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Sheepmeat Exports

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the access of sheepmeat from the countries of Great Britain to the EEC.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. E. S. Bishop)

I recognise that the cessation of national import arrangements in the EEC could be beneficial to our sheepmeat trade, but in spite of these barriers United Kingdom exports to the EEC have increased by some 50 per cent. since accession.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that feeling is running quite high among sheep farmers in Wales that the Minister and the Government are not putting up the sort of fight that they should be mounting for a regulation on sheepmeat in the EEC? At least, they are doing nothing comparable with what the Irish are doing. In future, will the hon. Gentleman put up such a fight?

I think the House will know that we have made our position very clear. There are four basic points. First, we want to safeguard producers and ensure that there is confidence in respect of production. Secondly, we want to ensure that there is a regime which provides reasonable prices for consumers. Thirdly, we want to ensure that British exports can continue and increase. Finally, we want to ensure that there can be the possibility of continued access for New Zealand.

Will the Government keep in mind the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom and not only those of Great Britain?

Yes. I think that that is apparent in the general guidelines I have just spelt out.

Are not the barriers that the French are putting up disobeying the de Cheysson judgment in the European Court? I may not be right about that, but if that is so will the Minister consider doing what everybody else seems to be doing in the Common Market—namely, taking the French to the European Court?

I think the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the French are already being taken to court by the Irish. Although we recognise some of the undesirable effects of some of the features of the French import arrangements, especially as we are the largest exporter of sheepmeat in the Community, we want to achieve a solution that will safeguard the interests of all countries.