HC Deb 17 October 1972 vol 843 cc7-10
2. Dr. Gilbert

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement about discussions with the European Economic Community on the question of indicating to the public the specific gravities of different types of beer.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Anthony Stodart)

There have been no such discussions, nor are any likely to take place in the near future.

Dr. Gilbert

Is not the Minister following the attempt of the Commission to impose the requirement of the publication of gravity bands on brewers in the Community? Will he give an assurance that when he is at last involved in such discusssions he will abandon his traditional support for the British brewers, who try to keep secret from the people what is in their disgusting beer these days? Will he attempt to get more information out of the brewers about what their beers contain?

Mr. Stodart

I think that the hon. Member is thinking of a draft directive which proposed four discontinuous bands of primitive density which are numbered by category and which would require category numbers and not specific gravity to be stated on the labels.

19. Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in his talks with interested parties on the subject of compensation for those growers who suffer adversely as a direct consequence of United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The outcome of the talks is under consideration. I assure my hon. Friend that I will make an announcement as soon as I can.

Mr. Hicks

I am sure the industry will welcome my hon. Friend's statement. May I impress upon him that the uncertainty causes anxiety and therefore press him to make the announcement as soon as he can, to alleviate the natural fears of growers in certain rural parts of the country?

Mr. Stodart

I certainly give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance on that. Our only anxiety is that we want to be quite certain that the help is fair and reasonable.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Does my hon. Friend recall that I have been pressing Ministers on this matter for a good many months? Will he assure the House that we shall soon be in a position to tell our horticultural constituents that the compensation will be real, practical and satisfactory?

Mr. Stodart

I am fully aware of the question which my right hon. and learned Friend asked last March. I repeat to him that we shall make the announcement as soon as we can and that our desire is that the help shall be fair and reasonable.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can the Minister tell us to which growers the Question refers?

Mr. Stodart

My right hon. Friend the Minister has made it quite clear that the assurance that there will be compensation covers any sector of the horticultural industry.

Mr. Peart

The Question referred simply to "growers".

Mr. Stodart

I am assuming that the right hon. Gentleman knows well enough that "growers" in this context are horticultural producers.

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is right to seek to clarify the matter. After all, "growers" can cover more than horticultural producers. [Interruption.] It is not just apple-growers; it might be potato-growers.

Mr. Stodart

With the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think that the potato-grower, other than a horticultural one, is referred to as a grower. He is referred to as a farmer. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would know that.

Mr. John Wells

Can my hon. Friend say whether the compensation will come from the British Treasury or the common agricultural funds of the Community? Can he also say whether the compensation, when it is available, will be kept open and available for many months and many years and will not have an early terminal date put upon it?

Mr. Stodart

The compensation will come from the British Treasury. I cannot give an undertaking that it will be kept open for any indefinite period. I think that there will have to be a reasonable closure date by which claims will have to be received.

23. Sir Robin Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is aware of the concern of pig producers that in the transitional period their sales will be adversely affected by the system of compensatory payments that are to be enjoyed by pig producers in the Six; and if he will make a statement on the result of his recent negotiations with the Six.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

We intend to ensure that the system of compensatory amounts for pigmeat provides fair competitive conditions and avoids distortion of trade over the transition. Discussions on this question are now taking place with the Commission and other countries concerned. An announcement will be made when decisions have been reached.

Sir Robin Turton

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is grave concern that the Community is trying to base compensation payments on unrealistic conversion factors? In addition there is a danger that within their scope will be included pigmeat not produced in the European Community but imported from Eastern Europe?

Mr. Stodart

I can assure my right hon. Friend that we are well aware of all these matters. I agree that there is anxiety. These are matters which are under discussion.

Mr. Deakins

Is the Minister aware also of the serious danger that Danish pig producers in the transitional period, by virtue of the higher cereal prices, will be eligible for compensatory payments, unlike British producers with whom they are directly competing in the British bacon market?

Mr. Stodart

This is an extremely salient point in the discussions which are going on at this moment.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the Minister assure the House that he is keeping in mind in his negotiations the special position of pig producers in Northern Ireland, as they are going to find themselves on the periphery of the market if we enter the Common Market?

Mr. Stodart