Beef, Butter and Cheese

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd July 1981.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 12:00 am, 23rd July 1981

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the current rates of levy per pound on imported beef, butter and cheese.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

The current rate of levy, including the MCA, on imports into the United Kingdom of beef ranges from 11p to 74p per pound. For butter it is 50p per pound, and for Cheddar cheese 56·5p per pound. But, as my hon. Friend knows, all the cheese and almost all the beef and butter imported into the Community comes in under preferential arrangements at substantially reduced, or nil, rates of levy.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

In view of its renowned efficiency, does British agriculture need this massive and grotesque level of protection against foreign competition from the Third world?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

My hon. Friend must have failed to listen to my answer, and, if so, I hope that he will read it tomorrow, because I pointed out to him that all the cheese and almost all the beef and butter imported into the Community comes in under preferential arrangements.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard this system of food taxes as one of the benefits to the United Kingdom of EEC membership?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

I should like to put back the question to the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What system would he recommend under which he would hope to ensure a fair deal and security of good supplies to the consumers of this country which at the same time would maintain a healthy agriculture industry? I believe that the present arrangements do that.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Do the Government support the first proposal made by the Commission for the reform of the common agricultural policy, which is that Community food prices shall, over a period of years, fall to world prices?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

That precise proposal is not made, but, as my hon. Friend will know, in all the price fixing with which my right hon. Friend and I have been concerned we have endeavoured to exercise restraint on price increases.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

Do these levies ensure that British food prices are the highest in Europe?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

No, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we also obtain from Europe a number of other measures—for example, in the beef premium scheme, in the lamb premium scheme and in relation to the butter subsidy—whereby prices in the United Kingdom are helped out of Community funds.