HC Deb 23 February 1995 vol 255 cc479-80
14. Mr. Simpson

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has for an increase in the funding for Food From Britain in the next six months.

15. Mr. Frank Cook

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to provide additional funding for the organisation Food From Britain in the next six months.

Mrs. Browning

In line with the policy announced in 1993, we are maintaining Government funding for Food From Britain. In the current financial year, this represents 54 per cent. of the organisation's financial resources.

Mr. Simpson

Would the Minister care to think again about the adequacy of that answer, given the current almost unsustainable and unbelievable levels of food imports into the United Kingdom? I should be grateful if she would explain why we import apples over a distance of 6,000 miles from South Africa, green beans over a distance of 4,000 miles from Kenya and parsnips over a distance of 11,000 miles from Australia. That cannot be other than damaging to the global environment and our domestic economy. Given that set-aside is now the second largest crop in the United Kingdom, when will the Minister come up with a policy that will reverse the problem of empty land—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. This is Question Time. Questions must be much brisker than that.

Mrs. Browning

The hon. Gentleman raised a range of issues; let me pick the key ones.

Food From Britain targets its resources on exports and speciality foods. Many of the horticultural products that the hon. Gentleman mentioned are produced in this country, ensuring that we can not only export them but produce them for the home market, thus promoting import substitution.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned parsnips. I learned only last night that it is difficult to obtain them in France. I have spoken to Food From Britain, which is already exploring the market opportunities.

Mr. Cook

Does Minister realise that more than half the food retail market is in the hands of only 2 per cent. of retail stores, and that that results in a high percentage—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Prime Minister's entry is appropriate because I was about to say that that results in a high percentage of rejects—about 20 to 50 per cent., depending on the commodity. In the case of the latest commodity to enter, it will be 100 per cent. shortly. That underlines the need for perfect produce. What percentage of the Food From Britain programme is dedicated to helping the producer, who must bear the cost of that, and produce a better standard for the market?

Mrs. Browning

I reject the implication in the hon. Gentleman's question. Food from Britain is the best in the world.