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Horticulture (Fuel Costs)

Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with the Gas Council about the provision of natural gas to the horticulture industry; what is his estimate of the comparative price at present paid by British growers per gallon as opposed to that for oil; how this compares with the price paid by Dutch growers for natural gas; what system of payment or subsidy has been used by the Dutch Government to enable the Dutch Gas Authority to extend supplies to the Dutch horticultural industry; and what plans he has to enable British Gas to make fuel available to British growers at competitive prices.

My Department is keeping in touch with the discussions between the British Gas Corporation and representatives of United Kingdom growers about the provision of natural gas, and I understand that the Corporation can now in most cases offer continuous supplies of natural gas to United Kingdom horticulturists who are in or near a gas supply area.The Dutch Government have in the past made grant-aid available to help growers to link up with the natural gas network. A new scheme for 1977–78 will, if approved by the EEC Commission, come into operation in May. A similar type of aid is available in this country under the Horticulture Capital Grant Scheme and the Farm and Horticulture Development Scheme, which also provide grant for works and equipment on the holding.

Prices paid for natural gas by United Kingdom growers are a commercial matter between the consumer and the British Gas Corporation.

The estimated price in terms of pence per gallon paid by growers in Great Britain and the Netherlands in mid-February 1977 are set out below:

Netherlands

  • Gas, 15·7**
  • Heavy Fuel Oil, 24·5***

Great Britain

Heavy Fuel Oil*,25·2***

* The use of natural gas by United Kingdom growers is currently insignificant.

** Heavy fuel oil equivalent prices to users of over 170,000 cu metres.

*** Net of VAT and after repayment of excise duty.