HC Deb 07 February 1974 vol 868 cc1354-5
7. Mr. Moyle

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much has been spent by the Intervention Board to date on intervention buying, payments to private storers for taking food off the market, and denaturing incentives respectively.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

To 31st December 1973 £16.5 million had been spent on intervention buying, £3 million on aids to private storage, £441 in compensation to producer groups and £19.7 million on denaturing incentives. Aids to private storage, payments to producer groups, and denaturing incentives are financed by the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund. The net cost of purchases into intervention is recovered from the fund when the product is sold.

Mr. Moyle

Has not everything that we have heard this afternoon made it clear that the Intervention Board is an obnoxious Conservative invention to force a high cost of living on the British people? Why have the Government lost their chance of abolishing it before they leave office?

Mr. Stodart

No, Sir. It is a method of giving producers of valuable food a chance of continuing to do so.

Mr. Jay

As the Minister admits that the Intervention Board has been hoarding large quantities of food—now including beef—in order to hold up prices, how can he pretend that it is not Government policy which is responsible for the present high price of food?

Mr. Stodart

If the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that 25 tons of beef is a large proportion of a weekly consumption of 25,000 tons, he is a more jaundiced character than I thought he was.

Mr. Farr

Is not the intervention buying of beef another way of helping agriculture, and is not the fact that the Opposition oppose it so much an indication of just how much they care for the whole industry?

Mr. Stodart

I should have thought that that was obvious from the word "go".

Mr. Deakins

How can intervention buying help to bring down prices for the housewife?

Mr. Stodart

It is because in times of shortage it acts as a very good cushion for releasing foodstuffs from intervention on to the market.