HC Deb 10 June 1982 vol 25 cc380-1
8. Mr. Stan Thorne

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied with the level of farm production in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, Sir. The situation described in the "Annual Review of Agriculture 1982" White Paper, Command. 8491, is satisfactory.

Mr. Thorne

Does the Minister agree that increased productivity of British farms could be achieved if we used to that end the contribution that we make to the Common Market?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If the hon. Gentleman intends to follow that line, he must realise that any other system could cost the taxpayer up to £2,000 million per year in deficiency payments. If that is his choice, I hope that he will say so.

Mr. John Wells

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the level of horticultural production? If he is, is he satisfied with the level of horticultural profitability for the industry?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes. There have been problems in some parts of horticulture. I acknowledge them. My hon. Friend will know, both from our support for marketing and on fuel costs, that there has been ample evidence during the past few years of our concern. We have demonstrated it in practical terms for that important section of the industry.

Mr. Spearing

Although the Minister may be satisfied with production, is he not worried about over-production, especially of cereals? Does that not mean that, in addition to the levies, the taxpayer must pay £50-plus for exports of surplus wheat and barley, as well as having to support the Minister in a programme, which is also backed by public money, to export British food?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, I am worried that products are in surplus. The hon. Gentleman will know that we did our best to achieve restraint at the last price negotiations for those products. I would have more respect for the hon. Gentleman's comments if he showed some pride for and appreciation of what British agriculture has achieved. From 1978 to 1980 self-sufficiency in the commodities that we can grow increased from 67 to 75 per cent. In terms of savings on imports, that means that agriculture is saving about £1 billion more this year in foreign exchange than three years ago.

Mr. Colin Shepherd

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a substantial body of opinion among the Opposition that it is neither important nor relevant for the United Kingdom to have an agriculture industry?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, Sir.