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Horticulture (Glasshouse Section)

Volume 884: debated on Thursday 23 January 1975

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent consultations he has had with the NFU about the problem of glasshouse growers.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further representations he has received from the NFU regarding the glasshouse sector; and what reply he has sent.

My right hon. Friend has discussed the glasshouse sector on several recent occasions with representatives of the NFU who have also met officials. The most recent discussions took place on Friday last in the context of the annual review.

Is the Minister aware that I am grateful to him for receiving my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) and myself last week to discuss the problems of this sector? Is he aware that the main problem facing glasshouse growers is the critical one of the cost of fuel oil, in which context they are in a very special position? When does he expect to be able to make a statement about whether the subsidy which existed until the end of last year will be continued until June?

I agree that this is an important question. As I indicated to the hon. Gentleman when we met, the Government are considering this most urgently, and we shall announce our decision in the very near future.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the horticulture section of the Scottish NFU has persuaded some of us that unless help is given there will be bankruptcies in the Clyde Valley and elsewhere in Scotland?

I would agree with my hon. Friend that this is a matter of extreme importance to horticulture producers, particularly to many in the Clyde Valley who are going through a very difficult time.

What has changed since the oil subsidy was first granted and then removed, except that oil prices have increased several times?

I do not think that is a very helpful point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—if only because it is so fatuous. The fact is that the Government are giving this matter serious consideration. But I am sure that even the hon. Gentleman would accept that the question of the subsidisation of oil imports is one which must be decided in the widest context.

What is the reason for the delay in the Government's decision? Does the Minister agree that the European Community is disposed to be helpful on this matter? Will any decision, to which he has just referred, be back-dated, perhaps to the beginning of the year?

I can confirm that there is no obstacle from the European Community to extending this subsidy, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would expect me to talk of the possibility of back-dating before we have announced our decision in principle on this matter.