HC Deb 24 February 1965 vol 707 c386
23. Sir J. Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what information is now available as to the likely acreage of potatoes to be planted in Scotland in 1965.

Mr. Willis

The present indications suggest an acreage slightly below that of 1964.

Sir J. Gilmour

Is the Minister of State aware that since farmers were asked to make returns, the complete inaction of his right hon. Friend has caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds to potato growers? Is he aware that they confidence has been entirely shaken and that there is a very real need for him to give the same assurances which my right hon. Friends gave to the Potato Marketing Board if it is to ensure proper planting of potatoes in the current season?

Mr. Willis

I would not accept the statement by the hon. Gentleman in the first part of his supplementary question. We have acted over this. The hon. Gentleman knows that. We do not accept the conclusions drawn by the hon. Gentleman that there has been any substantial reduction. The reduction, if any, has been very small. We have not the figures, but we know that it will be small.

Mr. Brewis

Will the Minister of State look at the question of excessive imports of early potatoes, which are damaging the Scottish early potato trade?

Mr. Willis

This is a rather different question from that asked by the hon. Member's hon. Friend.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is a very real problem and that confidence in the potato-growing districts of Scotland has been greatly shaken by the failure of his right hon. Friends to accept the commercial judgment of the Potato Marketing Board earlier than they did? Is he further aware that this appears to potato growers to be quite contrary to the spirit in which these new arrangements were introduced some years ago?

Mr. Willis

I do not accept that at all.