HC Deb 05 May 1960 vol 622 cc1244-5
22. Sir J. Duncan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the fact that over £42 million worth of British agricultural and horticultural produce was exported in 1959, he will initiate discussions with the interests concerned to extend these exports, with a view to avoiding a ceiling on British agricultural and horticultural production.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I are very ready to discuss exports of particular products at any time, although exports of those agricultural commodities which receive subsidy do raise difficult problems.

Sir J. Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many farmers think that the only answer to disincentives in the recent Price Review is to increase production to maintain relatively the same amount of income? If we could alter our policy so as to expand markets abroad for British agricultural and horticultural produce, would it not lead to a continuing prosperous and expanding agricultural industry? Will my right hon. Friend have a look at it from that angle?

Mr. Hare

Yes. As I have said, my right hon. Friend and I are prepared to look at it but we must not minimise the difficulties. We have our international obligations to G.A.T.T., and obviously urgent problems would arise if there were any substantial increase in exports of agricultural commodities that were heavily subsidised. That is our difficulty, but it does not mean that we are not prepared to look at the problem.

Sir P. Agnew

As all but £8 million of these exports are sent out of the country unprocessed, does not this show that this could be of great help to our home producers? Is it not a thing that ought to be actively encouraged and increased?

Mr. Hare

As I have said, my right hon. Friend and I are prepared to see what we can do, but I have issued a perfectly sensible warning about the difficulties.

Mr. Willey

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman would not think of exporting produce produced under guaranteed prices for sale abroad? Surely, the thing to do is to sell it here?

Mr. Hare

I think that is true. We have the possibility of large expansion in our home market, and I do not accept that our policy is restrictionist. What it does is to try to limit the liability of the taxpayer, but it does not limit farm output.

Commander Maitland

In this considerable total could my right hon. Friend say what part is played by the provisioning of ships, what one might call "human bunkering"?

Mr. Hare

That is a rather detailed question. I will be delighted to give my hon. and gallant Friend an answer, either privately, or if he puts down a Question.