HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc779-81
10. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the prospects for beef producers in Scotland.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)

There are good grounds for confidence in the prospects for beef production in Scotland. We have a quality product efficiently produced, and the new beef slaughter premium, together with the increased calf subsidy, gives our producers an assurance of fair returns through the coming autumn and winter.

Mr. MacArthur

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that further action is needed to help the industry to recover from the Government's folly earlier this year? When he introduces these new actions, will he make certain that he takes full account of the type and quality of beef cattle bred in Scotland?

Mr. Brown

I am constantly being enlightened about the mysteries of agriculture, particularly in respect of beef production. I am told that it is a long-term industry, so I cannot imagine that if there are any worries and concern now they have all arisen since March of this year. I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance for which he asks. It is our aim, and always has been, to ensure a prosperous industry that is fair to the farmer and fair to the consumer, and consideration will be given to whatever steps need to be taken to achieve that.

Mr. Watt

Will the Minister look a little further than the ranches of Provan and come to the rest of Scotland and see herds of cattle that have been bred specifically for Europe? Will he urge his right hon. Friend to re-start the export of live cattle so that these animals can go to the markets for which they were bred and for which they are intended, where the farmers get a reasonable return for them?

Mr. Brown

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that invitation to visit his attractive part of the country, but I suggest that I am more familiar with that area than he is with Provan. But this is a different question. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this matter arises out of the O'Brien Report. It is a separate subject, and an assurance has been given that it will be discussed in the House before any changes are made.

Mr. Stodart

Is the Minister not surprised at the conversion of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) to the virtues of the Common Market?

Mr. Brown

There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to be gained from the Common Market. I am aware of the slightly unscrupulous attempts by certain Members to exploit some of the practical difficulties that have arisen, but more responsibility rests on the previous Government than on myself for some of these matters.