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Gooseberries And Blackcurrants

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 20 February 1975

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has of the reduction in yields per acre likely in respect of gooseberries and blackcurrants if wide-row spacing becomes inevitable as a result of the decline in availability of narrow tractors as a result of tractor cab regulations as indicated in the Parliamentary Secretary's letter dated 11th December 1974 to an hon. Member.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Gavin Strang)

No such estimate has been made, nor was any such contingency foreshadowed in the correspondence to which the hon. Member refers.

Is the Minister aware that if it becomes almost impossible to get narrow tractors as a result of these ridiculous regulations—regulations which are unnecessary because there are no accidents, fatal or otherwise, on small tractors through lack of cabs—the yields and profitability will fall? Will the Minister have another look at the matter, with a view to helping horticulturists whose efforts are badly needed?

I cannot accept most of what the hon. Member said. Surely he will agree that as things stand narrow tractors are available to horticultural growers. The basis of these regulations is that tractors being used for horticulture might move into more general agricultural uses. That is why the regulations have been framed in the way that they have.

Is the Minister aware that tractor cabs are in very short supply? Will he give an assurance that they will be available for farmers to purchase before the regulations come into force next year?

I certainly take the hon. Member's point. We are having discussions with manufacturers and we are doing all we can. We are confident that the cabs will be available in the numbers required. Those hon. Members who do not seem to accept the need for the regulations must appreciate that in 1974 there were 21 fatal accidents in England and Wales through tractors without cabs overturning. There were no fatal accidents on tractors with cabs.