HL Deb 11 December 1985 vol 469 cc207-8

2.43 p.m.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are planning to continue their support for the Food from Britain campaign.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister announced recently that for each of the three years from 1988–89 the Government will make available to Food from Britain's marketing activities £1 for every £2 contributed by industry up to a maximum of £2½ million a year, provided industry contributes at least £3 million per year. This is in addition to the £14 million pump-priming grant covering the organisation's first five years up to 1987–88.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that excellent piece of news. Does he think enough publicity is given to the Food from Britain campaign, in view of the fact that it is so vital to sell the produce of this country? We all talk about producing more, but selling more is even more important. I wonder whether my noble friend can add anything to that.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think that the annual report of Food from Britain, which had most excellent publicity within it and on its cover, shows that the organisation has made a most excellent start. Seventeen commodity sectors now bear the food mark as a guarantee of good quality to the purchaser. There is excellent progress with exports and sales both at home and overseas show an optimistic trend. I believe that Food from Britain is pushing this in its promotional work.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, can the noble Lord the Minister say whether there has yet been any contact between the Food from Britain organisation and the Sea Fish Industry Authority? If there has been no contact will be use his good offices to bring that about, as marketing is part of the remit of the Sea Fish Industry Authority?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, it is indeed. I shall inquire whether there has been contact between the two organisations on that.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether, in the context of this admirable contribution by the Government and by industry, the Government have made any calculation about whether Food from Britain will, by exporting, make a significant contribution to reducing the surpluses that are growing up at home?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if one compares the exports of food and drink from this country in 1982, which was the year before Food from Britain was set up, one sees that they were worth £3.6 billion; and last year exports of food and drink from this country were worth £4.3 billion, a growth of 19 per cent. There is no question that in the areas which Food from Britain covers—fresh foods and lightly processed foods—exporting abroad will be a great help in regard to the surpluses that are being produced.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

Are those figures in real terms, my Lords?

Lord Belstead

Those are in actual terms, my Lords.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am very much in favour of homegrown food, and will the Government give similar encouragement to allotment holders?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am delighted at what the noble Lord says. In the climate that we have and with the expertise we have, we produce the best food in the world.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, in view of the fact that the Dairy Council is concerned about the amount of butter being produced due to the excellent results of good farming, are the Government considering the recommendation that those persons who are aged or on social security benefits should receive butter at a much lower price to enable us to get rid of some of the surplus?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I entirely understand the concern of the noble Baroness on this point, which goes a little wide of the Question. But however attractive a one-off scheme of that kind is, it would not make a tremendous amount of difference to the large surpluses of dairy products.