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Glasshouse Industry (Fuel Oil)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 23 November 1981

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will extend for a further year the aid on fuel oils for heating to the United Kingdom glasshouse industry in view of the continuing unfair competition from Dutch growers obtaining fuel at preferential prices declared by the European Commission to be incompatible with the Treaty of Rome.

I am determined to retain a viable and successful British glasshouse industry. The Commission of the European Communities has agreed that Governments of member States should be free to give continued financial assistance to growers of heated protected crops. I have therefore decided to give the maximum aid permitted under the extended guidelines laid down by the Commission. This aid will continue for a further year as from 1 January 1982, and will help the industry to adjust to the continued unfair competition resulting from the preferential tariff for gas supplied to Dutch growers which remains the subject of unresolved legal action by the Commission under the Treaty of Rome. The aid will relate to oil put to qualifying use under section 17 of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 during the period 1 January to 31 December 1982.The Commission's new guidelines require the amount of aid to be assessed by reference to the increase in heating oil prices in the period January 1980 to July 1981. Accordingly, the extended adaptation aid will be paid at the rate of 3·5p on each gallon of fuel oil, and 4·7p on each gallon of gas oil (including kerosene). The assistance is estimated to cost up to £4 million in the financial year 1982–83: this has been agreed in the context of the current review of public expenditure. Payments will rest on the authority of the estimate and the confirming Appropriation Act.