§ 10. Mr. Thomas Cox
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the foods and the quantity thereof at present stockpiled in the EEC.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Joseph Godber)
I will, with permission, circulate the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Cox
I shall look with interest at the figures when they are published. Is the right hon. Gentleman fully aware that the British housewife is already completely disillusioned by the effect of the Community's agricultural policy on her and her family? Is he aware that prices go up month by month, that the housewife is able to buy less, and yet the stockpiling continues month by month? In view of today's announcement in one of the London papers about the £50 million food scandal in Europe, how much longer will British taxpayers be forced to contribute to this policy? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the responsibility for change rests not with 735 the housewife but solely with the Minister?
§ Mr. Godber
If there is any disillusionment it will be with the words that the hon. Gentleman has used. His words show his total misunderstanding of the situation regarding the Community. In fact, food prices have not risen as a result of our entering Europe. As I explained in the House last week, the actions and decisions which we took in Luxembourg have safeguarded the British housewife this year. As I told the House last week, the best estimate which we can make about the effect on the housewife, this year, of our entry into the EEC is 1½ per cent. The increases that have occurred, of which we are very conscious and which I know disturb the housewife very much, are not the result of Britain's joining the Community.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison
Should not my right hon. Friend ensure that there is a marginal surplus of foods to take account of increasing demand? Is it not the case that the review of the agricultural policy, which he has announced, will be aimed at reducing surpluses in certain commodities whilst encouraging the production of those that are in short supply?
§ Mr. Godber
Yes. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the dangers that exist from having a shortage of a particular commodity. We have seen the effects of that on beef, over the last 12 months. It is far better to have a slight surplus than a shortage, which immediately hits the housewife very hard.
I attach great importance to the discussions that we shall be having later in the year about the future of the CAP. I hope that we shall be able to make progress in providing directions in which we can help to improve the CAP in a way more helpful in general to both the housewife and the taxpayer.
§ Mr. Shore
I return to the right hon. Gentleman's answer about the stocks of food which now exist in Europe. We have not seen the table, but I have a feeling that the stock figures will not tell us the quantities of certain grains that have been denatured rather than put into stock or destroyed. In view of the reports that we have had of very serious food shortages in certain countries in Asia, or parts of countries in Asia, will 736 the right hon. Gentleman raise with the EEC, this year, the possibility of not denaturing or destroying certain grains that might be used for human consumption this year? Will he urge the EEC to consider some other and much more acceptable way of disposing of them?
§ Mr. Godber
I have sympathy with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman about helping the under-nourished countries. The Community has a good record for helping them. I must take up with the right hon. Gentleman the point that he used about "destroying". There seems to be a genuine misunderstanding about what happens. There is no question of destroying the food. Denaturing is not destroying. Anybody who pretends that it is destroying is grossly misleading the House and the country. I would have hoped that Opposition hon. Members, whatever their prejudices, would at least be honest about that. Denaturing does not destroy food; it produces food in such a form that enables it to be used for animal feed. If hon. Members call that destroying they are showing an incredible ignorance.
Under successive Governments food has been rendered unfit for human consumption and used for animal feed in this country. The animals produced with that food are then used for human consumption. There is no question of destroying. That is a gross distortion of the facts.
§ Mr. Godber
I agreed with the hon. Gentleman about that, but I took up the use of the phrase about destroying food. It is important to use words that mean what they say. In this regard it is not destruction but diverting to animal feed. Cereals, and wheat in particular, have been used for animal feed for many years. It does not matter which Government are in power, animals still eat wheat in this country.
§ Mrs. Renée Short
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that he has been saying from time to time that the British consumer would be protected, that we would not have ill-effects from the common agricultural policy, and that in due course 737 Common Market farmers would be getting to grips with agricultural prices? None of those things has happened, yet he goes on putting out bromides one after another. When will the Government do something to ensure that the housewife is protected from the results of the common agricultural policy? How can he say that the price increases which the housewife has had to meet—in products such as meat, eggs, butter and cheese—are not the result of the common agricultural policy?
§ Mr. Godber
What I have repeatedly said—if the hon. Lady will control herself—is that the increases in price which we have suffered during the last six months have not been related to joining the Community. I have also said that there will be rises in price resulting from joining the Community, but that they will be limited and spread over a long time. The price increases of the various commodities to which she referred are not the effect of Common Market entry. If the Government which the hon. Lady supported when they were in office had encourage a little more production in this country we would not have had the problem which has faced housewives over the last six months.
§ Following is the information:—
§ Stocks of food held under intervention arrangements in the EEC at the latest available date are as follows:
|Thousands long tons|
|Durum Wheat||Mid-April 1973||5|
|Common Wheat||Mid-April 1973||1,295|
|Paddy Rice||Mid-April 1973||3|
|Skimmed Milk Powder||Mid-April 1973||55|
|* Stocks will be reduced by the sale of 200,000 tons of butter to the Soviet Union.|