HC Deb 05 December 1974 vol 882 cc1913-4
1. Mr. Boscawen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he anticipates that measures for support for the beef industry will be introduced.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)

I would refer the hon. Member to my statement to the House on 21st November.—[Vol. 881, c. 1535.]

Mr. Boscawen

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that shortly after he made his statement confidence in the market was restored? Will he now answer the question which the farming industry and others have been asking for months? Why did he not take such action until there was an overwhelming expression of disgust at the way our food supplies were placed in jeopardy as a result of the lack of such action?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that the matter had to be nego- tiated in the Community. It has been decided to have a major review of the beef regime in February. Because of representations made to me by the farmers' unions, and because I had long discussions with representatives of the unions, I was able to go earlier to the Community, and I got what I think has been welcomed.

Mr. Pym

In view of the extreme importance of establishing a long-term policy for the future in which producers can have confidence, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be helpful and desirable to have a debate in the House about the new regime before it is finally decided upon? On a related matter, has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say about a more immediate problem, that is, the shortage of fodder, which is acute in certain parts of the country, including Wales and the South-West? Is the right hon. Gentleman able to give us any hope or encouragement in that respect?

Mr. Peart

Yes, I am meeting the farmers' unions and I hope to make an announcement about fodder next week. I have discussed with the unions many of the details and I hope that hon. Members will be pleased with what we are doing. I have always argued that we should have a long-term policy. I have initiated discussion with the farmers' unions and other bodies. Those will continue, and it will be some time before they are completed. It is important to remember that we are part of the Community at the moment and, inevitably, the effect of the common agricultural policy can be considerable on a decision to continue membership. My party is committed to a referendum and consultations.

Mr. Torney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that our membership of the Common Market is hampering his efforts to help the beef industry? Does he remember that it was the last Conservative administration which took us into the Common Market and which must take responsibility for the problems which are affecting the beef industry?

Mr. Peart

I agree with my hon. Friend. I would add that the Conservative administration also ended the guarantee system.

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