§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to encourage the production and use of more homegrown wheat in bread-making in view of the development of United Kingdom cereal growing.
The MINISTER of STATE, MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES and FOOD (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, the production of bread-making wheat is encouraged by Community support arrangements which offer a premium to bread-making over feed wheats and by Government contributions to research and advisory services.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. In view of the improved and harder type of wheat which can now be grown in this country, could he bring pressure to bear on the millers to import less foreign wheat? As my noble friend knows, we import a great deal of Canadian and American wheat, but could he bring pressure on our millers to use more British wheat for bread-making?
My Lords, it is a fact that the type of bread which we require in this country must have in it a certain proportion of North American hard wheat and therefore inevitably, if we are to continue with the type of bread that we have, that is bound to he included. However, over the years the proportion of home-grown hard wheats that has gone into bread has risen from about 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. of a loaf.
§ Baroness SEEAR
My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that some of us would be extremely glad if we did not continue to have the type of bread which we customarily have?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is, of course, quite capable of choosing what bread she wants to buy.
§ Lord BARNBY
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl a question arising out of my noble friend's original Question and the noble Earl's first reply. Would it be wrong to assume that, if the Government were to provide the encouragement requested by my noble friend, it would result, with existing installations of machinery, in a larger proportion of bran of a higher quality being available in this country than that which arises from the imported wheat and the existing machinery employed in producing it?
My Lords, I am not certain whether I have correctly understood the drift of my noble friend's question. However, I would go along with him if he were to say that the type of bread which we have in this country requires some very complicated machinery to produce it.
Lord WALLACE of COSLANY
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that it is absolutely essential in the present economic climate that more and more food is grown at home, and that the quality of bread would be improved if British wheat were included? I ask the Government to give every possible attention—whether it is a question of growing in larger quantities or smaller quantities—to the fact that more food should be grown at home, because after all Britain needs the dough!
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, that the Government are very concerned to ensure that as much food as possible is grown at home. To emphasise that point, he might like to know that imports of wheat into the United Kingdom have decreased from 3,979,000 tonnes in 1975–76, to 2,621,000 tonnes in 1978–79; and from the EEC the imports during those two dates have decreased from 2,738,000 tonnes to 871,000 tonnes. So, we are not doing so badly.
§ Baroness SHARPLES
My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the varieties of brown bread now available are considerably greater than they were a few years ago?
Yes, my Lords, I think that my noble friend is quite right in saying that there are more varieties available and that the types of bread available show a greater range than they used to.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, if the Government are so keen on growing as much food as possible at home why are they proposing, under the terms of the Local Government Bill, to allow local authorities to hand over allotment land to developers?
My Lords, I have a fairly wide imagination, but I am bound to say that it is stretched to the limit in trying to see how the noble Lord's question has any relevance to the Question on the Order Paper.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Lord Soames]
My Lords, I think that it should be agreed by the House that at this time even we cannot live by bread alone!