§ 13. Mr. Darling
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what technical assistance he is giving to the Horticultural Marketing Council in the preparation of a national plan for regional wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, and for the most efficient designs for such markets.
§ Mr. Soames
Most wholesale markets are owned by local authorities, and the preparation of a national plan is not one of the functions of the Horticultural Marketing Council, as laid down by the Horticulture Act. But it is prepared to advise on the layout and facilities of individual markets, and such technical assistance as my Department can give is always available to it.
§ Mr. Darling
Does this mean that the Minister is satisfied with the present position? Has he read the pathetic Report of the Horticultural Marketing Council which makes perfectly clear that we need new wholesale markets in this country? Has he read the Report of the National Farmers' Union committee about the French five-year plan to create a network of wholesale markets in France? Will he realise that, if we are to go into the Common Market, the costly and inefficient marketing arrangements which we have in this country ought to be wiped away and we ought to have better and cheaper markets to offset the increases in prices which will come from entry into the Common Market?
§ Mr. Soames
I have, of course, seen both of these Reports, and most interesting they are. In this country, since the Runciman Committee recommended that there should not be a central marketing authority but that markets 1463 should be in the hands of local authorities, this has been the policy we have pursued. The hon. Gentleman asks me whether I am satisfied with the situation today. The answer is that no one can be satisfied with the small amount of progress which has been made in modernising markets. This is a matter of the gravest importance for the horticulture industry as a whole, and it is exercising my mind very much at present.