HC Deb 18 June 1969 vol 785 cc466-7
21. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade, having regard to the trade deficit in 1969 to date, if he will revise the regulation of imports of foreign fruit and vegetables and all horticultural products in order to enhance prospects for home producers.

40. Mr. Body

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will seek to amend the existing controls over the import of foreign fruit and vegetables in order to enable United Kingdom growers to increase production and thereby reduce imports.

Mr. Dell

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Member on 14th May, our agricultural programme provides for the expansion of home production. Horticultural growers receive financial and other help to enable them to compete more effectively with imports, and the Government see no need to alter the present arrangements concerning fruit and vegetable imports.—[Vol. 783, c. 1377–8.]

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the cumulative figure of horticultural grants is now approaching £30 million and that unless there is intelligent co-operation between his Department and the Ministry of Agriculture in regulating imports of foreign horticultural products to keep them off our market during the peak season for English growers, much of that heavy investment will be wasted?

Mr. Dell

I believe that there is intelligent co-operation between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and the Board of Trade. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the main horticultural crops from most-favoured-nation sources are subject to various specific tariffs during the main United Kingdom marketing season. Imports from the Commonwealth Preference area enter duty free.

Mr. Body

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that import duties have remained the same for 16 years and that, therefore, as each year goes by there is less protection and security for our growers?

Mr. Dell

I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro): if there is a substantial case for changing the duties in this area, that case can be made to the Board of Trade. We should have to consider the effect on consumers and on our international obligations.

Mr. Dickens

Apart from the effect on consumers, is not my hon. Friend concerned about the high and rising cost of luxury imports? Is not this not only a most serious matter but one to which his Department must give increasing attention?

Mr. Dell

The Question is about horticultural products. I do not think my hon. Friend's supplementary question arises in this context.

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