HC Deb 03 February 1965 vol 705 cc1058-9
12. Mr. Ian Gilmour

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will estimate the total cost to the horticultural industry of the imposition of the 15 per cent. surcharge, the increase in Bank Rate, and the increase in tax on petrol.

Mr. Peart

It is not possible to estimate the cost to horticulture of the temporary import charge, because its effect cannot be isolated from those of other factors affecting growers' costs. The cost to horticulture of the increase in the Bank Rate and in the tax on petrol may amount to about £¾ million in a full year.

Mr. Gilmour

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Government have added about 7½ per cent. to the cost of production of many growers? What steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to protect this highly vulnerable industry from the consequences of Government blunders?

Mr. Dodds

Which Government?

Mr. Peart

The Government took a decision on financial policy which in the end, I recognise, has affected the horticultural industry, but they took that decision because of the mess left to them by the previous Administration.

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one prominent authority on agriculture has announced that importers had absorbed a very considerable part of the 15 per cent. surcharge and that agents here had absorbed part and that very little was being passed on?

Mr. Soames

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Horticulture Act, 1964, passed by the previous Government, was of great benefit to the industry and that in the short time he and his colleagues have been in power they have gone a long way, through this imposition of extra charges, to undo all the good done in that Act?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense and he knows it. We will implement the Horticulture Act to the full. I supported it in Committee and I am anxious in Administration that growers who need it will have all the assistance. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Government's other measures, which he condemns, are temporary and the reason for them was the failure of the previous Administration.