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Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 25th June 1996.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 9:20 pm, 25th June 1996

No, it would not have been this one. We would have been in the Commission at the outset negotiating specific proposals. We have assurances from the Commission that a slaughter policy of considerably fewer than 100,000 would have secured agreement if we had tabled it at the beginning rather than wait for 13 weeks and pursue four weeks of non-co-operation. The Government failed to act, blamed the European Commission for their failure to act and then secured the worst possible deal, the highest number of slaughtered cattle that could have been achieved by incompetence and the surrender of the administration of that policy to the European Union and the Commission. That is what the Government have succeeded in doing. That is no triumph; it is a disaster. If it is a triumph, it is the triumph of Jim Hacker, not of a Prime Minister who knows how to defend the interests of his country.

Farmers and people in the beef industry are now asking when they can reasonably expect to be able to sell British beef into foreign markets. The National Farmers Union welcomes the Prime Minister's belief that it will be October or November, but I have spoken to no one in the beef industry who believes that that is likely to be achieved. From listening to the last two speeches, I wonder whether we have a deliberate hostage to fortune so that the Prime Minister can let the dogs loose again in another three months in order to create an anti-European rant in advance of the general election. If that is the way in which British policy is to be determined, it is disastrously contrary to the interests of the British producers and the British farmers.

The constituency that I represent has a wider cross-section of beef producers than probably any other constituency. I have not only specialist beef farmers but three slaughterhouses, numerous meat processors, the transport industry, the rendering industry, the haulage industry and the refrigeration industry. Thousands of people in my constituency work in the beef industry.