HC Deb 05 May 1994 vol 242 cc836-7
14. Sir Teddy Taylor

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to her answer of 19 April, Official Report, column 443, what was the cost to the EC of destruction and disposal of fruit and vegetables in 1991–92.

Mr. Jack

Based on information provided by the Commission, the total cost to the European Union of withdrawing all eligible produce throughout the Community in 1991–92 was £104.35 million.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Is not it sickening that that vast sum is being spent on the destruction of 751,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables for the sole purpose of keeping prices high, thereby damaging the poorest families in the land? Rather than just deploring this cruel nonsense, could not the Government say that there is no way that they will present any legislation to the House of Commons to increase the resources of the Economic Community until something is done about this nonsense, which is sickening and wrong?

Mr. Jack

Had my hon. Friend been here a little earlier, he would have heard what I said in response to other questions about the efforts that this Government have made to control European Union spending and the agriculture budget. On the question of the intervention scheme for fruit and vegetables, we are at one with my hon. Friend in seeking radical reform of the regime. It is doing significant damage to the prospects of our apple growers, for example, and in the Council of Ministers we are pursuing that line of argument very vigorously indeed.

Mrs. Lait

What progress is being made in the talks in the Council of Ministers about the fruit and vegetable regime?

Mr. Jack

We are currently preparing a detailed submission about the types of reforms that we should like to see in this area. We have listened very carefully to the industry. I know that the industry understands that if its objective to receive a grubbing-up grant is to be achieved, for example, we must also have a parallel development in the form of the removal of the intervention scheme, particularly as it affects apples.