HC Deb 14 March 1985 vol 75 c428
12. Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the average consumer price of lamb and beef in the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Fenner

The prices of different cuts of meat vary widely. Information collected by the Department of Employment in the course of constructing the retail price index indicates that the price of a leg of home-killed lamb in January 1985 was 169.1p per lb, compared with 159.1 per lb a year ago. The price of chuck braising steak, for example, was 170p per lb in January 1985, compared with 168.5p per lb in January 1984.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Ignoring the different cuts, and taking the average price per pound of a carcase of lamb, is it not true that the price of a pound of lamb is cheaper in this country than in any other country in Europe and that, similiarly, the price of a pound of beef is cheaper in Britain than in any other European country, except Holland? Is that not a tribute to the sheepmeat regime and the beef variable premium, which we must retain?

Mrs. Fenner

I agree with my hon. Friend that the beef and the sheepmeat variable premium schemes have helped to keep down the price of meat to the consumer. The schemes have benefited producers while reducing the need for costly intervention.

Mr. Maclennan

I recognise that the sheepmeat regime has given the consumer a good deal. Will the Government press strongly during the negotiations in Brussels to ensure that the seasonal scale of the sheepmeat regime is altered to the advantage of our farmers?

Mrs. Fenner

We are trying to do exactly that.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is the hon. Lady aware that the Minister's reply yesterday was less than totally reassuring about the Government's commitment to defend the beef variable premium and the sheepmeat regime? Since these measures are almost unique in the common agricultural policy, in that they are to the benefit of not only the producer but the consumer, may we have a cast-iron guarantee that they will be retained?

Mrs. Fenner

The hon. Gentleman could not have been listening. My hon. Friend the Minister of State has already said today that we shall be pressing strongly for the retention of the beef variable premium scheme.