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Agricultural Techniques

Volume 930: debated on Thursday 21 April 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is planning to encourage the introduction of European agriculture techniques into British agriculture.

The Ministry's Agricultural Development and Advisory Service for England and Wales and the three Scottish colleges of agriculture are responsible for keeping abreast of new techniques in Europe and the rest of the world where these are relevant to British agriculture. Information obtained is disseminated as part of the continuing advisory effort.

Could my hon. Friend clarify the gobbledegook that he has just read out in terms of the effect that the introduction of some of the new techniques may have on the whole price struc- ture of food which now faces the British housewife?

The confusion arises because the phrase "agricultural Techniques" normally applies to more efficient systems of production. I imagine that what my hon. Friend is concerned about is the application of traditional EEC support arrangements for agricultural produce in this country. I am sure he will recognise that we are doing our level best in the Community to avoid the creation of structural surpluses and to see that, when they arise, they are sensibly disposed of.

Does not the Minister agree that it would be better to turn the question on its head? Would it not be better to see whether our European partners could change their sales techniques so that they might go and sell some of the milk that they produce? Might they not also adopt our excellent system of marketing boards?

I agree with the tenor of the hon. Gentleman's remarks in respect of marketing boards. We have already described these as an excellent example of practical Socialism which we are determined to retain here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is true. It is the negation of a free market in the arrangements for milk: it is a properly controlled market with a fixed price both for the producer and for the consumer. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything we can to see that there is a satisfactory solution on the subject of marketing boards and that the doubt is removed as swiftly as possible.