HC Deb 11 October 1976 vol 917 cc16-7
14. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will redistribute the total subsidy now paid on butter equally between butter and margarine.

Mr. Maclennan

No, Sir. It would be inappropriate to extend the coverage of the subsidy programme at this stage.

Mr. Atkins

Would not my hon. Friend agree that there is a case on egalitarian and health grounds, there being no cholesterol in some margarines, for this equal subsidy? Can he assure us that the Government will not be talked out of rejecting the proposals which are currently being made in the Common Market for increasing the price of margarine?

Mr. Maclennan

My right hon. Friend has already made clear the Government's firm opposition to this proposal and, therefore, the impossibility of its coming to fruition. The health point was in my right hon. Friend's mind when the rate of subsidy on butter was adjusted earlier in the summer. It is too late in the subsidy programme to seek to set up the apparatus of control that would be necessary to introduce a new subsidy.

Mr. Marten

Is it true that if the green pound were devalued to its right level the increase in the cost of food in this country would be 7 per cent.?

Mr. William Hamilton

That is what the NFU wants.

Mr. Maclennan

That is, I believe, correct. That is why the Government have resisted a devaluation of the green pound.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Do I take it from the earlier reply that if Mr. Lardinois persists in his absurd proposal for placing a tax on margarine the British Government will veto it?

Mr. Maclennan

The British Government, in my presence, have made their views entirely clear in the current Council of Agriculture Ministers. This is an unacceptable proposal, not only to the British Government.