HC Deb 17 July 1980 vol 988 cc1736-7
5. Mr. Nicholas Baker

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the current level of imports of tomatoes from Holland into the United Kingdom represents an increase over the level of imports at the same time in 1979.

Mr. Wiggin

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Baker

Will my hon. Friend take note that Dutch tomato exports to this country over the last year are 51 per cent. above the figure for the previous year, bearing in mind that Dutch overall production is slightly down? This is the result of the subsidised price or the cheap price of energy that is available to Dutch growers. As our industry is in crisis, what action will my hon. Friend take at United Kingdom and at EEC level?

Mr. Wiggin

My hon. Friend will appreciate that this matter has to be dealt with by the Commission. It reported on 11 July on this and at the Council of Ministers meeting next Tuesday my right hon. Friend will be debating this matter in the hope that we can find some solution to this extremely difficult problem.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Is the Minister aware that more tomatoes are coming in not only from Holland but from Albania? Surely we can do something to stop those imports. May we take it as a certainty that next Tuesday the Government will make a stand and will do something for growers in this country who are going bankrupt? If Germany and France can do something, why cannot we?

Mr. Wiggin

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are fully seized of the importance of this matter. My right hon. Friend certainly intends to make this country's views deeply felt. I have looked into the matter of Albanian imports. There is no substantive evidence that they are doing any harm to this market this year.

Mr. John Wells

Will my hon. Friend try to persuade our mutual right hon. Friend, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to have a little talk to our further right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Energy, because the trouble lies in the lack of liaison between our two right hon. Friends and the Commission? As the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) rightly said, if the Germans and the French can do something about it, why cannot we?

Mr. Wiggin

I assure my hon. Friend that there is no lack of liaison. This matter has been and will continue to be dealt with at the highest possible level.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware of the potentially serious crisis in the glasshouse industry? Do the Government take the view that Holland should be required by the European Community to raise its energy prices into line with those pervailing throughout the Community?

Mr. Wiggin

I am fully seized of the difficulties of the industry. We have always acknowledged the problems. We shall be doing what the hon. Gentleman suggested.