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New Zealand Lamb

Volume 986: debated on Thursday 19 June 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of the reduction in imports to the United Kingdom of New Zealand lamb which will result from the new European Economic Community sheep-meat régime.

The Community arrangements for sheepmeat recently agreed by the Council of Agricultural Ministers will not impose any reduction in our imports of lamb from New Zealand.

While I thank the Minister for his reply, may I ask him to inform the House why we need a sheepmeat régime? Is it merely to benefit the French fanners, and will it mean that the unfortunate British housewife will again foot the bill, with increased prices for lamb and mutton?

I know that the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to learn that the sheepmeat régime that has been agreed will be beneficial both to housewives and to British producers, and of no harm to New Zealand.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the farmers in Scotland have strong family and historical ties with the farmers of New Zealand? Does he realise that we look to this Government, and to successive Governments, to ensure that those strong ties with New Zealand are continued, and that the New Zealand economy is always considered seriously in respect of sheepmeat?

I agree with that, and that is why we negotiated the régime on this basis. There was complete freedom, and the New Zealand Government had a power of veto. My Department and the Government are helping the New Zealanders in every way possible in the negotiations.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House when the new sheepmeat regulations will be implemented?

I am pleased to inform the hon. Gentleman that there was a suggestion for the proposals to be put forward in two regulations, but the second regulation would have had to be returned to the European Parliament. We agreed on one regulation, so that, once the third country agreements are made, there is nothing to stop the régime from coming into operation quickly.

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the House what proposals Mr. Gundelach is taking to New Zealand with a view to encouraging that country to accept the sheepmeat régime? If, in the end, the New Zealanders do not like the proposals, and are not prepared to curb or restrain their sheepmeat imports to Britain, will he, too, be prepared to veto the new sheepmeat régime as at present proposed?

There is no question of the new sheepmeat régime being vetoed because it will not come into operation unless a satisfactory agreement has been reached with New Zealand. As always, we shall back the New Zealand Government on this matter.

Mr. Gundelach is not going to New Zealand with a single purpose. He is going there to negotiate with the New Zealand Government, and he will then report back to the Council of Ministers on the arrangements that he considers he can agree. He is not going to New Zealand with any mandate.