking together of 10 Orders and Prayers most of which involve an increase in the cost of living, and I respectfully submit that we should debate them one at a time.

Mr. Speaker

In the circumstances, I ask the Minister to move the first Order.

10.14 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) (Beef and Veal) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 802), dated 13th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved. I think it would be for the convenience of the House—

Mr. Loughlin


Mr. Prior

I think it would be for the general convenience of the House if at the same time we discussed the three other Orders and the six Prayers. All four Orders are concerned with changes in agricultural support and can best be looked at together. In this respect, I am moving all four. I understand that it will also be convenient to hon. Members on both sides if we discuss at the same time the four Prayers relating to beef and veal and milk and milk products and the two Motions relating to cereals and eggs.

The Orders are complicated and very important, and I think hon. Members will wish me to make a full explanation. I hope that hon. Members—including the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin)—will forgive me in doing so.

The Orders give effect to the interim levy schemes, discussion of which has been taking place with our overseas suppliers, as we announced last March. We then announced that schemes would be introduced to come into effect at the beginning of July to modify the arrangements for cereals and to introduce arrangements for beef and veal, mutton and lamb and milk products other than butter and cheese. The schemes represent a first step in the modification of our agricultural support system which the Government have always regarded as of great importance and to be carried out whether or not we joined the E.E.C. We made clear before we came to office that we intended to make this change as part of our general economic strategy.

We were determined to reduce and render less open-ended the Exchequer's commitment to agricultural support and so make reductions in taxation possible. This could be done only by making agricultural producers' return from the market more stable, which in its turn demanded some means to prevent low-priced imports from undermining the market. Our ultimate aim is to ensure—whether in or outside the E.E.C.—that our farmers have the opportunity to secure an increasing part of their return from the market and also a greater incentive to market their produce in the most efficient way.

The schemes that are before the House this evening are no more than a first step, but, though the proposed levies on the beef and cattle side will mainly act as market stabilisers, leaving the deficiency payment system still as the main method of farmers' returns, they do represent a significant move in the right direction.

In order to bring these schemes into effect, it is necessary to make a series of Orders under Section 1 of the Agriculture and Horticulture Act, 1964. The first Orders specify the commodities for which minimum import prices and import levies are to apply.

Before the House for approval today are such Orders for beef and veal and for milk and certain milk products. The beef and veal Order is No. 802, the milk and milk products Order is No. 803. They came into operation on 20th May. As soon as these Orders were in operation, Ministers could proceed to make two further Orders setting out respectively the levels of minimum import prices for the specified commodity and the arrangements for charging levies for the purpose of sustaining the minimum prices. At the same time, certain modifications have to be made to the fatstock guarantee arrangements, and the necessary Order is also before the House this evening. That Order is No. 801.

The Import Duties Order is concerned with the introduction of corresponding arrangements for mutton and lamb. The Order is made by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, under Sections 1, 2 and 13 of the Import Duties Act, 1958. The Order imposes specific import duties on imports of mutton and lamb in three stages. That Order is No. 851.

I should now like to say a little about each of the Orders and schemes, starting with those for meat. Our own farmers provide about 80 per cent. of our beef and veal and some 40 per cent. of our mutton and lamb. Any arrangements to give higher market prices to our own producers must clearly take account of both home and overseas sources of supply. Consequently, at the same time as we are introducing levy arrangements on imported meat, we are making certain modifications to the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme. The purpose of these modifications is to encourage and persuade farmers to market as efficiently as they can to get the best price from the market and to watch it closely. These complementary changes need to be considered as part of the total régime for these products.

Three Orders have been laid before the House dealing with the levy arrangements for beef and veal. Apart from the specifying Order, there is one laying down weekly scales of minimum import prices for fat cattle and for various categories of beef and veal during the period July, 1971, to March, 1972. That is Order No. 855. A third Order prescribes the method of determining and charging levies on fat cattle, beef and veal. That is Order No. 854. These Orders provide the statutory framework of the scheme, and I am sure the House will want to know how the arrangements will operate in practice.

There is no world market price for beef, and we have, therefore, decided to link the minimum import prices and levies for beef and veal to the average price of fat cattle in our own markets. I announced on 17th March that for fat cattle in 1971–72 there would be an annual target indicator price of £10.35 per live cwt. From this figure a scale of weekly minimum import prices for fat cattle has been constructed for the period July, 1971, to March, 1972. This scale varies seasonally in accordance with the seasonal scale under the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme. Minimum import price scales for various categories of beef and veal have been derived from the scale for fat cattle by means of standard coefficients expressing existing price relationships. They are conversion tables to convert from liveweight to deadweight.

Mr. Loughlin

We know that. Get on with it.

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman must not interrupt any more. He has wasted enough time already.

If in any week the estimated average market price of fat cattle in the United Kingdom falls below the minimum import price of fat cattle for that week, levies will be chargeable on imports of fat cattle and the various categories of imported beef and veal in the following week. There will be special arrangements applying to imports from the Irish Republic for reasons that I will mention later.

The levies on beef and veal will be variable from week to week; they should, therefore, quickly reflect changes in market circumstances. Equally, while the average market price remains above the target indicator prices—as at present—levies will not be operative. They will be applied only if market prices fall below the target price.

The arrangements for mutton and lamb are rather less complex. Because of the nature of the trade in these products, the Government decided that a flat-rate tariff would be more appropriate, as well as easier to administer, than a variable levy scheme. The Order imposes duties on imports of mutton and lamb, other than those from the Irish Republic, as from 1st July, 1971. The rates of duty on lamb set out in the Order are equivalent to Id. a lb. from 1st July, and 2d. per lb. from 1st January to 30th June, 1972, and 3d. thereafter. Imports of bone-in mutton carcases will be at half these rates on account of their lower unit value. The introduction of the duty is being phased in three stages so as to allow the market to adapt gradually to the new situation.

As I have mentioned, imports of beef and veal and of mutton and lamb from the Irish Republic have been excluded from these new arrangements. This is because of the close integration of the cattle industries of the two countries and the arrangements made under the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. But the Government of the Irish Republic have agreed that when our levies are in force on imports from third countries their subsidies on carcase meat will be adjusted in line with adjustments in the rate of deficiency payments under our Fatstock Guarantee Scheme. In other words, if our subsidy is abated as a result of the average market price falling below the target indicator price, the Irish will abate their subsidies in the same way.

I now turn to the Order relating to the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme, No. 801. The purpose of this Order is to introduce the changes in the guarantee arrangements for cattle and sheep which were announced in the Annual Review White Paper published on 17th March, 1971.

The seasonal scales of weekly standard prices for both fat cattle and fat sheep will remain under the new arrangements. In addition, there will be a scale of weekly target indicator prices for fat cattle determined at a fixed amount below the standard prices. It will be at the same level as the weekly minimum import prices for fat cattle. For fat sheep, there will be a scale of weekly estimated prices established at a fixed amount below the standard prices and reflecting the seasonal pattern of market prices.

Deficiency payments for fat cattle will represent the difference between the standard price or guarantee price and either the market price or the target indicator price, whichever of these two is the higher. When the average market price is above the target indicator price, the full deficiency is paid. When it is below, the deficiency payment is restricted to the difference between the target indicator price and the guarantee or standard price. Turning to sheep, if for instance, in any week of the present fatstock year the average market price of sheep falls more than 1½p a lb. below the estimated price, a corresponding reduction will be made in the deficiency payment up to a maximum reduction of 1½p a lb. The position for sheep is slightly different from that for beef and for veal.

The Order abolishes the scales of abatements and supplements for fat cattle and fat sheep but provides for end-of-year residual payments to fat-stock producers. There may be times when the price is above the target indicator price. At other times, the market price may be below the target indicator price, in which case the end-of-year payment is made to all producers. The new arrangements will ensure that if the average market price for the year as a whole is above the target indicator price for the year, producers of fat cattle collectively will receive at least the full guarantee for the year.

Mr. Loughlin

How long does the right hon. Gentleman have to take in this short debate, in view of the Ruling given by Mr. Speaker before the debate began? The whole of his speech is out of order.

Mr. Prior

It is important. I am trying to be as quick and yet as courteous as I can in explaining the Orders properly. They are important. I am not trying to detain the House any more than I need.

If, on the other hand, the average market price for the year is below the target indicator price, any end-of-year payment will be reduced by the amount by which the average market price falls short of the target indicator price. Corresponding arrangements will operate for fat sheep.

Finally, the Order provides that for 1971–72 there may exceptionally be two residual payments. This is because the new arrangements are being introduced after the 1971–72 fatstock year has begun. The first payment would be for the period up to and including 4th July when the present arrangements will continue to be applied. For the remainder of the fatstock year the new arrangements will be adopted for calculating any end-of-year payment.

I now come to the arrangements concerning milk and milk products. The specifying Order is on similar lines to that for beef and veal, but the background differs from that for meat. For many years there has been no subsidy on milk. The Government retain control over the retail price of ordinary pasteurised milk, but this price has to be calculated so that, taking one year with another, the consumer finances the milk guarantee, the cost of distribution and—more recently—the cost of incentives for the eradication of brucellosis.

About 40 per cent. of our milk—about 1,000 million gallons—goes into the manufacture of milk products such as butter, cheese and condensed milk; the rest goes for liquid milk consumption. The price which the Milk Marketing Boards received for each gallon of milk sold for manufacture into milk products has, until recently, been static or declining. In 1964–65 it was on average rather more than 9p a gallon but in 1969–70 only about 8½p a gallon compared with about 22½p for each gallon of milk sold for liquid consumption, so there is a very wide differential between the price of a gallon of milk sold for liquid consumption and the price of a gallon sold for manufacture. In fact, the differential has been widening in recent years because a large volume of our imports of milk products has been sold below the cost of production.

We have, therefore, decided to extend the system of minimum import prices and levies to milk and certain milk products but not to butter and cheese, which are already the subject of arrangements permitting some regulation of imports. The specifying Order sets out a list of milk products which may become the subject of levy arrangements, and on 1st July we shall introduce minimum import price arrangements for a number of them—in particular, cream, milk powders and condensed milk. We shall also be taking steps to make sure that the price levels are not undermined by imports of certain related products.

As time is short, I will not describe in detail the individual schemes which we are introducing. I will leave questions on these to my hon. Friend when he comes to wind up the debate.

During the last year, there has been a great change in world markets for milk products. The butter surplus in Western Europe has disappeared and world market prices have markedly strengthened. As a result, the price levels which will prevail here after the introduction of the minimum import price scheme are likely to be very little, if at all, above present world prices. At current price levels they will not, therefore, impose any appreciable extra cost on the user industries. But the situation could change, and the scheme will serve to insure the milk producer against falls in price.

As I have explained, our current market prices reflect broadly the availability of the specified products in world markets. For example, the domestic price of skimmed milk powder, one of the more important commodities covered by this scheme, is now freely established at about £160 a ton.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am reluctant to intervene, but we are in some confusion. When the debate opened and Mr. Speaker began to put the issues before the House, he asked whether he had the consent of the House to take all the Orders together. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) objected. I understood Mr. Speaker then to say that the Minister must move the Orders individually. Nobody challenged the situation, because we understood that the Minister and one member from our Front Bench would be speaking.

From the conversation which has gone on while the Minister has been speaking, it is apparent that there are to be two Front Bencher speakers from each side, if they catch your eye. This is an intolerable position. We do not know where we are. We do not know whether Mr. Speaker's Ruling has been accepted. If it has, then the Minister has been out of order for most of his speech and we are simply on the first Order. That is the Order to which the Minister should be addressing his remarks and the only one upon which the House can come to a decision by 11.30 this evening. I take it that that is the position, and that you will confirm it and bring the Minister to order on the Motion before the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

My understanding of the position is that Mr. Speaker ruled that it would be for the convenience of the House, as the issues were inter-linked, for the four Orders to be discussed together, and Mr. Speaker called the first Order, which I shall do in due course when the Minister sits down.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My recollection, and that of many of my Friends, is that Mr. Speaker directed the Minister to move only one Order. The Minister then proceeded to move the other Orders, and if we look at HANSARD we shall see that the Minister moved them.

I ask you to rule that the Minister's speech has been out of order, because he moved all the Motions—so that the rest of his speech must obviously be out of order—and that when we come to vote we shall vote only on the first Order, and the other Government Motions will fall unless they are re-tabled.

If that is not the position, then Parliament has been misled, and the right of hon. Members to debate these matters has been seriously affected.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not think there is any difference between the two points of view in the House. Mr. Speaker ruled that the four Orders could be discussed together, and then that the Question on the first Order would be proposed in due course, which I have said I shall do in due course when the Minister sits down. That does not preclude the further Orders being moved subsequently.

Mr. Loughlin

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I raised the first point of order, and I was under the impression—and I think that HANSARD will bear this out—that Mr. Speaker ruled in my favour on the submission that I made. I was quite content to be a little tolerant—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not think there is any difference between us. I think the hon. Member must have misunderstood what I said. We are at the moment moving one Order, and we are discussing other Orders with it because the matters are inter-linked.

Mr. Loughlin

I want to help the House, because I realise that the House can operate only if there is some degree of agreement between the two sides. What I am asking is that, although a Ruling was given, some consideration ought to be given by the two Front Benches to giving at least a degree of time to back benchers who want to debate the Orders The right hon. Gentleman has spoken at great length on all the Orders, instead of being sensible. I am prepared to be sensible if the right hon. Gentleman is, but if he is not, I am prepared to push my luck.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not think the hon. Gentleman would expect the Chair to enter into Front Bench discussions.

Mr. Prior

I am trying to be as quick as I can, and I appreciate that the House wants to discuss these Orders.

One of the more important commodities covered by the scheme, skim milk powder, is now freely established at £160 a ton. The scheme will underpin that price by setting a minimum import price of £157 a ton. Since world prices have now moved more closely into line with the minimum import price under the scheme, there will be no levy to be paid.

To complete the pictude on m.i.p. schemes I should like to refer briefly to the scheme for cereals and eggs. For cereals, the price will go up on average by £3.50 a ton for the period up to the end of July, 1972, and about a further £2.50 for the remainder of that year.

The schemes have been criticised as likely to cause a sharp rise in food prices. This is not likely. The schemes will have a stabilising effect on prices but will not cause any major increases. The House will recall that when I announced these schemes in March I estimated that they would raise the Food Price Index by about half of 1 per cent. in the period up to July, 1972. I see no reason to change that estimate.

I have already dealt with the price of milk products. As for beef, world shortages and a steady rise in beef prices mean that it is most unlikely that any levy will be paid. The price of fat cattle on the open market is £13 per hundred weight. The m.i.p. at £10.35 provides a safeguard against market weakness.

The effect on prices has been the main criticism of the schemes. But they have also been criticised from the opposite point of view, as likely to be largely ineffective because, in so many cases, market prices are at or above the level of the m.i.p.s. But, even if no levies are imposed, the schemes will still have an important effect. They will support or underpin our market prices and prevent any sudden collapse from undue pressures from imports.

The schemes, including the cereals scheme, which provides for a much more significant measure of market stabilisation than does the existing scheme, relate to about half the farm sales in this country. They therefore provide substantial market support. I therefore commend the schemes to the House. I believe that they represent an important step in the development of a new support policy for agriculture. Taken together, they will do much to create firmer markets and to limit and reduce the cost of agricultural support and give confidence to the agricultural industry.

10.43 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

These are very important and complex Orders and the concern expressed by my hon. Friends is very natural and will be understood throughout the House. We have heard a very complicated speech by the Minister. I do not know how many of us have really digested everything he said, but I shall try to be a little less complicated.

We had a general debate on agriculture on Tuesday, when we indicated our opposition to these Orders. Their object, put simply, is to impose levies—a tariff—on foodstuffs imported into this country. The Government's case for this policy is two fold—first, that it will relieve the Exchequer, that is the taxpayer, and, second, that it will protect the British farmer by enabling him to expand and produce more of the commodities which are thereby protected.

Our objection to these levies is that while they may relieve the Exchequer of some liability, they will inevitably increase the cost to the consumer—and this additional cost will be in excess of the rapidly rising cost of foodstuffs which is now going on.

We also take the view that to take these steps outside the Common Market is totally unnecessary. Under the Labour Government we had reasonable control over the imports of food into this country without increasing the price of food. [Interruption.] We had improved the anti-dumping legislation with good results and selective expansion was proceeding at a reasonable rate—subject, as I said on Tuesday, to certain factors over which we had no control, such as the weather and disease.

I wish to be brief in the interests of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Nor am I confident that under the new system farmers across the board will start a period of rapid expansion, which is the Government's argument. I am not alone in my apprehension. The Farmers Weekly, not a radical Socialist periodical, discussing the meat trade and the need for better marketing, said in the issue of 18th June: The industry would be happier about the new policy if the Minister could explain how, when deficiency payments fade out, farmers can make sure that they get a fair share of end prices". There is great doubt about that, and that is what we and the farmers are particularly anxious to clarify. It is one of the uncertainties I mentioned in Tuesday's debate.

This means a free market. Agriculture is dropping the pilot, to borrow a maritime metaphor, and this brings me to a matter of practical importance with which neither the Minister nor any other Government spokesman has dealt. We know broadly from the experience of the Common Agricultural Policy that import levies are not effective as a means of price control without intervention buying. We also know that the cost of intervention buying to the E.E.C. has been substantial. If there is no policy for inter- vention buying and the fall-back guarantee is low, which may be the case, where is the security for the farmer? There is no price guarantee at all.

It is my duty, as the spokesman for the Opposition, to warn the Minister that we could run into very deep trouble unless we have the means to "deal with this aspect of the matter.

The question of the effect of higher prices on demand is a difficult one to consider and precise calculations are impossible. This is why I was always worried about increasing the milk award. I was always afraid of what the effect might be on demand and consumption.

How does the Minister see the rise in prices as a result of this levy? We should be told by how much meat, flour and, consequently, bread prices, are likely to go up, and it would be prudent for the Minister not to under-estimate these rises. He mentioned a rise of one-half of 1 per cent., but I am extremely worried lest he is under-estimating it because if he is we could be heading for deep trouble.

On 22nd June the Financial Times contained an interesting article on which the right hon. Gentleman might wish to comment. It was pointed out that there was normally a reduction in the price of meat between July and December because of increased supplies. This year, due to the levies, the writer suggested, the consumer would not have the benefit of that usual downward trend. In other words, the price of meat will be constant and will go up as a result of the levies.

I understand that the meat trade is arguing that the proposed rate—that is, in Statutory Instrument No. 851—to be imposed by 1st July next year will, at present C.I.F. prices, be about 14 per cent. When transmitted to the retail level, this will mean an increase of about 20 per cent. It is argued that the suggestion that that considerable increase can be passed back to the exporting producer cannot be substantiated. If this is the case, it would therefore be a straight tax on one of the cheaper meat commodities and would affect the lower income groups. We are deeply concerned about this.

I wish to ask a number of questions, which I will put very briefly. First, can the Minister tell us more about the consultations which have taken place on these new arrangements? Have overseas suppliers, the trade in Britain, and the farmers' unions all been fully consulted, and to what extent have their views been taken into account?

Secondly, can the Minister explain further the arrangements dealing with meat products? Neither the beef nor the lamb schemes cover offals or sheep-meat products, yet veal is included although it is a relatively unimportant item in the trade in this country. Has any special arrangement been made for beef of manufacturing quality?

Thirdly, on the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme, Statutory Instrument No. 801, what will happen about guaranteed prices? Will producers continue to receive them? What will be the position if market prices fall below the average of the target price for the year as a whole. So far as I can see, the arrangements make no provision for the possibility of complete collapse in market prices. We recognise that prices have been at a high level over recent months but this is a real possibility, as we know from our previous experience, and I should have thought a very worrying one.

Fourthly, in framing the scheme, has the Minister borne in mind the special need of hill sheep producers? Are there special provisions for them? As we know, they always tend to be in a weak position, and there is no guarantee of increased end prices getting back to them.

Fifthly, can the Minister give an estimate of the levy revenue which will be derived from the new schemes and from the increase in cereals m.i.ps. Where will this money go? Will it go into the Treasury, nothing more being heard about it? How much will be passed, for example, to the retirement pensioner, as was promised, in supplementary benefit or in some other way? That pledge was given by the Conservative Party when they were in opposition.

Lastly, I notice that the new beef levy scheme provides for the bonding of imported beef. Presumably this is a device to keep supplies off the market. But can the Minister explain how it will operate, and will he say whether he is satisfied that the weight of stocks in cold store will not have a depressing effect on the market?

We are extremely disturbed and unhappy about the Orders. I must invite my hon. Friends to record our objection in the Lobby tonight. The vote we take must be taken as a vote against all these Orders which are anathema to us and which we regard as completely unnecessary at present.

10.53 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

I will be very quick as many hon. Members wish to speak. The Orders are part of the Government's policy. This is nothing new. When we were in opposition, we said that we were going to do these things and now we are carrying out another of our promises, as we always do.

It seems utterly absurd for the Opposition to bring this before the House tonight when they have themselves used this method in the past on eggs and cereals. It is almost downright dishonest to oppose the Orders. They are prepared to use them themselves but not prepared to support us tonight.

With agriculture, one has only to look at the past to see the problems we have had through heavily subsidised imports sometimes causing chaos. It is absolute nonsense for the right hon. Gentleman to say that all was well in the past. We have suffered for years, but the present Government are determined to do something about it.

These Orders will certainly help the consumer.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, they will. A strong agriculture is to the benefit of the consumer. If we had had higher production when the previous Administration were in power, we should not have been short of butter and beef now. That is what is causing high costs to the consumer.

I am rushing through these points as best I can. Agriculture has suffered over the years from this sort of thing. I applaud a Government who have the courage to ensure that imports are regulated. It is to the benefit of agriculture and of the consumer.

Sixthly, every other country—I instance America and the Community countries—has some form of protection in the interests of their agriculture and their consumers. Why should we be left as the only dumping ground in the world? I believe it is wrong that we should be.

Seventhly, there is the need for flexibility. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use this as a regulator. When the food is needed, he will allow it in. When it is not and we can produce it ourselves, I hope that he will stop it from coming in. That will be to the benefit of the consumer and of agriculture.

Eighthly, let us not weep for butchers. They have moaned enough about this. I have no tears to shed for them.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster) rose

Mr. Mills

No, I am in a hurry. Have no tears for the butchers.

Mr. Walker

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a convention of the House that hon. Members with an interest in the subject under debate declare their interest?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order.

Mr. Mills

I am trying to hurry so that others can speak. Weep no longer for the butchers. They work a policy of averaging up their prices. This is not always to the advantage of the consumer. When meat is cheap how often is that reflected in the shop. All the protests the butchers are making to me at present are complete nonsense.

I have spoken fast. I apologise for doing so. These are eight reasons why the Government are right, as they always are.

10.47 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I will not spend too much time on these Orders. It is to be regretted that we have to debate a considerable number of Orders in one and a half hours. The Minister had a prepared speech—I do not blame him; I used prepared speeches when I was a Minister—so when he knew the situation he could not adjust himself.

It is true that these are all technical Orders and they need a lot of explaining, but there was no reason why the Minister should indulge in the Civil Service gobbledegook that he did in the case of each Order. The House wants to know how these Orders will affect the individual. There is bound to be some qualification in the explanation of a technical Order. The Minister spent all his time on a technical explanation of about 11 Orders which hon. Members on both sides, if the two Front Benches want to speak again—

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

Then say something.

Mr. Loughlin

I would have said "Goodnight" to the hon. Gentleman if I had known that he wanted to go.

It is difficult to probe in sufficient depth what will happen to prices under the Orders. The Minister said that he did not think that it would involve an increase in prices and that the Orders would have a stabilising effect, or that at the most there would be a rise of ½ per cent. I do not believe a word the Minister says, because it has been estimated from a number of sources that in consequence of these Orders the price of meat will rise by 3p a pound in July of this year. He knows as well as I do that that the cost of living will go up. Bread has been mentioned, and the Minister himself referred to meat. The cost of food has gone up by 10 per cent. mid-June to mid-June; in the 12 months of this miserable, incompetent lot.

Here they are. They have come here tonight and produced a whole series of Orders, knowing full well that the consequence is an increase in the cost of living, and they laughingly say, "We are not going to have any sympathy with the meat traders." It has nothing to do with the meat traders. It is true that meat traders have written to me, but those who have a vested interest will write to Members of Parliament.

I do not mind the hon. Gentleman the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) not being concerned about the meat traders—though they are an integral part of distribution, and even he is concerned about our farmers. He himself is a farmer, although he never says so. My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) rightly says that the hon. Gentleman never declares his interest. When my hon. Friend asked him to declare his interest, the hon. Gentleman brushed the request to one side. The hon. Gentleman is a fanner and in a debate of this kind he has a responsibility to declare his interest—

Mr. Peter Mills

Get on with it.

Mr. Loughlin

The hon. Gentleman may get excited, but he will not get me excited. It is no good the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the only people who will be affected by these Orders, the only people who have a legitimate crib, are the meat traders. The housewife will have a crib, and so will the old age pensioners—

Mr. John Wells

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Loughlin

No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman has just come in out of the Bar, and I will not—

Mr. Wells

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is no good the hon. Member telling lies. I have been sitting here since long before he began to speak—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) does not want to say what he has just said, and I very much hope that he will not continue to use that expression about any hon. Member.

Mr. Loughlin

Would it not be in keeping with the tradition of the House when one hon. Member accuses another of lying for the Chair not merely to say that the Chair hopes that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue it, but to ask him to withdraw the expression? Would it not be better if the hon. Member withdrew the mark because it is unparliamentary?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Member for Maidstone is trying to do so.

Mr. John Wells

I will be delighted to withdraw the remark if the hon. Gentleman, in his turn, will acknowledge that I have been here since the beginning of the debate.

Mr. Loughlin

I shall not pursue—

Mr. Wells

Then I cannot withdraw my remark—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman would wish to withdraw what he said. He can well find an alternative expression if he wishes. But he should withdraw the expression which he used.

Mr. Wells

I am delighted to withdraw, but I wish I could think of some alternative word.

Mr. Loughlin

I do not want to pursue the matter.

When these Orders come into effect and food prices in the shops are increased as a consequence, I know what people will think about it, and about hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

Even at this late hour, I can only be amazed by the audacity of some hon. Members opposite. If my right hon. Friend had taken less time in introducing the Orders, he would have been accused of skimping them. Whatever course my right hon. Friend adopted was bound to meet with the displeasure of some people who have not studied the matter.

I was amazed by the remarks of the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes). It is very strange that he should oppose the Orders because, when he was Minister a very short time ago, his Department, under his instructions, was actively engaged in preparing them. His Ministry officials had gone a long way in the preparation of a meat scheme. Yet tonight he had the barefaced audacity—one can call it nothing else—to deplore not only the meat Order but all the other Orders.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Orders. They represent another example of the Government fulfilling their election pledges at an early date. What we are putting into effect tonight was one of the pledges we gave before polling day and which helped to win us the election. For too long the farmers have been in a straitjacket because they have been unable to get the necessary money for expansion from the Treasury. These Orders, which we shall carry tonight, will put matters right for agriculture and get it again on the road to expansion.

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend a couple of questions—he was so badgered by some ignorant hon. Members opposite that he probably was unable to say all he wanted to say. Was he at any time in consultation with the National Farmers' Union and the Commonwealth Governments concerned, and, if so, did they approve the details of the Orders? Secondly, he mentioned the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement. Have representations been made to the Irish Government? We are prepared to play our part in fulfilling the agreement, but they must bring up to the agreed quantities the store cattle exports to this country which are so necessary to many British farmers who rely on the guaranteed quantity of cattle they undertook to supply under the agreement for fattening here.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the energetic way in which he produced these valuable Orders.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

It is typical of the Government that they should try to slip through Orders of vital importance at this time of night. I suppose that the only thing which can be said of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) is that he deserves to be at least a P.P.S. in view of the vigour with which he leaps to defend his right hon. Friend the Minister whenever he presents the indefensible to the House.

I was amazed that the Minister did not say one word about the response of such organisations as the meat importers, meat retailers or of any foreign—[Interruption.] May I have the Minister's attention? He took a long time to make his speech, but he failed to deal with many of the problems of these organisations. He might at least have the courtesy to pay a little attention to the views of the retail and meat importing interests.

The Minister did not tell us what sort of response he had had from other Governments which he had consulted and perhaps even negotiated with during the discussions which must have taken place on these proposals. What was the attitude of the United States to these Orders, and what negotiations did he have with the United States? He kept silent on that matter and on the question of consultation, if indeed he had consultation, with the retail trade.

Some of my hon. Friends may well accuse the Government of implementing, in these Orders, policies which would follow our entry into the European Economic Community. I do not take that view. These Orders which we are discussing tonight have nothing to do with Britain's entry into the E.E.C. These Orders are a part of the Conservative Government's declared aim of increasing food prices to the British public because, as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said some time ago, it was his opinion that the British people had been mollycoddled too long on a low price food policy. There is no need for me to give the exact quotation, because he must be familiar with it by now; it has been rammed down his throat enough times. This is part of the declared Tory Government's policy of forcing up prices of basic food commodities to the British public.

The hon. Member for Torrington, in his brief remarks, made some very offensive references to the retail trade who undertake a very useful service which is well received by the British public, in recommending cuts of meat and in advising housewives how to modify the impact of the vicious policy which the Minister is following. I can tell the hon. Member and his right hon. Friend that there were many retail butchers, their wives and 18-year-old children who voted Tory a year ago. They will not vote Tory again, because they are sick of the attitude of the Minister to the service which they provide to the housewife. He has treated them almost with complete contempt.

Mr. Peter Mills

The hon. Member is muddling the butchers with the federation. It is the federation which has opposed this proposal all along the line.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The more the hon. Gentleman attacks respectable retail organisations such as the butchers' organisation, the more he does his party and himself a grave disservice. Many members of the federation were supporters of his party. I am pleased to inform him that he has lost their support at the next election.

A short time ago the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry threatened the motor car industry that he would remove import levies, in the interests, as he saw it, of competition. Now we have the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food putting on import levies in this so-called desire of the Tories for free competition. They cannot have it both ways.

Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wellbeloved

No, I will not. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye.

I advise some of my hon. Friends, who might be getting a little edgy if I should take more than a couple of minutes, that there are on the Paper tonight another three Orders to which they can direct their attention for an hour and a half on each Order. Although my right hon. Friend said that we are to have one vote, which will be indicative of our opposition to all of these Orders, if the Minister and some of his hon. Friends continue in the spirit in which they have so far conducted themselves, they may find themselves here for three times 1½ hours with three votes. If that is what they want, we shall be delighted to oblige them.

Returning to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, one of the points which concern those who have the difficult job of implementing this vicious legislation is the matter of the minimum import price and the levy which will be paid.

As the Minister explained—I hope that everybody grasped his explanation, because it was very complicated—the levy will be calculated on the Thursday of each week, based upon the average live price per cwt. in live auction markets over the previous three days. If that calculated minimum price fell below the minimum import price set out in the order a levy would be charged. What happens if, in the week after the level of the levy has been set, the actual price of imported meat exceeds the average price of the previous week, per live cwt.? Will a levy then be necessary?

Mr. Prior

The levy will go on for that week, but presumably the average market price in the markets to which the hon. Member has referred will rise in the following week, and there will be no need for the levy.

Mr. Wellbeloved

If the Minister studies Order No. 854 he will see that paragraph states that the levy is to be imposed With a view to maintaining the minimum import price level for any specified commodity and so on. If that is so, and if in the week the levy is charged the import price of meat exceeds the minimum import indicator set out, the butchers maintain that since the paragraph clearly indicates that the levy is chargeable only if it is with a view to maintaining the minimum import price it will be illegal for the Minister to charge the levy in that week. That is the point that the butchers have put to the Minister, and they have not received any satisfaction from him. I am putting it to him again now, and I hope that he will give me an answer, and will not rely on paragraph 5(c) of the Order to which I have referred, as he has apparently done so far in reply to the butchers.

This is an important point. It brings into doubt the legality of the Order. If the Minister cannot answer now he should ensure that before we end the debate he obtains some hurried explanation from those within the precincts of the House.

I understand that if the Minister wishes in any way to alter the minimum import prices set out in the Order for the purpose of the levy he does not need to obtain Parliament's authority; I believe that he is able simply to make an Order which is not subject to any vote in this House. If we pass the Order we are therefore placing in the hands of a Minister in whom we have no confidence—in terms of protecting the housewife—power to vary these Orders and thus impose even greater burdens upon the housewife. I urge my hon. Friends to oppose the Order and to go out into the country and explain to the housewives that the Government are imposing upon their weekend joint of meat a tax which is an absolute disgrace, and a betrayal of every pledge that the party opposite made on their election platform, in respect of reducing food prices at a stroke.

11.18 p.m.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

We have had a great amount of specious rubbish from the Labour Party in the last few days, and tonight is no exception.

First, the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) inquired what this would cost, and what we would do in the future for the pensioners. He cannot have been present during the debate initiated by my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. The Government are doing more for pensioners than any other Government have done. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), who blabbers on about things that he does not understand, says that "good sources" have calculated that the effect of the Order will be to put on 3p. [Interruption.] He referred to "reliable sources" or some such thing. If 3p was not what he said he can revise the figure. My right hon. Friend gave a firm calculation as worked out by the Ministry, and I would much rather have his firm calculation, which is accurate.

Mr. Harold Walker

Does the hon. Gentleman expect us to take it as seriously as his right hon. Friend suggested the Prime Minister's words should be taken?

Mr. Wells

I always take my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture seriously, as I take my right hon Friend the Prime Minister very seriously.

We want to know the source of the hon. Gentleman's calculations. That was why I sought to intervene in his speech. He would not give way because it was a bogus calculation, and he knew it.

The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) attacked my right hon. Friend for bringing forward the Orders at this hour of the night. Can he tell me at what hour of the night it is usual to bring forward Orders like this? This is the time at which such Orders always come on, as he knows. [Interruption.] I am addressing my remarks through the Chair to the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West should go back to sleep.

Mr. Wellbeloved

There are 10 Orders and Prayers dealing with import levies. If the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that they should all be taken together for debate in an hour and a half, I do not think much of his opinion of parliamentary democracy.

Mr. Wells

I should be delighted if they were debated for as long as hon. Members wish.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wells


Mr. Loughlin

The hon. Gentleman is constantly naming me. He should give way.

Mr. Wells

The hon. Gentleman is one of the best-known cheats in the House. He makes remarks of questionable veracity, is unwilling to give way, and then appeals to the Chair.

The Orders seek to promote a healthy British agriculture, and with a healthy and prosperous agriculture the British housewife will be well served.

11.23 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

First, I must again take to task the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills). Who the devil is he talking about—himself and me and the rest of the 220,000-odd farmers compared with the 55 million people in this country? He talks about things in a narrow and selfish way.

The hon. Gentleman talked about other countries, but we import half our food and are in a totally different position from those countries which produce all their food. He talks awful nonsense for a sensible, decent farmer. It is extraordinary.

Mr. Wellbeloved

He is decent, but not sensible.

Mr. Mackie

The Minister said that the Orders were the first steps in changing our agricultural policy. They are the first step in doing away with the guarantee as well. In using that euphemism the Minister overstepped himself. He is always saying that what he is doing will stop low-priced imports from undermining our market. That is not his policy. His policy is by a levy system to raise the price of home farmers' produce to the guaranteed price by 1974, and this has nothing to do with the low price of imports. It is not an argument about whether we accept the policy when we enter the Common Market, when we shall have other advantages. It was evolved before we knew whether we were going into the Common Market.

The Minister said he was anxious that farmers should get the best prices from the market. If farmers are to do so, they have to have some system of marketing other than they have today. Is he prepared to encourage and give permission to them to start a beef marketing scheme? This is important. I know how complicated these Orders are, and I have some sympathy—although not too much—with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) in not understanding these things. The question of target indicator prices has been mentioned. If the price falls below that target, do I take it that these guarantees will not operate except from the target indicator price to the guaranteed price and that at the end of the year it will be made up?

Mr. Prior

indicated dissent.

Mr. Mackie

If that is the case, it seems a complicated way to do it and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to clear the point up. If that is not the case, and if the beef scheme is to work properly, it should never fall below the target indicator price.

The right hon. Gentleman is lucky in the timing of these levies because at the moment beef and milk product prices are high. He said that he did not think these levies would be required. I hope he will take cognisance of the fact that food prices are the most volatile in the world. Before his levies start to bite, beef and milk prices could come down. It is not long since product prices were very low.

But this is not really a change in agricultural policy. It is a change in the guarantees to the farmers which they have been operating for many years. The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for taking those guarantees away.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

Whatever the advantages of a tariff or levy system, no one can pretend that it is introduced in the interests of the consumers. Clearly, it is not. It is a system of removing the pressure from the taxpayers on to the consumers while at the same time guaranteeing farmers reasonable prices. The system does not seem to make any sense in a country like ours, which imports 50 per cent. of its foodstuffs. It is a deliberate tax on food prices for the consumers and, therefore, takes away the marked industrial advantage which this country has enjoyed over other countries.

One has only to compare the food prices in this country with the food prices in the Common Market countries to see how much more expensive the levy system is to the consumers. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) invited us to look at history. He did not go very far back. This country has had this kind of system in the past. We are really going back to the Corn Law system, which held back this country's development for many years. We know what happened to agriculture when the Corn Laws were repealed. They were damming up the prices at an artificially high level. It is arguable that if we enter the E.E.C. there must be adaptation. But that is not the ground on which these levies are proposed. They are designed to relieve the subsidy pressure on the taxpayers. As such they are unjustifiable and a retrograde step. A Government who introduce a system which deliberately puts an additional pressure on the consumers need their heads examined.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow West)

As hon. Members know, I have an interest in agricultural matters. The purpose of these Orders, particularly the ones dealing with beef and veal, is not to put a bottom in the market, which was the original intention of the Labour Government's Orders, but to replace the system of guaranteed prices. That means that eventually the target indicator price on beef and veal will have to be raised to a sufficient level where it will operate and replace the present system of guaranteed prices. This means that the farmer will get his return in the market, which hon. Members opposite welcome.

There are many fluctuations in the market, from week to week and market to market. I wonder whether the farmers among hon. Members opposite are aware of the increased fluctuations which could apply under this new levy system. Whatever the fluctuations may be at the moment in an individual farmer's market returns, he has the benefit of a collective guarantee which does something to iron out the differences between one week and another and one farmer and another.

Secondly, it is said that Order No. 801 dealing with the fatstock guarantee payments procedure will force a farmer into a better pattern of marketing cattle and sheep and so on. What gives the Minister confidence to say that this will help farmers adjust themselves to the new levy system? On the face of it it does not seem so very different from the present system of seasonal scales, abatements and so on.

The effect on the housewife has been mentioned and I will not labour the point except to say that the farmers sitting opposite ought to be aware of the effect of increased retail food prices on patterns of consumption. There is no point in claiming to produce 100 per cent. of a commodity if the total amount of that commodity bought by the housewife and eaten is consequently reduced. Farmers have an interest in seeing that the consumer can afford their products, and it is not clear under these Orders whether that will be the case. There could be a switch from beef and veal to pork, in the same way as there is likely to be switching from butter to margarine. That may satisfy some of the farming interests on the benches opposite but I do not think it would satisfy the whole farming community.

I turn now to one or two technical points. We understand the reasons for the exclusion of Eire because of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement and the difficulties of distinguishing between store cattle and fat cattle. About 80 per cent. of our requirements come from this country and Eire. That means that only 20 per cent. will bear the levies. Most of those beef imports are frozen beef, not chilled. Much of the frozen beef is used for manufacturing products such as steak and kidney pie and is not sold direct.

Unless there is some concession on the levy system for frozen meat used for manufacture it will raise the price of not only general meat products in the shops but tinned meat products. Is the Minister prepared to give a remission of levy on frozen meat used for manufacture, and if so, will he let us know in the reply to the debate?

If there is to be a levy on frozen meat imported into this country and used for manufacture, will it not put domestic manufacturers using home supplies of beef for manufacturing purposes at a distinct disadvantage compared with their continental rivals? They will see imported products enter the country free of levy whereas the frozen beef for use in their products will be subject to levy. I hope that the Minister will give us some indication of his policy.

11.34 p.m.

Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)

As was made clear at the beginning of the debate, we intend to vote only against the first of these Orders, although we are opposed to all of them.

I would like to emphasise what it is we object to. It is that hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as if the change-over from one system of agricultural support to another—from the system of deficiency payments to the new system based on levies—makes no difference in the sense that the taxpayer gains what the consumer has to pay. But it does make a difference, and here I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson).

In many cases, the taxpayer and the consumer are not the same people. Many consumers, especially pensioners, do not pay income tax. But they will have to pay higher food prices if farmers are to get bigger returns from the market. Many who pay income tax will be worse off because of the way in which the Government have chosen to hand out the tax concessions that they are making. The Government's philosophy for their tax concessions seems to be, "The more you have, the more you get in tax concessions." It was clear from the mini-Budget last October and the Budget at the end of March that a family of four would get a net benefit only if its income was about £3,000 a year. The average family will have to pay more for its meat while financing the tax concessions to those who are better off.

If the Government made substantial increases in family allowances, it would be different. If there were to be a bigger pension increase than the proposed £1, it would be different. The real value of the pension today is lower than at any time since before the increase given by the Labour Government in 1965, and when the increase comes it will be very largely eroded. In any event, the increase in the pension is meant to compensate pensioners for the increase in the cost of living that there has been already. It is not intended to meet increased food prices which pensioners will have to pay as a result of this legislation.

The food index shows that food prices have gone up 10.4 per cent. in the 11 months from June of last year to the middle of May. Inflation has so eaten into housekeeping budgets that housewives cannot stand further increases in food prices resulting from a changeover to a new system of agricultural support, unless they are properly compensated for that change-over.

The issue before the House tonight is concerned with what is fair as between one section of the community and another. The Government have decided to change the system of agricultural support whether or not we go into the European Economic Community. As a number of hon. Members have said, the E.E.C. is not the issue tonight. The issue is the fact that the Government are changing the system of agricultural support in an unfair way, because they are failing to compensate average families for the increases that they face.

The Orders are the beginning of a crude application of Conservative philosophy which means that food prices will go up, better-off taxpayers will be over-compensated, and the average family will be worse off. That is why we shall oppose them.

11.38 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

In the brief time available to me, I want to deal with as many as possible of the technical points which have been raised in the debate. I shall not go into much of the background which my right hon. Friend mentioned in opening.

I take, first, the technical point raised by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) about the operation of the new system. I assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend will write to him explaining how it works. The existing guarantee scheme, especially in relation to abatements and supplements, is not easy to explain briefly, either. I think a letter from my right hon. Friend will be the simplest way of dealing with the hon. Gentleman's point.

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) alleged that these meat levies will put up meat prices by 3p a 1b. during July. He is being a little unfair. As my right hon. Friend said, beef prices already are well above the minimum import price levies, and the levies on beef are virtually certain not to operate during July. Looking towards the autumn, it is interesting that, with the present fat cattle price of £13 a cwt., the price would have to fall, once adjusted by the seasonal scale, below £96.6 a cwt. in the autumn before the levies would operate.

On this point, although hon. Gentlemen opposite have referred to a number of organisations and others who have said that it will have an effect on beef prices, the Meat and Livestock Commission has received a report this week from its independent panel of economists which claims that this beef levy will not hit prices except perhaps marginally for a short period in the autumn. That is the opinion of an independent body whose opinion we can respect.

The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) raised a technical point on Statutory Instrument No. 854. As the hon. Gentleman said, Article 5 of that Order sets out how the Minister shall deal with the level of the levy. Paragraphs (b) and (c) of that article explicitly state that the Minister shall compare the minimum import price with the United Kingdom fat cattle prices. Clearly, this comes within the terms of the Order.

The right hon. Member for Anglesev (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) referred to milk supplies. It is an interesting point of principle relating to the whole milk market of this country. He said that he had often been concerned about the effect that increasing the market price for milk would have on the consumer and on the liquid milk market. Frankly, one could often argue that in the past the liquid consumer had borne a disproportionate share of the costs of milk products to consumption generally. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, with the balance through the Milk Fund, the consumer in buying liquid milk products can be affected by the price of milk going to manufacture. The two are self-balancing. To this extent the introduction of the import levy scheme on milk products almost certainly helps to redress any lack of balance between these two sectors of the milk market.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked about consultations. We have had consultations with foreign Governments, and everything that we have brought before the House has been negotiated with them. We have also discussed the matter with the farmers' unions. They welcome what we are putting before the House.

The right hon. Gentleman then asked about hill sheep producers. I hope that those in the hill areas will benefit from the strengthening of market prices for lamb and mutton.

It is not easy to give an indication of how much revenue might accrue under the new and revised levy schemes in the current year. It is obvious that this will depend on market prices. For mutton and lamb we expect a revenue of about £3 million for 1971–72 and about £8 million in subsequent years.

We do not expect much revenue from beef and cereals on account of world prices and the prices which we are setting. Bonding should help. We have had discussions and we are introducing bonding at the request of meat importers and traders. It should help to give greater

Division No. 396.] AYES [11.45 p.m
Adley, Robert Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Kaberry, Sir Donald
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Astor, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Knox, David
Atkins, Humphrey Fowler, Norman Lambton, Antony
Awdry, Daniel Fox, Marcus Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Le Marchant, Spencer
Benyon, W. Gardner, Edward Longden, Gilbert
Biffen, John Gibson-Watt, David Loveridge, John
Biggs-Davison, John Goodhart, Philip Luce, R. N.
Blaker, Peter Goodhew, Victor McAdden, Sir Stephen
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Gower, Raymond McCrindle, R. A.
Body, Richard Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McLaren, Martin
Boscawen, Robert Green, Alan McMaster, Stanley
Bowden, Andrew Grieve, Percy McNair-Wilson, Michael
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Marten, Neil
Bray, Ronald Gummer, Selwyn Mather, Carol
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Gurden, Harold Maude, Angus
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Bryan, Paul Hall, John (Wycombe) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Buck, Antony Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Burden, F. A. Haselhurst, Alan Moate, Roger
Carlisle, Mark Hastings, Stephen Money, Ernle
Channon, Paul Havers, Michael Monks, Mrs. Connie
Chapman, Sydney Hayhoe, Barney More, Jasper
Clegg, Walter Hicks, Robert Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Cooke, Robert Hiley, Joseph Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Coombs, Derek Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Murton, Oscar
Cormack, Patrick Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Neave, Airey
Crouch, David Holt, Miss Mary Normanton, Tom
Crowder, F. P. Hordern, Peter Nott, John
Curran, Charles Hornby, Richard Onslow, Cranky
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Drayson, G. B. Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Dykes, Hugh Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hutchison, Michael Clark Pink, R. Bonner
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) James, David Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Eyre, Reginald Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Farr, John Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Proudfoot, Wilfred

stability to the market by making it easier for distant suppliers to hold stocks when there is a weak market.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) asked about our discussions with the Irish. My right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position shortly to make an announcement on the outcome of those discussions.

In debating the Orders we have to remember that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Chiswick and Brentford (Mr. Barnes) said, we have shown, by our policies in relation to social security benefits, family income supplement, and so on, that we are concerned about people. To help the consumer we are introducing into the agricultural market a greater degree of stability. This will mean that the British consumer is less dependent on imports and the high costs which flow from that course of action. The Order is in the interests of the consumer as well as the producer.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 163, Noes 140.

Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Walters, Dennis
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Ward, Dame Irene
Redmond, Robert Sutcliffe, John Warren, Kenneth
Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Weatherill, Bernard
Rees, Peter (Dover) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Tebbit, Norman Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Wiggin, Jerry
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Wilkinson, John
Rost, Peter Trafford, Dr, Anthony Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Royle, Anthony Tugendhat, Christopher Woodnutt, Mark
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Worsley, Marcus
Shelton, William (Clapham) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Vaughan, Dr. Gerard TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Sproat, lain Vickers, Dame Joan Mr. Paul Hawkins and
Stanbrook, Ivor Waddington, David Mr. Keith Speed.
Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Orme, Stanley
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur
Atkinson, Norman Hooson, Emlyn Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Horam, John Pavitt, Laurie
Barnes, Michael Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pendry, Tom
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hughes, Mark (Durham) Pentland, Norman
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Perry, Ernest G.
Booth, Albert Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Prescott, John
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Janner, Greville Probert, Arthur
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Cant, R. B. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Jonn, Brynmor Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Jones, Dan (Burley) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cohen, Stanley Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rose, Paul B.
Concannon, J. D. Judd, Frank Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Conlan. Bernard Kaufman, Gerald Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Kerr, Russell Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Davidson. Arthur Kinnock, Neil Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Latham, Arthur Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lestor, Miss Joan Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lipton, Marcus Spearing, Nigel
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Lomas, Kenneth Stallard, A. W.
Deakins, Eric Loughlin, Charles Stoddart, David (Swindon)
de Freitas. Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Strang, Gavin
Delargv, H. J. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dell, Rt Hn. Edmund McBride, Neil Taverne, Dick
Dormand, J. D. Mackie, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mackintosh, John P. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Dunnett, Jack Maclennan, Robert Torney, Tom
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McNamara, J. Kevin Urwin, T. W.
Evans, Fred Marks, Kenneth Wainwright, Edwin
Faulds, Andrew Marshall, Dr. Edmund Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Meacher, Michael Watkins, David
Foley, Maurice Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Weitzman, David
Foot, Michael Mendelson, John Wellbeloved, James
Forrester, John Mikardo, Ian Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Garrett, W. E. Millan, Bruce Whitehead, Phillip
Golding, John Milne, Edward (Blyth) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Woof, Robert
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Hardy, Peter Moyle, Roland TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Mr. Joseph Harper and
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith O'Malley, Brian Mr. William Hamling.

Resolved, That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) (Beef and Veal) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 802), dated 13th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved.

Resolved, That the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) (Milk and Milk Products) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 803), dated 13th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved.—[Mr. Prior.]

Resolved, That the Fatstock (Guarantee Payments) (Amendment) Order 1971 (SX, 1971, No. 801), dated 14th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th May, be approved.—[Mr. Prior.]

Resolved, That the Import Duties (General) (No. 3) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 851), dated 20th May 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be approved.—[Mr. Prior.]