HC Deb 05 December 1977 vol 940 cc1003-4
18. Mr. Body

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what effect import levies on wheat have had upon the price of bread.

Mr. Maclennan

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) on 29th November 1977.

Mr. Body

Does the Minister accept that import levies on, for example, wheat from Canada are now just over £33 per ton, which means that wheat from Canada cannot come into this country at less than £90 per ton? This represents a tax of no less than 58 per cent. Holding the office that he does, how does the Minister defend a tax as high as that?

Mr. Maclennan

As the hon. Member is aware, levies are an integral part of the EEC's system of agricultural support. But he will also have observed that the Prime Minister made the Government's view clear in a letter to the General Secretary of the Labour Party. Under the policy which has been announced, we intend to continue to argue for the reduction of EEC support levels in real terms. We believe that much more account of world price levels should be taken within the EEC. That will, of course, lead to some reduction in the burden of levies.

Mr. Tim Smith

By how much has the price of bread gone up since the Secretary of State said that it would go down, at the time of the discount scheme?

Mr. Maclennan

That is a misrepresentation of what my right hon. Friend said. At the time of the discount scheme changes, my right hon. Friend said that the price of bread would remain lower than it would otherwise have been. In fact, the price of bread has risen very slightly, in some cases by not much more than ½p, since that date.