asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the present level of EEC stocks of beef and veal.
Statistics concerning intervention operations are kept by the EEC Commission and not by my Department. I understand that total stocks of beef in intervention stores at the end of 1974 were about 235,000 metric tons, to which a further 10,000 metric tons had been added by mid-January.
Is it not clear from these figures that the view held by many Labour Members and many people in the country, to the effect that the common agricultural policy is an immoral policy, is justified? Does the Minister realise that he has just told us about the storing away of large quantities of food when so many people are unable to buy it because of its price? This is a policy we have always condemned. Does this not mean that my right hon. Friend—although no one doubts but that he negotiated honourably—has completely failed to produce any change in the basic policy?
My hon. Friend overlooks the significant success which my right hon. Friend achieved in the negotiations just completed in Brussels. We have not been in favour of intervention, and we have now got the EEC to accept the new principle of the variable premium. There is a limited amount of intervention, but we expect that it will not rise significantly above the present low levels. The figure for intervention stocks in this country in December was about 14 tons.
Why is no effort being made to get rid of the 14 tons to 15 tons of beef being held in intervention in this country?
I understand that the stock is in the United Kingdom.
Will my hon. Friend accept that we regard his right hon. Friend dearly but not, I hope, too dearly, and that we would like to congratulate him on his ongoing negotiations on beef? Does he agree that, on the other hand, the renegotiations cannot be regarded as a success, in so far as we have accepted the principle of intervention buying, however low the impact may be, and because, in Brussels, the Commissioners regard this as likely to last for only a year?
The significance of my right hon. Friend's success is that we now have the option. We have decided that intervention is not the policy for us to pursue.
Is it not the case that the Minister has accepted a measure of intervention and is positively in favour of intervention for cereals? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says that he said so. He did not. He said something different.
We have a limited amount of support buying. The main point is that we have achieved alternatives which were not available until the negotiations took place.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much beef and veal has been bought into intervention in the United Kingdom to date.
A total of 176 tons of Northern Ireland beef were bought in 1974 and sold later in the year. A further 14 tons were bought in Northern Ireland last December. There is no support buying for veal.
Can my hon. Friend tell me what was the cost of purchasing that beef and, secondly, can he give us an estimate of the difference it made to the price of beef for the housewife in this country?
The cost of support buying is initially borne by the Exchequer, but the net costs, after proceeds of sales are deducted, is compensated out of FEOGA funds. The general price level depends on the market and other aspects of the package, including the variable premium which has been negotiated by my right hon. Friend.