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Lamb Exports

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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2.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the propects for an early resolution of the problem concerning the export of British lamb to France.

I will not agree to arrangements which do not meet our essential interests simply to enable France to comply with the Court ruling. Discussions are continuing in the Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in his discussions with the French it is desirable that the Community should move towards a support system that would not include export refunds?

Yes, Sir. It would be very wrong, and certainly very bad for New Zealand as well as being disruptive of world markets, if there were a regime that included export refunds.

What steps do the Government propose to take to inform French consumers of the enormous benefit that would flow to them from imports of British lamb into the French market?

The hon. Gentleman may know that some weeks ago I attended the main French agricultural show. As a result, I had the rare opportunity, as a British Minister, to appear on French television and put forward arguments in support of the British case. I also gave a press conference. We have endeavoured to do all that we can to communicate the realistic facts to the French people.

Is the Minister not aware that the majority of sheep producers in this country are not in favour of a sheepmeat regime, and are in favour of retaining the guaranteed deficiency payment for lamb? Will he give an assurance to those farmers that he will not abolish the guarantee deficiency payments and that he will oppose the sheepmeat regime?

Order. The Minister is entitled to choose any one out of the four questions for a reply.

I found all four attractive. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I would not change the current regime, which our sheep producers like and enjoy, unless it was to be replaced by something as good, if not better.