HC Deb 21 October 1982 vol 29 cc494-5
12. Mr. Nicholas Baker

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received from horticulturalists about the state of the horticulture industry.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am in constant touch with the representatives of the horticulture industry.

Mr. Baker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the news about the extension of adaptation aid will be especially welcome to that very hard-pressed industry? Will he maintain the vigilance that he has shown to ensure that fair and proper competition is maintained throughout the EEC?

Mr. Walker

Our horticulture industry makes an important contribution to the economy of Britain. The research programmes and the ADAS advice service and the capital grant programmes have all been retained and, in some cases, improved. We shall continue with that.

Mr. Newens

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the number of reports that are still coming in about lorries laden with produce coming to some of our east coast ports and selling produce on the roads, thereby evading VAT and health regulations? What is being done to stop that undesirable practice?

Mr. Walker

We shall quickly follow up any information about such practices. One encouraging aspect of horticulture is that on a legal basis some of our exports are improving.

Mr. John Wells

Can my right hon. Friend go further in his remarks about horticultural exports and give some indication of the recognition that he might give to those striving hard in that difficult area, especially bearing in mind the knock-on effect of an enlarged EEC? What steps does he mean to take to help the exporter?

Mr. Walker

We shall do everything possible to encourage those trends. From a recent visit to retailers in Belgium and Holland, I realised that there was considerable scope for improving our exports to those countries.

Mr. Maclennan

What principles will inform the Government's attitude to the difficulties that will be faced by the horticulture industry because of the enlargement of the Community to include the Iberian countries?

Mr. Walker

We shall study the impact of that in the negotiations. It will be varied. In terms of the enlargement, there is considerable opportunity for improving exports of some of the Northern hemisphere products which are not produced in the prospective new EEC countries.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Does the Minister accept that the level of bankruptcies and pending bankruptcies in the horticulture industry are disturbing? Is he aware that unless something akin to longer-term security in respect of the energy element is forthcoming from the Government, the basis of our horticulture industry could be destroyed during the next few years?

Mr. Walker

I consider the horticulture industry to be sufficiently sophisticated to notice the difference in the way in which we tackled the Dutch subsidy problem as opposed to the method adopted by our predecessors.