HC Deb 16 March 1978 vol 946 cc615-6
3. Mr. Wiggin

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will next meet the Chairman of the Potato Marketing Board.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. E. S. Bishop)

My right hon. Friend met the Chairman of the Potato Marketing Board, the Deputy President of the National Farmers Union and other representatives of potato producers on 10th March to discuss the marketing and support arrangements in 1978–79 and subsequent seasons. Because of the uncertainties about the timing and content of an EEC regime and the future of the import ban on maincrop potatoes, we do not expect to be able to announce detailed arrangements for the 1978–79 marketing season until the summer.

Mr. Wiggin

The Minister of State answers this Question in the same way every time that I ask it. Is it not about time that he proposed a more definitive solution, or could it be that the Gov- ernment, with their usual dexterity, will arrange to have no chips with no fish?

Mr. Bishop

The hon. Gentleman will realise that within the Community we have been pressing for answers to some of these questions. The fact remains that we have given assurances about the guarantee. The Potato Marketing Board has issued quotas to producers for the 1978 crop in line with the target determined as a guide to the planted area which, given normal yields, is expected to equate supply to requirements. We are pressing for an early determination of these matters.

Mr. Jopling

Will the Minister of State understand that the Government's attitude to this problem is totally unsatisfactory and that if, because of lack of leadership and of assurances, we find ourselves with a shortage of potatoes and with high prices, the blame will be entirely at the Government's door?

Mr. Bishop

The hon. Gentleman cannot ignore the fact that there is the possibility of an EEC regime. We have been trying to get that determined as soon as possible. There are also uncertainties about the import ban. The Commission has made some observations on this matter.

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