HC Deb 19 November 1987 vol 122 cc1183-5
1. Mr. Loyden

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the current totals of intervention stocks held in store in the United Kingdom, broken down by commodity.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson)

A note setting out the volume of intervention stocks in the United Kingdom on the latest available dates, broken down by commodities, is deposited in the Library of the House and is updated monthly.

Mr. Loyden

I have acquainted myself with the up-to-date position. Does the Minister agree that it is an outright indictment of CAP policy that food to this extent can be hoarded when in the Third world about 40,000 children die every day from starvation and related diseases? Why do the Government appear to be sabotaging the only good that has Bowed from that policy — the distribution of food in Britain to the poor and needy—by intervening to stop that plan?

Mr. Thompson

My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) has made great efforts to ensure that European food is distributed in the Third world, but the inability of Third-world Governments to accept Oxfam or other organisations and the habit of Third-world revolutionaries of shooting at food convoys does not help the smooth distribution of that food. [Interruption.] That may sound absurd to Labour Members, but it is true. Intervention stocks of butter in Britain have decreased by 25 per cent. and of wheat by 50 per cent. over the past year. We are not trying to sabotage any deals on food for the poor. In collaboration with other people, we are trying to make those schemes more efficient and more effective.

Mr. Curry

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Third world needs help in developing self-sufficiency and that to use developing countries as a dustbin for European surpluses is against their interests?

Mr. Thompson

I agree with my hon. Friend. The examples of India and China demonstrate what happens when countries begin to produce their own food. Oxfam says that it is not food that is needed, but education for people in the Third world on how to become as efficient in agricultural production as we are in Europe.

Mr. Ron Davies

We deprecate the Minister's facile comments about the Third world. Does he understand that this winter there will be a sense of outrage if these large stocks of beef and dairy products lie unused in intervention as a result of the Government's deliberate torpedoing of the scheme that is currently being discussed in Brussels? Will he undertake to reconsider his position and go to Brussels and argue for the distribution of the surpluses to the needy in Britain and the Third world? Will he further undertake that, if such a scheme is eventually agreed in Brussels, he and the Government will not block its introduction in Britain?

Mr. Thompson

The hon. Gentleman is uncharacteristically fudging two quite distinct issues. In the context of butter and food, we are doing as the hon. Gentleman asks, because we are trying to get the best possible scheme for this system to work efficiently. The distribution of food surpluses to the Third world is of paramount importance, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should do all that we can to ensure that it is distributed properly. I wish that some of the recipient countries were as open, free and able to receive it.

Sir John Farr

The House recognises that the surpluses are caused by over-production. Will my hon. Friend comment on what happened last night when the French and German Ministers of Agriculture walked out of a meeting designed to bring about a European 20 per cent.

set-aside programme? Will my hon. Friend condemn the action by those Ministers, because if we could bring about that sort of programme it would reduce surpluses?

Mr. Thompson

I do not wish to pre-empt the answer to be given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on that detailed and important question.

Mr. Speaker

I appeal to the House for briefer questions, please.

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