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Agriculture Industry

Volume 934: debated on Thursday 30 June 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the facilities for training within the horticulture industry.

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

There has lately been a marked increase in the demand for horticultural training facilities, and I am assured that the Agricultural Training Board has effectively responded to this.

Are the Government planning severe cuts in grants to the Agricultural Training Board with respect to horticultural training, and, if so, why?

No, the Government are not planning any severe cuts in grants. The Agricultural Training Board increased its number of apprentices by 700 last year—a very creditable performance. It is true that the Board has announced that it will have to reduce to a limited extent the grant that it pays to employers in this sphere.

Will my hon. Friend say whether consideration has been given to job creation in the horticulture industry? Would it not be in line with the policy of "Food from our own resources" to approach local authorities that have available land and to start job creation schemes in those areas? Would this not meet the twin policies of the Government at this time?

That is a very valuable suggestion from my hon. Friend. My experience in my constituency is that these job creation schemes can play a vital r61e in a whole number of spheres. I can think of no more important role than increasing our food production.

Does the Minister agree that increased horticultural production in the Western Isles could substantially improve the prospects there? Will he ensure that adequate courses are available within the Western Isles, particularly at the new extention to the college of education there, to enable young people to come into this industry—something that could play a very valuable part in increasing prosperity in that part of the United Kingdom?

The provision of educational facilities is a matter for education Ministers, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Agricultural Training Board takes the view, quite rightly, that it should concentrate its emphasis in the future on the direct provision of training facilities rather than the payment of grants to employers to take on apprentices.