HC Deb 25 March 1976 vol 908 cc606-7
4. Mr. Baker

asked the Minister or Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent progress has been made in the EEC towards the harmonisation of fuel prices for growers in the glasshouse sector of horticulture.

Mr. Strang

The Commission has set guidelines for national fuel aids to horticulture. Under the guidelines, subsidies on the cost of heating oil must end by 1st July 1976. There is also a condition that, if an oil subsidy is paid, steps must be taken to bring the price of gas up to the fuel oil price equivalent, after subsidy.

Mr. Blaker

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that although he was described in a recent issue of the Grower as a good listener, he has yet to satisfy the House that he is also a doer? Does what the Minister said mean that at last he has succeeded in putting British growers on an equal basis with their competitors in the EEC in relation to the price of fuel?

Mr. Strang

I am happy to receive compliments from all quarters, including the Grower. On 30th June 1976 permission to make payments in aid to glasshouse producers will cease. To that extent we have been successful in resisting any extension of these guidelines.

Mr. Watkinson

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that British horticultural growers are able to compete satisfactorily with their Dutch counterparts?

Mr. Strang

Yes, I am satisfied. We must bear in mind that labour costs in Holland are substantially higher than they are in this country, and the biggest boost and protection to the indigenous horticulture industry is that since the last Question Time the value of the pound has fallen.

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