HC Deb 30 October 1980 vol 991 cc685-6
8. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to maintain a viable home-based horticulture industry.

Mr. Wiggin

We are continuing to give considerable financial support to the horticulture industry through the capital grant schemes, an extensive research and development programme, free advice to growers by the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service and assistance towards improved marketing of horticultural produce, including the recently announced grant of £300,000 to the Apple and Pear Development Council towards the launching of the kingdom pack scheme.

Mr. Ross

I welcome those comments and congratulate the Government on the action that they have taken. May I draw the Minister's attention to the glasshouse industry? In that context, has any progress been made on a common energy policy in Europe? Has consideration been given to making a once-for-all compensatory payment to glasshouse growers who are prepared to go out of business and pull down their glasshouses?

Mr. Wiggin

The European Commission told the Council on 30 September that it was satisfied that the preferential gas price available to Dutch growers distorted competition. The Commission is taking action under article 93 of the Treaty of Rome. We continue to urge the Commission to do so speedily, in view of the gravity of the situation.

Mr. Body

Is my hon. Friend aware that many glasshouse growers in my constituency are driven to the view that our right hon. Friend no longer has any power to deal with imports, from the Netherlands in particular, which are grown with the help of a considerable fuel subsidy?

Mr. Wiggin

My hon. Friend's views on the Common Market are well known. Tomatoes are subject to EEC rules.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that many of the people engaged in the horticulture industry view the Minister's list of aids as worthy of derision, since they are so insubstantial? Is it not clear that in this matter, as in so many others, particularly when energy policy is involved, the Government are disdainful of national need and disregard the supportive attitude of Governments of other member States?

Mr. Wiggin

I shall not answer for the horticulture industry as a whole, but I believe that progress in the apple industry has been remarkable, and something of which we can be proud. Difficulties still exist in some areas, and tomatoes represent one of those difficulties. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we spend nearly £19 million on research alone. That is an enormously high proportion of the total available. The hon. Gentleman's accusations are false.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Treaty of Rome permits discriminatory action to be taken against imports when our industry is being unsettled by abnormal imports? Now that the EEC has found that Dutch gas prices break the competition rules, will he please take unilateral action to keep out Dutch imports until action by the EEC on gas prices becomes effective?

Mr. Wright

Unilateral action is neither likely nor called for on this occasion. Germany, France and Belgium are suffering in the same way. We are not alone in our complaints. We have the cause of righteousness on our side.

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