HC Deb 11 February 1977 vol 925 cc870-1W
Mr. Buchan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has completed his talks on the future financing of the British Agricultural Export Council; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Silkin

I have discussed this with leaders of the farming industry and the manufacturing interests primarily concerned, the British Overseas Trade Board and the British Agricultural Export Council. When I met them on 21st January I emphasised the widespread support for the view of the Advisory Council for Agriculture and Horticulture that there was scope to improve exports in the agricultural field and for the basic recommendation that there should be a stronger central body to promote agricultural exports based on the BAEC and financed by the industry. I recognised the general view against funds being provided by means of a levy, and I invited the industry representatives to join together in making a voluntary contribution towards the new body on a basis which would provide an adequate and assured level of support for an initial period of three years. It was indicated that, if sufficient funds were available from the industries to put the new body on a sound footing, these could be supplemented by launching aid from the Government.

The industry representatives gave me their reactions at a second meeting today. Some organisations offered limited contributions subject to conditions, but the overall view was against proceeding with the proposed expansion on the grounds that the industries would not derive sufficient benefit from the enlarged body to justify contributions on the scale needed. I find this decision disappointing, and it remains vital that our exports of agricultural goods and ancillary products continue to expand. The industries concerned have an excellent record of exports of machinery, breeding livestock, semen, chemicals and fertilisers and other agricultural goods and requisites. I expect to see this maintained, and I hope that individual companies will be prepared to work together to develop joint ventures. The Government, including my Department, will continue to play their part in helping exporters through the whole range of commercial and diplomatic facilities and services which it provides.

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