HC Deb 23 May 1974 vol 874 cc574-6
4. Mr. Spence

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will name the countries, together with the quantities involved as a proportion of the United Kingdom domestic market, from which food has been imported during the past three months at a price lower than the prevailing EEC prices.

Mr. Peart

I regret that this detailed information is not readily available. For many products world prices have recently been higher than full Community prices. A number of foodstuffs for which there are support prices set under the CAP are available on import into the United Kingdom, from both Community and third country sources, at lower prices than those obtaining for comparable products in the original Community. This is because of the operation of transitional and monetary compensatory amounts.

Mr. Spence

I regret that the figures are not readily available. Is it not the case, from what the right hon. Gentleman said, that the existence of the Community and our participation in it has meant a stable supply of food for the British housewife at reasonably favourable prices compared to world prices?

Mr. Peart

I do not know whether that can be deduced from what I said. However, sugar is an example of a commodity the world price of which is currently above the EEC price. Milling wheat is another example. I have often argued, especially in relation to meat, that it is important for us to think of the consumer as well as the producer.

Mr. Jay

Is my right hon. Friend aware that world wheat prices have fallen more than 30 per cent. since February, that most world grain prices are now lower than the EEC levels, and that the prices of other foods, including sugar, cocoa and coffee, are also falling? In these circumstances, is it not even more important that Britain should free itself from the CAP?

Mr. Peart

I gave all the facts I had, and I stand by them. My right hon. Friend must appreciate that those are the facts, and they cannot be altered.

Mr. Pym

The Minister referred to sugar. Does he agree that if he does not do something about the price of sugar the shortage is likely to increase and to be serious next year? There is an urgent need for action, so that farmers will plant up their full acreage next year.

Mr. Peart

I do not dissent from that. I am having talks about the matter. It is one which concerns the Community as well. There is a great problem which also concerns cane sugar and the question of fulfilling quotas.