§ Mr. Buchan
Imports of beef from developing Commonwealth countries are not subject to duty. Other Commonwealth imports are subject to duties at 8 per cent., while imports from third countries are subject to rates of up to 11 per cent. These charges are to an extent offset by monetary compensatory amounts in many cases.
§ Mr. Buchan
Yes—if some of the worst predictions of certain hon. Members opposite are fulfilled, but I do not see much sign of that at the moment. I think the point of the hon. Gentleman's 588 supplementary question was the effect of imports upon beef prices, but I do not see the relationship between that and the question of increasing beef production in this country.
§ Mr. Hooley
Why does my hon. Friend not remove these duties and allow us to get back to the sensible agricultural policy we had before we entered the Common Market?
§ Mr. Buchan
My hon. Friend knows the answer to the first part of his supplementary question. In reply to the second part, I agree that from all sections of industry there has been increasing demand for a return to the deficiency payments system.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
In that case, will the hon. Gentleman join us in the European Parliament in trying to get annulled the order whereby if one imports meat from third countries one has to import an equivalent amount of European meat from cold stores? Will Labour Members join us in getting that restriction lifted?
§ Mr. Buchan
The British Government have an effective voice, in the shape of my right hon. Friend, in discussions in the Council of Ministers, where it is proper that he should make the case for Britain.
§ 18. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he has made in considering the findings of the O'Brien Committee; and if he will make a statement.
§ 20. Miss Fookes
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of his consultations with interested parties regarding the export of live animals for slaughter following the report of the O'Brien Committee.
§ 23. Mr. Beith
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he has so far made in his consultations with interested organisations and with Ministers of EEC countries on the report of the committee on the export of animals for slaughter; and by what date he hopes to have completed these consultations.
§ Mr. Moyle
We have invited interested parties to let us have comments on the committee's recommendations by 24th May and we shall study these carefully. Arrangements are in hand for discussions in the European Community. We shall reach conclusions as soon as possible. My right hon. Friend has already given an assurance that we shall not resume export licensing for animals for slaughter at least until the O'Brien Report has been debated.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
The right hon. Gentleman has been sitting on the report ever since he came into office, like a politically-motived broody hen. Is it not a fact that the committee found that the House was fundamentally misguided, and that hon. Members on the Government side were clearly politically motivated in banning the export of live animals last autumn on humanitarian grounds? In view of the damage that this is doing to the confidence of livestock producers, and its long-term detriment to the housewife, will the House be given the opportunity to reverse the decision as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Moyle
The House will be allowed to debate the issue as soon as possible, but I can hold out no hope for an early debate. I cannot accept that we have sat on the report. As soon as the report was available we started consultations, which are now about to end. We shall study them and produce our conclusions as quickly as possible and then we shall have a debate.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if he is not able to do that fairly soon the farming community will feel that he is deliberately delaying something which could help in the present difficult situation, and that those who are concerned with animal welfare will feel that he does not want to take the opportunity to do what the O'Brien Committee laid the ground for, namely, to build up a system of animal welfare safeguards across Europe?
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins
Bearing in mind the fact that the difference in profit between the export of live animals and carcases is only marginal, and perhaps based on the deplorable conditions of European slaughterhouses, would it not be better to abolish this monstrous trade instead of subsidising it by appointing a gang of inspectors who may be as easily hoodwinked as the O'Brien Committee?
§ Mr. Watt
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the animals involved are mature and specially bred for the European market, and that as that market is not now available the prices of these animals on the home market is disastrously low and is responsible for the tremendous fall in prices in the past few months?
§ Mr. Winterton
Will the hon. Gentleman not admit that it is better for the House to reach a decision from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance as the House did in relation to the ban on the export of live animals for slaughter? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the NFU is overwhelmingly in favour of the restrictions being lifted immediately? Does he not agree that overweight bullocks and barren cows have fetched extremely good prices in Europe and that it would help the beef and livestock sector very much if the ban could be lifted?