HC Deb 09 February 1971 vol 811 cc262-3
8. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to ensure for the home farmer an increasing share in the home market.

Mr. Prior

It is the Government's intention to change the system of agricultural support and we have already taken steps to that end. When a full and comprehensive levy system has been introduced, it will help the expansion of an efficient agriculture by preventing low-priced imports from undermining the market.

Mr. Godman Irvine

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the answer given to me on 18th January in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that he saw no prospect of any reduction in the level of agricultural import quotas? In the circumstances, can my right hon. Friend explain how he expects to secure a larger proportion of the market for our farmers, and, as this is an area of policy in which farmers think that the Minister of Agriculture is able to represent their interests, what is he doing to show them that that is his policy?

Mr. Prior

I assume from my hon. Friend's remarks that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was speaking in terms of Eastern European quotas, since the only commodities that we import under quota come from Eastern Europe. Levy schemes as such will raise prices in this country, so that the farmer will get his return from the market. This should enable him to expand production and compete favourably with other countries.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House is becoming concerned about the progress of his negotiations on these levies with overseas exporters? Can he say what progress he is making and when he will be able to give us details? It is said that New Zealand and Australia are especially concerned about the levies that he is seeking to impose. Can he be a little more precise and say what will be the effect of levies on imports of foodstuffs, especially of such commodities as beef, butter and cheese?

Mr. Prior

Talks are still going on. They are of a confidential nature. I am not yet in a position to make a statement to the House, but as soon as I am, I will do so. In the meantime, the negotiations are proceeding, and they cover the commodities which the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned.

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