asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how imports of butter from inside and outside the EEC over the past three months compare with the same period a year earlier.
The figures available to us show that during the three-month period up to the end of February 1977 42,151 metric tons of butter was imported from the rest of the Community and 43,422 metric tons from countries outside. Comparable figures for the same period a year earlier were 84,488 and 21,617 metric tons respectively.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, which demonstrates again how the high Common Market prices have depressed consumption. Could he say whether there is any basis for the claim by the Danish Dairy Federation that butter is now being stockpiled in this country in the hope that advantage will be taken of the fact that butter prices will rise by 18p per lb. by the end of the year?
As my hon. Friend knows, the two transitional steps, which have yet to be taken this year, will, once they are taken, increase the price of butter by about 12p or 13p per lb. There is no doubt about that. But that has been known ever since the Treaty of Accession. Therefore, those making their calculations on stocks have had a good length of time to prepare, if that is what they are preparing for.I have not sufficient information to say "Yes" or "No" to my hon. Friend's question, except that commercial stocks, which probably are as good a guide as any, at the moment are about 119,000 metric tons, which is pretty well where they have been during the past two years or so.
In view of the increase in the price of butter that is to take place, and in view of the fact that the EEC is pressing for a margarine tax, can my right hon. Friend say what the British housewife is to put on her bread in the future?
Butler, if she wants to. Margarine, if she wants to.