§ 58. Mr. Digby
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Dorset County Produce Association has decided not to amalgamate with the National Allotments and Gardens Society; how many other county produce associations have similarly decided to remain independent; and whether he will make a statement.
Mr. T. Williams
The Dorset Association and seven other county associations have decided against merger with the National Allotments and Gardens Society.
As announced last May, I have accepted the conclusion of the Committee on the Organisation of Domestic Food Producers that it is not in the national interest that there should be more than one national organisation in the field of domestic fruit and vegetable production, and that the National Allotments and Gardens Society should amend its constitution to enable it to function as effectively in the rural areas as in the urban.
A Working Party consisting of members of both the village produce associations and the National Allotments and Gardens Society last year prepared proposals for the merging of the two movements. The Society has now amended its rules so as to enable village produce associations to be admitted to full membership and to secure the formation of 225W a rural council to look after rural interests. In my view the reconstituted Society is fully capable of serving the needs of domestic fruit and vegetable producers in all areas. It is for each village produce association to decide whether it will affiliate to the reconstituted Society, but I am convinced that it is fully in the national interest and in the interest of the village produce associations themselves that they should do so.
It is not yet clear to what extent affiliation will take place, but six county garden produce committees have already informed me that they are in favour of the merging of the two movements. I propose that the financial assistance previously given to county garden produce committees should cease at the end of the current financial year, i.e., on 31st March.