HC Deb 01 February 1996 vol 270 cc1115-6
11. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of food goods used to compile the retail prices index are sourced from the United Kingdom. [11276]

Mr. Boswell

The retail prices index is based on a range of food and other goods and services intended to be representative of current consumer purchases. It does not take account of their sourcing, but my colleagues and I are anxious to encourage British food.

Mr. Evans

Does my hon. Friend agree with Janice that all food goods produced in the United Kingdom should be marked with a United Kingdom flag, and that all imported goods should be marked F for foreign? Does he also agree that that lot over there should wear badges showing their sell-by date so that we can all know the difference between new Labour and old Labour? We would then really know what the word hypocrisy means.

Mr. Boswell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interesting suggestion—his and Janice's. There are certain technical problems in relation to both parts of the suggestion. In relation to food products, some are processed and might lose their original identity, while some might be blended together. In relation to Opposition Members, the biggest technical problem is that we might not know from one day to another whether they were old Labour, new Labour or somewhere in between. I have come to the conclusion that the Leader of the Opposition's recent support for the right to roam has come about because Opposition Members want to distance themselves from each other as far as they possibly can.

Mr. Tipping

Does not the common agricultural policy add about £20 to a typical family's weekly bill? Is not a reform of the CAP essential, and needed urgently, if we are to help ordinary families with their cost of living?

Mr. Boswell

While the common agricultural policy is expensive—my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has taken the lead in Europe in advocating change—I would not necessarily accept the figure that the hon. Gentleman quoted. The cause of CAP reform can be taken forward only by a party that is prepared to speak out for it; it cannot be taken forward by a party that is prepared to cave in to other interests to ensure that it is never isolated in Europe, even when it is wrong—as it usually is.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be desirable for British beef and meat products to form a high proportion of the items in the retail prices index? Would not it be more difficult to produce and export British beef if local education authorities emulated the incompetent Liberal Democrat administration at Dorset county hall? Is he aware that it introduced a ban on beef products in schools, based on no evidence but on rumour and media hype? Two weeks ago, it cancelled the ban—thank goodness—but the damage to the confidence of young people in British beef products is considerable and that to the farming community incalculable. Is that not another example of the Liberal Democrats being prepared to say anything to anybody?

Mr. Boswell

My hon. Friend is entirely right. It seems from the report that he has given to the House that Dorset county council, under its present administration, is not good at running its schools and would be rotten at running a British export drive.