HC Deb 03 April 1968 vol 762 cc344-6
6. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will revise upwards the selective expansion programme to take account of the new situation created by devaluation.

13. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what fresh proposals he has for increasing home-produced food; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peart

Agriculture's contribution to the national economy was considered very fully at the Annual Review along with other relevant considerations including the economic situation following devaluation. I have nothing to add to what is said in the Annual Review White Paper.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the Prime Minister's statement on 19th November that farm production would be stimulated and imports saved? What positive action have the Government taken to give farmers the proper incentive?

Mr. Peart

This has been done not only by this year's Review, which I think was reasonable and sensible and will encourage expansion and investment. Taken with last year's Review, it aims to achieve the selective expansion programme. In that sense, it will be concerned with import saving.

Mr. Marten

When the bacon agreement comes up for review, will the Minister seek a larger share of the bacon market for the British producer in order to save imports?

Mr. Peart

This is something I must bear in mind. One of our difficulties previously has been to maintain our percentage. I have increased the guarantee for pigs and I introduced new proposals to help the industry which have been accepted by it, so that altogether I want o make the industry much more viable, strengthened and expanded.

Mr. Turton

Does the Minister appreciate that the proposals in the Review make no provision for the kind of import-saving programme the Prime Minister mentioned in November? Will he reconsider this matter in the light of the Prime Minister's undertaking?

Mr. Peart

We are always considering this, and I am in close touch with the unions. I believe that the Review, which I am certain was recognised by all fair-minded people to be sensible and realistic, will help achieve the aims of the selective expansion programme.

Mr. Prior

How can the Minister get his import saving without either taking some control over imports or incurring a vast increase in Government expenditure in the form of subsidies?

Mr. Peart

The two pertinent questions of import saving and the nature of support for the industry are matters which we shall discuss this year. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members opposite will appreciate that we have many international obligations. I have challenged the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) so often. Is it the view of the Opposition that we should end all our trade with countries like New Zealand?

21. Mr. Jopling

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the progress of the selective expansion programme.

Mr. Peart

I have given an account of progress in the recent Annual Review White Paper.

Mr. Jopling

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if agriculture had the chance, it would be capable of doing much better than the selective expansion programme which the Government have laid down for it?

Mr. Peart

I have already replied to that. My White Paper was categorical and I know that the hon. Gentleman has not really criticised it.

23. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what contribution agriculture has made to import saving in each Price Review year since the publication of the selective expansion plan; and what contributions it is expected to make in the forthcoming year.

Mr. Peart

It is not possible to give figures on a year-to-year basis in terms of actual imports saved, but the volume of home agricultural output has risen by about 5 per cent. overall over the period of the selective expansion programme compared with about ½per cent. for all food imports.

Mr. Irvine

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied to leave imports at the level of £1,600 million a year without taking more urgent action than he is taking?

Mr. Peart

I announced a long time ago and I have repeatedly told the Opposition that we have a selective expansion programme which aims to meet the increased demand for food of £200 million by 1971 and that the greater part of this demand will be met from home production. My last two Price Reviews, which have been successful, have been designed to achieve this.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a proposed increase in demand. Does he mean an increased percentage of those products which we can produce ourselves at home?

Mr. Peart

I believe that we can produce a greater proportion. That is why I abolished standard quantities for wheat and raised cereal prices, for example. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have been cheering me today.

Mr. Manuel

Will my right hon. Friend remember that many farmers face increased expenses because of bad marketing arrangements and steeply increased auctioneers' fees? Could he not make more sensible marketing arrangements and so do away with auctioneers and save money?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the importance of more orderly marketing arrangements and I am conducting inquiries into many commodities. The Egg Commission is one example.