HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc1540-2
8. Mr. Best

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will meet the President of the National Farmers Union.

12. Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects next to meet the President of the National Farmers Union.

Mr. Peter Walker

I expect to meet the president of the National Farmers Union on 17 March.

Mr. Best

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the president of the NFU the concern of Anglesey farmers about milk surpluses? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House today what proposals he has made to the Commission for reducing the milk surpluses without unfairly discriminating against farmers in this country?

Mr. Walker

My main proposal—and we are the only country advocating it—is that there should be no increase in the price of milk.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Canavan.

Mr. Canavan


Mr. Speaker

I am sorry. I always call first those hon. Members whose questions are being answered. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) knows now that he will be called.

Mr. Brown

Will my right hon. Friend draw to the attention of the NFU the progress he is making with the European Commission in discussions concerning sugar quotas?

Mr. Walker

At the last Council meeting there was an agreement that the Commission would put forward new proposals on sugar quotas which will almost certainly contain an improvement upon the last settlement and recommendations as far as Britain is concerned. We shall consider them when they are received. We are getting nearer to the essential position where cuts in United Kingdom quotas are fair and are no worse than those of other countries.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the opinion expressed by the NFU that the Government's proposals to remove the legal rights of children to free school meals, milk and transport could have a devastating effect upon working people in rural areas, and, indeed on the agricultural economy in general—a fact appreciated even by some Members of the House of Lords—will the Minister support those Members of his own party who want the Government to delete those obnoxious clauses from the Education (No. 2) Bill?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. In reply to an earlier question I said that I have written to the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board and to the president of the NFU suggesting further discussions about the manner in which it might be possible to take advantage of Community financing.

Mr. Peter Fraser

When my right hon. Friend meets the president of the NFU will he stick to his guns about the need for the farming organisations in this country to improve their promotional and marketing activities? If they need any evidence of what can be achieved would he draw to the attention of those organisations what has been done by the Scottish Seed Potato Association?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. What is true of British agriculture is that there are some remarkable success stories in marketing. There is no doubt that the potential of British agriculture would be considerably enhanced if we concentrated far more on improving our marketing systems. There are a number of areas in which that will take place.

Mr. Newens

Will the right hon. Gentleman discuss with the president of the NFU the views he expressed to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) about the difficulties of the glasshouse industry? The Minister said that he was hoping to get the question of unfair competition speedily resolved. Is he aware that many people who are concerned with the glasshouse industry have been waiting since we went into the EEC for those difficulties to be resolved? In those circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman see that those who are dealing with the issue get a move on?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. I am sorry that the last Government were so complacent on the issue.

Mr. Bob Dunn

When my right hon. Friend meets the president of the NFU will he ask him to prepare evidence about the unfair practices in France and Holland, which are to the detriment of horticulturists in North Kent and elsewhere?

Mr. Walker

In fairness to the Dutch industry, there is no evidence that the practices are unfair. The Dutch Government have acted within the guidelines issued by the Commission. They are using cheap gas which is genuinely available in Holland. It is not subsidised. There can be no complaint in principle about that. The Germans have recently obtained a special concession. Because of that the Commission has agreed to try to develop a unified system in Europe.