§ 5. Mr. Kitson
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he intends to take to reduce the heavy import of foreign beef into the United Kingdom and help to strengthen the present market conditions; when he expects an improvement in the beef prices to the producer; and if he will make a statement.
§ 43. Mr. Ridsdale
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement about the present position with regard to fatstock prices.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Frederick Peart)
Cattle and sheep prices have strengthened recently, and I expect this improvement to be maintained. I do not see any need at the present time to take further action.
§ Mr. Kitson
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people still think that prices are very low indeed, and there 431 is little sign of a substantial improvement? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he will not be renegotiating with the Irish to take any more subsidised Irish beef into this country?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Am I to understand that there will be special payments at the end of the guarantee year to the farmers who have suffered difficulties during the period? What is the Minister going to do to see that this kind of situation does not occur again?
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever the price to the producer, prices to the consumers are regarded as exceptionally high? Will he say what progress is being made to resolve the problem of the difference between what the consumer pays and what the producer gets?
§ Mr. Stodart
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he could hardly have given colder comfort to producers of beef by saying that prices have strengthened from that deplorable low level? Would not he agree that there are far too many parcels of beef coming in from here, there and everywhere, and that although individually they may not amount to much, an increase of evenor 2 per cent. in imports can break the market at home?
§ Mr. Peart
I have said that prices are improving. Why be pessimistic about 432 this? Why talk the situation down? The hon. Gentleman is always preaching gloom. The fact is that prices at present are, I admit, lower than they were last year, but then they were very high, much higher than under the previous Tory Administration, when we had a worse position.