asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to set up a meat commodity commission to ensure a more even flow of supplies to the consumer and to examine methods of coordinating supplies of both home and imported meat to satify consumer requirements throughout the year.
If the hon. Member means by a commodity commission what was expounded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) in our recent debate, I can think of nothing more likely to militate against the satisfying of consumer requirements.
Is the Minister aware that there is widespread concern not only among the consuming public but among workers in the trades covered by the meat suppliers of this country? Is he aware of the recent prices which shook this industry, and in order to prevent similar occurrences will not he take a look at the suggestions contained in the Question? Is he aware that I am not now dealing with the speech of my right hon. Friend but with the subject to which I have directed the attention of the Minister in the Question?
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by prices shaking the industry. Certainly no commodity commission could have any effect on rainfall, for example, and whether there was a drought in the Argentine. When we last had State trading—that is what a commodity commission means—in 1951, six years after the war was over, we had a meat ration of only 8d. per head per week, which was not very satisfactory.
Is the Minister aware that what he is saying is absurd, because today the situation is completely different? Is he aware that in 1951 we were facing world shortages? Is he aware that there may be a need for some new type of machinery to phase imports with home production? When will he examine carefully the suggestion put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and by some of his own supporters who have suggested in a memorandum that there is a need for a commodity commission?
This was shot down in flames, as we saw by the Report of the Verdon Smith Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members will read the Report they will see that that is so. The main difference now compared with 1951 is that our trade in meat is now in the hands of the trade and not in the hands of the Government. It became apparent in the recent debate that the Opposition, if they were to get into power, would put the trade in meat back into the hands of the Government. We would regard that as absolute folly.
I certainly am not distorting the position. The Report rejects the concept of a commodity commission root and branch. The suggestion envisaged a commodity commission purchasing meat abroad and selling it in this country, thus usurping what the trade does infinitely better here.