HL Deb 23 February 1965 vol 263 cc813-4

The Earl of CROMARTIE asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the large estimated surplus of potatoes in the country, and the further disastrous drop in price which followed their decision, taken against the advice of the Potato Marketing Board, not to support the market, they will now reconsider the possibility of supporting the market with a buying programme.

LORD CHAMPION: As my right honourable friend said in another place yesterday, we have decided that the situation has developed in such a way as to justify the introduction of support buying financed jointly by the Government and the Potato Marketing Board. The Government will meet two-thirds of the cost.

Since the beginning of February the average market price has again fallen and is now for the first time since October below the guaranteed price. We believe that this is the result of exaggerated rumours about the size of the surplus, and that the present level of prices is in no way justified by the supply situation over the country as a whole. Nevertheless it now seems that the average price for the season may not reach the level of the guarantee, and we have decided that support buying is necessary in order to steady the market. We are satisfied that its introduction should not lead to an increase in prices to consumers greater than the usual seasonal increase.

Last December the Board undertook a support buying programme at their own expense. The Government have agreed to make some contribution; but think it reasonable for it to be no more than two-thirds of the cost over and above what can be financed from the Board's special reserve of about £600,000.