HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1658-9
14. Mr. Wakinson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many tonnes of beef have been sold into intervention in the United Kingdom in 1976.

Mr. Strang

It is provisionally estimated that 12,516 metric tons of beef were taken into intervention in the United Kingdom between 1st January and 28th May 1976.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my hon. Friend accept that these are very depressing figures for everyone connected with the beef-producing industry? The best place for beef is not in intervention but on the housewife's table. The best way to get rid of surpluses is by allowing the price to come down. Will my hon. Friend bring pressure to bear on the EEC and urge it to adopt such a sensible policy?

Mr. Strang

Yes, I agree. We are opposed to intervention. That is why my right hon. Friend has taken steps to reduce massively the level of intervention.

Mr. Cryer

Although my hon. Friend says that he is opposed to intervention, it keeps being done and mountains of one sort or another keep appearing and rearing their hideous heads. In a world in which two-thirds of the people go hungry, that sort of policy is totally obscene. The food produced by the nations of the world should be shared out among the nations of the world and not kept in intervention to satisfy the profit needs of a few French farmers.

Mr. Strang

We are basically in agreement with my hon. Friend, but he must keep this matter in perspective. There is a very small amount of beef in intervention in this country. It represents a small proportion of the total amount of meat in cold storage in the country. There is a big difference between permanent intervention on the scale which takes place on the Continent and the very limited fall-back position which applies in this country.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does the Minister agree that the amount of beef going into intervention is minimal and that most of it is in Northern Ireland? Does he not agree that a beef subsidy is being paid to keep beef at a reasonable price for old-age pensioners and certain special categories?

Mr. Strang

That is fair. Not only is the amount in intervention minimal, but we have taken action to reduce sharply the whole amount going into intervention and we intend to see that amount fall further.