§ Mr. Conlan
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the arrangements for pensioners to buy beef at reduced prices.
§ Mr. Peart
The scheme will come into force on 2nd December. Tokens will be issued to all retirement pensioners and certain other social security beneficiaries of retirement pension age, to the value of 20p per week for a period of 18 weeks up to the week beginning 31st March. They may be used for purchases of beef and veal provided not less than a further 20p is spent on these meats.
The Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce will be responsible for Vote accounting arrangements, and the Department of Health and Social Security in Great Britain and the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland, acting on my behalf, will be operating the scheme and will be arranging for the tokens to be issued during the course of this month. Most pensioners will be able to collect them at post offices in the week beginning 25th November.
The total cost of the scheme is estimated to be up to £30 million, of which about 40 per cent. will be made available from Community funds. Expenditure will be borne on the Vote of the Intervention Board and provision will be taken in the 1974–75 Winter Supplementary and 1975–76 Supply Estimates. Meanwhile 194W there will be recourse to the Contingencies Fund.
About 8½ million pensioners will be eligible to benefit from these arrangements. I am confident that the response will considerably strengthen the overall demand for beef and help to ease the current difficulties in the beef market.