HC Deb 23 May 1974 vol 874 cc579-81
9. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the future of the Intervention Board.

Mr. Peart

Under the provisions of Section 6 of the European Communities Act 1972 the Intervention Board is charged with certain functions in respect of the United Kingdom's obligations under the EEC's common agricultural policy. The board will continue to fulfill these subject to any changes which may occur as a result of renegotiation.

Mr. Marten

Is it not becoming increasingly clear that the Intervention Board system in this country is inapplicable? Is the Minister aware that many farmers all over the country would much prefer to go back to the pre-1970 system of guarantees and support?

Mr. Peart

I am well aware of that. I have been made especially aware of it when I have met farmers and representatives of the industry. They much preferred the old system—the guarantee system—which I am proud to say was basically introduced by the first Labour Government after the war. It worked well. I think that intervention is not working well in Europe. The hon. Gentleman has a very important point.

Mr. Torney

When the Opposition spokesman speaks about an interest in Community prices, is my right hon. Friend aware that when the Conservative Party was in government it was responsible for entry to the Common Market and the change to the Intervention Board system, and that it is the Intervention Board that is taking food off the market in order to keep prices high? When 200 farmers v/ere here last week they showed that they do not want that.

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend confirms that there is disquiet about a policy which bases its support for the market on intervention. I feel that intervention is not working even in Europe. For that reason I obtained an option when I went to Europe the first time.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's attitude to intervention, which is becoming well known to us all, will he tell us what the Intervention Board is having to do? Would it make him much happier if he renamed it the "Non-intervention Board"?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman has made a strange intervention. He knows that the board exists and that it is concerned with refunds on imports of agricultural produce from member States. I am talking about our Intervention Board. It provides aid—private storage, and so on. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) was criticising the intervention system which operates basically in Europe. On either side of the House there is disquiet on this matter.