HC Deb 23 May 1974 vol 874 cc581-2
11. Mr. Blaker

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his recent meeting with Ministers of the EEC.

Mr. Peart

The meeting of Agriculture Ministers of the EEC scheduled for 21st May has been postponed. I was at a previous one on 7th May.

Mr. Blaker

Is the right hon. Gentleman making sure that his Department is keeping itself informed of the arrangements for fuel oil subsidies for horticulturists in other member countries of the Community? Will he bear in mind that before long some of the glasshouse growers will need to know what the situation will be after the end of this year so that they can plan their programme? When he meets his colleagues will he bear that matter in mind?

Mr. Peart

Yes, I shall bear that in mind. I introduced a subsidy which I believe was welcomed by the industry. I think that what we gave was much better than what was provided in any other European country.

Mr. Jay

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the present agricultural difficulties are completely due to the abandonment of guaranteed prices and deficiency payments by the previous Government? Has my right hon. Friend noted the speech of Sir John Stratton on Monday of this week, advocating a return to guaranteed prices as a long-term solution?

Mr. Peart

As the House will know, I was probably the only Minister who declared an interest in FMC when I was, I think, a successful member of the board. I have noted what Sir John has said. I do not want to repeat replies that I have already given.

Mr. Hurd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that nostalgia for the deficiency payments system does not strike an echo with the farmers who have memories of that system? Does he agree that the way in which the system was operated by his right hon. and hon. Friends between 1965 and 1970 led to virtual stagnation throughout the agricultural industry?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that. The hon. Gentleman is being partisan. If he compares the price review awards during the years that he has mentioned with those that were granted during the previous Conservative administration he will find that the Labour Party has a good record. There is no question about that.

Mr. Flannery

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was a major meeting of agricultural workers in this House the other night? When he eventually meets the EEC Ministers will he take steps to raise the problem of getting rid of the tied cottage in Britain, in Europe and throughout the world?

Mr. Peart

I note what my hon. Friend says. Indeed, I must take note of his words because of the position of our friends in the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers. There is a Question on the Order Paper on this matter.

Mr. Pym

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since he has taken away the floor in the market we and the agricultural industry are glad to know that he is thinking of bringing back some kind of guarantee? Has he worked out the cost? Does he realise that one of the problems of the guarantee system was the rising bill? That was one reason, when he was Minister of Agriculture before, for the system getting into difficulties. Has the right hon. Gentleman worked out the cost and who will pay?

Mr. Peart

We have specific proposals and we shall put them to the industry. I know the cost of the intervention policy which is pursued in the Community. 1 believe that good meat put into store is bad for the producer and for the consumer. The right hon. Gentleman should know that.