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"Food From Our Own Resources"

Volume 928: debated on Thursday 17 March 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on progress towards achieving the objectives of the White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources", Command Paper No. 6020.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the targets set for home grown food production in "Food from Our Own Resources" are being met.

I refer the hon. Members for Braintree (Mr. Newton) and Kidderminster (Mr. Bulmer) to the reply given to the hon. Members for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), Devizes (Mr. Morrison) and Romford (Mr. Neubert) on 17th February.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are grateful that he has not attempted to say that a fall in production of 20 per cent. is an outstanding success? One contribution that can now be made to the re-expansion of agriculture is to give farmers the opportunity to spread incomes and tax liabilities over a longer period—for example, three years. Will he confirm the whispers that his right hon. Friend is in favour of that? If so, will he press the point on the Treasury, for the Budget?

In his first major speech to the Farmers' Club my right hon. Friend pointed out the potential benefits that he saw in a scheme of that nature. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there are other financial considerations that will have to be considered by the Government before they can make such an announcement.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that many farmers regard the White Paper at best as a public relations exercise and at worst as a fraud? Will he specify a sector of farming in which, if a farmer invests in furtherance of the Government's declared objectives, he can assure the farmer that he will get a commercial return over the life of the investment?

Perhaps I can best answer the hon. Gentleman by referring him to page 37 of today's Financial Times, where he will read that the National Farmers' Union has said that the increase will help the expansion of sheep production, which both the Government and the industry wish to see. As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, that is part of "Food from Our Own Resources".

Does my hon. Friend agree that "Food from Our Own Resources" has been held back by the common agricultural policy and that the production of more food has been held back as much as the pricing of our food has been increased by the CAP? Is my hon. Friend prepared to speak to his right hon. Friend to ascertain whether he will continue making to the Cabinet and the Government generally the suggestions that I made in the debate yesterday, namely, that the Cabinet should abolish the CAP?

I cannot agree that the CAP has held back agricultural production in the United Kingdom. I agree that it is important that we strike the right balance between the interests of our producers and consumers in fixing agricultural prices to secure expansion without inflicting unnecessary increases on consumers.

Does the Minister agree that in the context of "Food from Our Own Resources" Scotland, unlike England, is self-sufficient in terms of both food and fish?

If the hon. Member is suggesting that we should not expand agricultural production in Scotland because we produce proportionately more. I think that Scottish farmers would disagree most strongly. We hope to increase sheep production, particularly, and we are looking to the French market.