HC Deb 20 May 1974 vol 874 cc13-4
12. Mr. Stanley

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what representations she has received about beef prices to consumers; and what replies she has sent.

Mr. Maclennan

I have received 31 letters about aspects of beef and other meat prices. Appropriate replies have been sent.

Mr. Stanley

I thank the Minister for his informative reply. Are we not now in a honeymoon period with beef? Does he accept or reject the forecast by a leading member of the meat retail trade that meat prices as a whole will rise next year by 60 per cent.?

Mr. Maclennan

Naturally we discuss these matters with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, who has prime responsibility for future supplies. The hon. Member will have noticed the action the Government have already taken by increasing the calf subsidy.

Mr. Jay

Will my hon. Friend at least give an assurance that the Government will not indulge in the practice of intervention buying of beef to keep the price up?

Mr. Maclennan

My right hon. Friend spoke of this on his return from the Luxembourg meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

Although the Secretary of State has said that she is not responsible for production, is she urging upon her right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture the need to maintain production of beef? Is she aware of the danger that there might be a shortage as a result of the slaughterings now taking place, and will she realise that the calf subsidy increase is absolutely no palliative in the short term at the moment?

Mr. Maclennan

We are watching the calf slaughtering figures with interest, and we shall be considering the next set of quarterly figures. Naturally my right hon. Friend studies these trends with very great care.

Mr. Peter Walker

Will the Minister therefore guarantee that if in the next quarter the trend shows that considerable slaughtering is taking place the Government will take action to stimulate production of beef?

Mr. Maclennan

That is a matter which must be answered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.