HC Deb 26 November 1980 vol 994 cc110-1W
Mr. Michael Hamilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the future of the Hops Marketing Board.

Mr. Peter Walker

My Department has been engaged in discussions with the Hops Marketing Board, the National Farmers Union and the European Commission about the changes which need to be made in the existing arrangements for the marketing of hops in the United Kingdom to ensure that they conform to Community rules in the light of a recent decision of the European Court. Our aim in making the changes necessary to take full account of our obligations under Community law is to do so in a way which preserves the stability enjoyed by the English hops market since the formation of the board in 1932.

I am glad to be able to announce that agreement has been reached with all the interests concerned on new arrangements which will avoid any disruption of the market and maintain the confidence of producers and buyers alike in the marketing arrangements. I understand that representatives of hops producers have already set in motion the action necessary to establish a voluntary producers' co-operative. The rules of the new group are being drawn up and will soon be sent to all registered producers, who will be given adequate time to decide whether they wish to join or to market independently.

Legislation will be introduced when time permits to enable the assets and liabilities of the Hops Marketing Board to be transferred to a voluntary producer group constituted under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. The legislation will aim to preserve the maximum degree of continuity between the board and the new group, which will undertake the responsibility of fulfilling existing commitments entered into by the board. Forward commitments by growers to supply hops to the board under the board's forward comtract plan will remain in force whether or not they decide to join the group.

As the board has already made arrangements for marketing some or all of the 1981, 1982 and 1983 crops, and will shortly be making arrangements for the 1984 crop, the legislation will provide for the transfer to the new group of such contracts as will have been made under these marketing arrangements.

It is my belief that the proposals I have outlined will provide a suitable basis for the continued development of the English hops market. The proposals have the support of all sections of the industry.