HC Deb 10 December 1981 vol 14 cc973-4
4. Mr. Moate

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the effect on United Kingdom horticulture of Spanish and Portuguese accession to the EEC.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Walker)

I have received no formal representations, but my hon. Friend will be aware that the Kent county branch of the National Farmers Union raised the matter at a recent meeting attended by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while there is an immensely strong case for enlargement of the Community, there is also concern about the longterm effects of that on British horticulture? Does he further agree that it is no more in the Community's interest that individual national horticulture should be disrupted—and Britain lose its horticulture industry—than that French growers should attack Spanish lorry drivers? Will he try to create some long-term agreement on horticulture within the Community that might permit the use of national quotas and import controls in certain circumstances?

Mr. Walker

When negotiating the entry of Spain and Portugal into the EEC, we shall carefully consider any problems affecting our horticulture industry. There are considerable opportunities for Britain in both agricultural production and the food industry.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister agree that while horticulture may present particular difficulties, and while there may be substantial potential in that area, the actual levels of agricultural production in Spain and Portugal, together with the proposed levels, mean that the common agricultural policy must be dramatically transformed or Britain's position will be ridiculous?

Mr. Walker

That is why we are considering a whole range of proposals for reforming the budget and various aspects of the CAP. Those matters will be taken into consideration during the entry negotiations.

Mr. Michael Spicer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that among the Vale of Evesham growers there is great anxiety about the future of the horticulture industry, which, nationally, has declined in acreage by about 6 per cent.? Is he sure that with the accession of Spain and Portugal there will not be a further extension of the unfair trading practices that the glasshouse industry is suffering because of the Dutch action?

Mr. Walker

Without doubt, Spain and Portugal will join Britain in taking action against, and making criticism of, the Dutch action. We have a joint interest in doing so. A number of horticultural firms in Britain are exploiting joint venture arrangements with Spain, which will be of considerable benefit to both countries.

Mr. Torney

Because of the serious effect on the British glasshouse industry of the Dutch Government's attitude toward energy supplies, will the Minister assure us that when Spain and Portugal enter the EEC Britain will not be confronted with the same difficulties and threats? Can we now hope for a little more stability in respect of the Dutch action and its effect on our glasshouse industry?

Mr. Walker

There is on the Order Paper a more detailed question about the matter, which will be answered later. The problems with the Dutch existed long before this Government came to power. However, at least we have done something for the horticultural producers.

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