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Sheepmeat Régime

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made towards the establishment of an interim sheepmeat régime within the EEC.

The Council of Agriculture Ministers has not reconsidered the proposals for an interim sheepmeat régime since October 1976, although technical discussions have continued.

Is the Minister aware that the news that so little activity is taking place is most disappointing? Will he appreciate the problems of those who produce fat lambs if they do not know whether the French market will be open? Will he give some assurance today which will give confidence for the future, and will he press the matter more urgently than he appears to be doing at present?

We recognise the urgency of the situation. In the beginning we were not very happy about the régime coming into effect at all, but I appreciate the hon. Member's point. He will be aware that production methods in marketing in the Community are diverse, which adds to the problem. In the meantime, the Government have given renewed confidence to the industry in respect of increases in the wool and fat sheep guarantees.

Is the Minister aware that as long as there is no sheepmeat régime there is an unfair discrimination in favour of the original Six and a strong levy on sheepmeat for new entrants? Is it not grossly unfair that in what is called a common agricultural policy there is not a common policy to all the Nine but preference given only to the Six?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of our policy aimed at liberalising trade within the Community. We are the largest importer, exporter and consumer of mutton and lamb, and we want to ensure that there is freedom for our people to export to the Community if they wish to do so. I would also point out that home consumption is a major factor at the moment.