HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1657-8
12. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if it is his policy to maintain the present level of lamb imports from New Zealand.

Mr. Bishop

My right hon. Friend and I intend to ensure continuing access to the United Kingdom market for New Zealand lamb exports to meet our requirements.

Mr. Crouch

Am I right in assuming that there is no EEC policy on the import of sheepmeat from non-EEC countries, notwithstanding the movement to a full common external tariff? Will the Minister give a guarantee to New Zealand to maintain imports of sheepmeat at the present level?

Mr. Bishop

There are two points in the question. The first is the supply of sheepmeat generally. The hon. Member is aware of our commitments in the White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources" and the continuing import requirement. With regard to the second point on imports of sheepmeat from New Zealand, we have made it quite clear to the Community that any future arrangements for a Community regime on this matter will have to take account of the needs of the consumer here and the position of our own market.

Mr. Jay

There is no justification whatever for applying the whole hideous apparatus of the common agricultural policy to mutton and lamb. We in this country are the biggest consumer, producer and importer in the whole of the EEC.

Mr. Bishop

I stress that we must safeguard all our essential interests, including consumer prices.

Mr. Peter Mills

Will the Minister bear in mind that this is one area in which the greatest home expansion can take place to the benefit of the consumer, the producer and the balance of payments with our export of mutton and lamb to the Community? Will he give every encouragement to home production? In Devonshire, part of which I have the privilege of representing, we have set a good example in this field: we have more sheep than head of population.

Mr. Bishop

I hesitate to suggest that there is any relationship between the sheep in the hon. Member's constituency and its representation in the House of Commons. We support his observation about home production of sheepmeat. The other substantial supplier—New Zealand—has been making a decreasing contribution in recent years. Therefore, we want to give all the encouragement we can to increasing home production.