HC Deb 17 July 1980 vol 988 cc1748-9
15. Mr. Dykes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the basic efficiency of United Kingdom agriculture has fallen below that of other European countries.

Mr. Peter Walker

No, Sir.

Mr. Dykes

As we have more machinery, money and productivity per unit of output, why cannot British agriculture produce 100 per cent. of our requirements over the next few years?

Mr. Walker

There is substantial scope for expansion in several spheres. During the past decade we have become more self-sufficient. A recent report shows that, on any analysis, Britain still possesses the best performance and efficiency record in many areas.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend explain how the basic efficiency of British agriculture can be judged?

Mr. Walker

I sympathise with my hon. Friend. He implies that it is difficult to find any criteria for comparing one country with another. However, if one considers the yields of certain crops in similar countries and if one looks at milk yields and the improvement in breeding among our herds, one can see a remarkable success story of efficiency and high investment.

Mr. Dalyell

What about ethyl-alcohol problems?

Mr. Walker

I hope that that problem will be discussed next week. The Commission has made statements on rebates for the whisky industry, and has decided to give greater priority to the alcohol regime. I shall keep the hon. Gentleman informed of when, and how, that subject comes on the agenda.

Mr. Hill

Given that my right hon. Friend says that efficiency is of paramount importance to the United Kingdom, why is a very efficient industry such as the pig industry slowly but surely disappearing from view? Is he not aware that our European competitors are being subsidised to such an extent that there will be no efficient pig industry left within a couple of years?

Mr. Walker

The facts about the pig industry, including the latest trends, show that the years in which our pig industry suffered from a 25 per cent. disadvantage as regards the MCAs, were disastrous and destructive to that industry. In one year, the Government have eliminated that disadvantage.

Mr. Home Robertson

Does not the Minister accept that the efficiency of British agriculture has suffered greatly in recent months, because the Government's policies have led to ridiculous interest rates?

Mr. Walker

That is why I know that the hon. Gentleman welcomed the reduction announced last week.

Mr. McQuarrie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any loss of efficiency in the agriculture industry has resulted from a failure to agree a CAP, despite the fact that he is earnestly trying to do so?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir.