HC Deb 11 December 1975 vol 902 cc641-2
12. Mr. Mates

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many tons of unprocessed meat is held in cold stores in areas covered by the Dock Labour Scheme.

Mr. Peart

The information available to my Ministry about food held in cold stores does not distinguish between stores located in ports to which the Dock Labour Scheme applies, stores in non-scheme ports and stores elsewhere in the country. The total quantity of unprocessed meat other than poultry meat held in public cold stores on 21st November 1975 was 102,000 tons.

Mr. Mates

As we import over 500,000 tons of meat, carcase meat and offal, which has to come through cold stores, will not the new Dock Work Regulation Bill have a very serious impact on our food supplies should there be a dispute in that area? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) have pointed this out on separate occasions to the Secretary of State for Employment, to no avail, will the Minister take his right hon. Friend to one side and tell him that, above all, our priorities must be our food supplies and not that particular piece of dogmatic Socialism?

Mr. Peart

I think that the hon. Gentleman is crying "Wolf" too soon. The Dock Work Regulation Bill was given its First Reading only the other day. It provides that the National Dock Labour Board should consult me. I believe that that will help considerably. I do not wish to disturb imports of food into Britain

Mr. Buchan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it might have been more appropriate if the hon. Member for Petersfield (Mr. Mates) had paid a little more attention to dogmatic inefficiency, and particularly to the dogmatic inefficiency of the intervention scheme of the Common Market whereby there are three times the amount of beef in cold store as a result of intervention and 1,200,000 tons of dried milk?

Mr. Peart

As my hon. Friend probably knows, Question No. 15 relates to intervention. I shall answer him then.

Mr. Jopling

Is the Minister aware that if the present Dock Labour Scheme, which covers 3 ½ per cent. of cold storage capacity in this country, were extended to the five-mile band, it would cover 63 per cent. of our capacity? Is he further aware that his support for the Bill has caused wide dismay in that, in the event of a strike, the Bill would have sinister implications for food supplies for the British housewife, and sinister implications for fanners, as there may be a danger of stopping up the supply of feedingstuffs for British livestock?

Mr. Peart

I think that the hon. Gentleman is crying "Wolf". After all, the Bill will be debated, and there are safeguards: I have given one example, on consultation. Furthermore, I believe that unions act responsibly.

Back to