HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1199-200
9. Mr. Monro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what consideration he is giving to the reduction of imports of agricultural produce from countries with temperate climates.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The question of the right balance between home production and imports is under continuous consideration, and the Government's determinations at successive Reviews have reflected the continuing importance which they attach to agriculture's import-saving rôle under the selective expansion programme.

Mr. Monro

Is the Minister aware that this is the answer we are given every month? Is it not time that we had some action? With the import figures running at £650 million per month, is it not time that some incentive was given to farmers to reduce this figure?

Mr. Hughes

The farmers were given an incentive in the Price Review. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that the Government have adopted a selective expansion programme to encourage import saving. This is something which his party never did.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the Minister prepared to enter into further talks with the Government of New Zealand with a view to reducing our imports of lamb and mutton from that country?

Mr. Hughes

These matters are constantly under consideration. I would ask my hon. Friend to give notice of that question.

Mr. Stodart

Is the Minister aware that he has given a most disappointing answer to a most important question? Has he acquainted himself with the figures published today of the trade gap? Is it not absolutely clear that there is no chance of closing this gap by export efforts alone? Will he, therefore, give some positive encouragement to people to save imports by producing more food at home by giving them a really action-full policy now?

Mr. Hughes

I agree that agriculture has a greater contribution to make in this sphere, but this cannot be done overnight. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should have started it when they were in power, but they failed to do so. We have a constructive policy and, by successive Reviews, we have given farmers the incentives that they need. We shall continue to do that.

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