asked the Minister of Food what progress has been made on the Argentine meat negotiations; and if he will make a statement.
These negotiations are still in their preliminary stages. I shall make a statement at an appropriate time. Meanwhile, the House will be glad to know that, to counteract the adverse effects of last year's drought and to complete their shipments to us under the 1951 Protocol, the Argentine authorities have taken measures both to restrict the domestic consumption of meat and to prohibit sales to other countries.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that according to "The Times," this is the first time that a big delay has occurred at the beginning of the negotiations, and is it not about time that the negotiations were begun in an effective sense?
The hon. Gentleman is the last one who should make an observation like that. As a matter of fact the last negotiations took over a year.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not started yet.
Leaving out of consideration last year, when it took one year and 10 days—and for that I was not responsible—the negotiations for this year are proceeding in a perfectly normal manner compared with other years.
Can the Minister confirm that the negotiations last year were held up for many months because the Socialist Government could not supply the tin, coal and petroleum at the prices the Argentine were prepared to pay, and that the same problems faced us this year, as they were left to us by the previous Government?
Was there not last year an unfortunate debate on meat which held up the negotiations, and for that the then Opposition were responsible?