HC Deb 21 March 1972 vol 833 cc1316-20
2. Mr. Grylls

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received from horticulturists with regard to Great Britain's joining the European Economic Community.

Mr. Prior

I have received a general policy statement from the National Famers' Union. My officials continue to maintain close contact with horticultural interests on a wide range of matters relating to entry into the E.E.C.

Mr. Grylls

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that answer may I ask him to note that despite some initial misgivings about the E.E.C, the majority of environmental horticulturists in my constituency now believe that they have excellent opportunities for increasing their sales in the Community?

Mr. Prior

I am delighted to have that assurance. There has been a change in the mood of the horticulture industry in the last few months. There are still some problems ahead of us but these can be looked after as we go on, particularly by means of compensation for apple and pear growers.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Can my right hon. Friend say what progress has been made in his examination of possible methods of compensating horticulturists, particularly growers of tomatoes and cucumbers, to whom he referred in answer to Questions by me in the House some months ago?

Mr. Prior

The National Farmers' Union has now made definite proposals on apples and pears. At the moment we do not see any need to compensate efficient growers of tomatoes and cucumbers but we may have to take action as time goes on to encourage them to switch their production into other commodities. For the moment we feel that they have a good living in front of them.

Mr. Mackie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that flower growers are a little worried about the lack of information on value-added tax and how it will affect the industry? Can he give us some information?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman had better wait until a little later this afternoon.

8. Mr. Deakins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by what European Economic Community body the level of United Kingdom farm commodity prices for the fat stock guarantees year 1973–74 will have to be approved.

Mr. Prior

United Kingdom Ministers will continue to be responsible for the price determinations subject to the terms of Article 54 of the Act annexed to the Treaty of Accession.

Mr. Deakins

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the pace of adaptation to the prices of the Community over the next 25 years will be our pace and that there will be noveto by any Community body, particularly with regard to the removal of commodities under the 1957 Act?

Mr. Prior

Under Article 54 increases in guaranteed prices may take place, but subject to a limit each year of one-sixth of the difference between the guaranteed price and the E.E.C. common price, plus a percentage increase equal to the per- cent age increase made in the E.E.C. common price for that year. We could reach a stage where our prices go above the guaranteed price, and at that stage the guarantee under the 1957 Act could be phased out.

Mr. Peart

Will the Minister confirm the report in today's Press that his Department and the Government have made representations to the Community on the effect of high cereal prices on feed costs?

Mr. Prior

This is part of the consultation which has been taking place over a period of time in which we are telling the Community our views on its prices in the same way that it is able to consult us on what we have been doing.

10. Mr. Rost

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food through what institutions, in the context of the European Economic Community's horticultural marketing regulations, member countries of the European Economic Community make available to producer organisations low credit loans to cover part of the costs of operating market withdrawals.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Anthony Stodart)

No such loans have been made in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Some have been made in Germany and Italy through the Ministries of Agriculture.

Mr. Rost

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he please ensure that this matter is looked into and that the horticulture and market gardening industry can be made fully aware of the implications of our joining the Common Market with respect to these loans?

Mr. Stodart

Yes, Sir, I shall certainly see to it. I would add that the Community is not using very much the method that my hon. Friend has mentioned.

19. Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to ensure that horticulturists and, in particular, merchants of horticultural produce understand the rôle of producer groups in the European Economic Community and the benefits which depend on forming them when the United Kingdom becomes a full member of the Community.

Mr. Prior

Discussions have been held with representatives of producers and trade interests. As my hon. Friend will now have seen from the 1972 Annual Review White Paper, further consultations are being arranged.

Mr. Hicks

Will my right hon. Friend consider taking immediate and practical steps to improve the industry's understanding of the vital need for greater co-operation in the light of these new developments?

Mr. Raphael Tuck

We cannot hear a word.

Mr. Prior

As soon as we know exactly what the Community is proposing, we shall give it all the publicity that we can. Meanwhile, I shall seek an early opportunity to try to put to horticulturists the points that my hon. Friend suggests.

23. Sir Robin Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to prevent imports of pigs and of pigmeat entering the United Kingdom from countries of the European Economic Community which exercise no control of swine fever on their farms.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The Accession Treaty authorises the continuance of our present import rules for live pigs. For pigmeat we shall continue to take the necessary protective measures which we are confident can be justified under the provisions of the relevant directive.

Sir Robin Turton

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is general concern that Article 104 of the Treaty of Accession is inadequate protection for the pig industry and that, after 1977, no protection is afforded against animals infected with swine fever being imported into this country?

Mr. Stodart

The five-year derogation which we got on foot-and-mouth disease protects us from swine fever as well.

Mr. Hastings

Is my hon. Friend aware that health regulations appear to be being used increasingly within the Common Market as a form of protection and that this applies not only to live- stock but to horticultural produce? Are the Government aware of this and are they protesting as hard as they should?

Mr. Stodart

I think that my hon. Friend has a later Question on that subject.

30. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made towards a computerised system of recording market prices for horticultural produce in order to ensure immediate and accurate information within the enlarged Community.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

My Department provides weekly market reports of wholesale prices for a wide range of horticultural produce sold in the nine principal markets in England and Wales. There are no plans at present for putting this work on to computers.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is criticism of the system of recording market prices in this country particularly compared with the practice in France? Unless the machinery in this country is improved, it will be extremely difficult for the Minister to keep his assurance to growers that immediate action will be taken to act promptly to avoid disruption in the Community.

Mr. Stodart

It is true that in the Community regulations demand daily prices for items subject to intervention during the marketing season. The present arrangements will be all right for our own purposes. I am always ready to consider an improvement. We are looking at the future requirements for giving price data and market intelligence to the Community.

Mr. John Wells

Is my hon. Friend aware that the French sample over 20 markets daily whereas we sample only nine? Surely this should be done by computer and should be put on a computer before we join the E.E.C.

Mr. Stodart

Certainly the markets in the United Kingdom, on which this work will be done, are still to be agreed. I should point out that an experiment was made with a computer at Covent Garden. It was perfectly feasible and practical, but totally non-viable as few traders would use it. We hope to make progress in this sphere.

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