asked the Minister of Food what was the result of the negotiations which took place with the Mexican Government in June, 1950, with regard to the purchase of Mexican meat for the British consumer.
The discussions showed that there is little hope, in the present state of the frozen meat industry in Mexico, of developing any substantial trade in the near future, but my Department will naturally keep in touch with the position.
The answer of the Minister refers to the "near future." Is not it a fact that the Mexican Government made an offer to equip the port of Tampico with packing and shipping facilities purchased in Britain, to pay for it themselves and to take British technical advice about the installation and management of the industry; and in view of the difficult meat position did he not pursue this offer further?
I myself saw representatives of Mexico, including the head of one of their leading banks which was prepared to finance this operation, but we had to consider all sorts of other factors, including freight charges and so on, and, on balance, we thought that at the moment it was not a really good offer.
In view of the difficulties of negotiating with the Argentine at present, does not the Minister think that this is a good time for healthy competition from Mexico?
If the circumstances under which we were buying meat were favourable, yes, but they are not so at the moment.
asked the Minister of Food what alteration in the value of the weekly meat ration is contemplated by his Department during the period between this date and 31st January, 1951.
I would rather not speculate about future ration changes in this way.
Has the Minister any statement to make about a meat bonus for Christmas, particularly in view of the fact that Norfolk turkeys are now selling wholesale at 9s. a lb. and are anticipated to go as high as 15s. a lb.?
There are other Questions on the Order Paper about Christmas bonuses.
In so far as the value of the ration should be related to its quality, what steps is the Minister taking during this period to ensure that meat of B grade is not sent by his Department to butchers marked A grade?
That is another question.
asked the Minister of Food when shipments of meat from the Argentine ceased; and when they will be resumed.
Shipments ceased on 21st July. I cannot say when they will be resumed.
Does the Minister realise that mutton shipments from the Argentine are now gravely prejudiced by the fact that the wool clip off the back of the live sheep is worth four times the value of the carcase? What is he doing to ensure the future continuity of Argentine mutton shipments?
I should prefer to make no further statement at present, as the talks are about to proceed again, and I cannot see that the Question of the hon. Member is very helpful on this point.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that while these meat negotiations are being protracted, all kinds of other trade and industry between the Argentine and this country, which is very much more important than meat in the values involved is being held up in consequence?