HC Deb 03 December 1992 vol 215 cc385-6
9. Mr. Tyler

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what sums have been awarded to what groups under the MAFF group marketing grant since 1 April.

Mr. Curry

The Department has so far issued 11 approvals under the scheme to a total value of just over £180,000 in England.

Mr. Tyler

Is the Minister aware that that is a very disappointing and pathetic take-up after all the hype about the introduction of the scheme? Will the Minister comment on whether too high a proportion of the cost is laid on the groups or whether it has something to do with the criteria for acceptance within the Ministry? At the end of the financial year, will any unallocated funds be sucked back into the Treasury?

Mr. Curry

The answer to the last question is no. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's point about the take-up. We have had 39 applications and 18 approvals in the United Kingdom. We deliberately set ourselves to work sensibly to develop schemes and we deliberately decided not to go for a great theatrical send-off for a scheme that might not be well founded. The important point is that we are encouraging people to talk about, discuss and develop schemes with us and we are very encouraged by what is happening. We are now talking to the catering and retail sectors about how they can get hold of the products that they want to help British farmers and to give British consumers the best of British produce.

Mr. John Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that the coming together of a competitive exchange rate, the CAP reform and the GATT settlement provides the best opportunity for a generation of British food manufacturers to make inroads into our huge trade deficit in food products? The marketing grant scheme is crucial to that. Does he also agree that the labelling directive which is under consideration would help our manufacturers a great deal if we could put on the labels of our food the origin of those food products?

Mr. Curry

I note my hon. Friend's final point. I agree with him entirely. The whole purpose of the scheme is not to persuade people to do things for patriotic purposes, but to ensure that they can get first-rate products from the United Kingdom for our consumers and for the export market. We have some quite remarkable products and we are not justly represented overseas in many of the markets in which we should be. The whole point of the scheme is to ensure that British food acquires a worldwide reputation for quality, reliability and innovation.

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