§ 16. Mr. Brittan
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether it is his policy to provide guaranteed prices to British beef producers on a permanent basis.
§ 26. Mr. Hordern
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures he will introduce to support beef producers after January 1975; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peart
I refer the hon. Member to the assurance I gave in the debate on 25th November. It is my firm intention to secure arrangements from February onwards which will continue to give a measure of support to our beef industry 1929 equivalent to that given by the temporary arrangements introduced on 18th November.—[Vol. 882, c. 73–4.]
§ Mr. Brittan
I welcome that answer, but does not the Minister accept that it is essential for beef producers not to live on a month-to-month basis if there is to be any assurance of adequate supplies in the future? Will he confirm that it is his intention that there should be not merely a measure of support but a permanent guarantee available to all beef producers?
§ Mr. Hordern
When will the result of these negotiations be available? That is what farmers want to know. Will the Minister also give us a firm assurance that farmers will be given an absolute guarantee price upon which they can deal themselves?
§ Mr. Winterton
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is still a serious situation in agriculture, particularly in the livestock sector? Will he press the Leader of the House to set up a Select Committee on agriculture and to allow time for a debate on the export of live animals, which is a very important matter to the livestock farmers?
§ Mr. Peart
I agree with the hon. Member about the O'Brien Report. The decision about a debate, which originally came up when a previous decision had been made in the House, will be a matter for the Leader of the House. I am well aware of its importance and have had considerable pressures from the industry. I understand the industry's point of view, and it knows that I am sympathetic, but this will be a matter for the House. The question of a Select Committee is a matter for my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Torney
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in order to give the 1930 beef industry a firm basis it would be a good idea to introduce a marketing board? If he agreed, would he start some machinery working for consultations with all sides of the industry for setting up such a board?
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend will appreciate that a decision on the question whether we should have a marketing board, similar to the Milk Marketing Board, for example, is a matter for the producers. The legislation is there. Within that, they can make certain decisions, but it will be for them, not for me, as the Minister.
§ Mr. Buchan
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the interpretation of his last deal in Brussels was different from the interpretation given in this country, in so far as the deficiency payments structure has been regarded as a temporary exception and the intervention structure as permanent? Will he accept it from me that both the Labour Party and, I believe, this House would prefer it the other way round—that the intervention system was the temporary exception and the guaranteed price and deficiency payments system was made permanent?
§ Mr. Pym
The Minister referred to his assurance of 25th November, but does he recall his assurance on 26th June about a price of £18 a hundredweight, which he repeated on 17th July? In those circumstances, does he not think that he should make arrangements for retrospective payments to August at some convenient date, so as to be fair to those who believed what he said on 26th June?
§ Mr. Peart
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not be so carping. The variable premium system that I have secured from the Community now gives something that hon. Members opposite never wanted. They believed in permanent intervention as a matter of supporting the Community. What I shall negotiate in February, I believe, will be along the lines of what I said earlier today. I am glad that Conservative back benchers at least have welcomed it.