asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is yet in a position to announce proposals to encourage the improvement of agricultural marketing.
Improvements in agricultural marketing can be brought about by co-ordinating and strengthening existing efforts within a new central marketing organisation. My right hon. Friend has been discussing plans for this with leaders of the agriculture and food industries, and hopes to see them come to fruition before long.
I hope that my right hon. Friend is aware of the great concern felt by all the agricultural producers and food processors in Britain. Although we know that the spirit is willing, it seems that progress is slow. May we have a rather firmer date than "as soon as possible", as it is now 12 months since the original declaration of intent?
I agree that it is important that all interests in the food industry—producers, processors, distributers and retailers—should be brought into any initiative. However, it is better to wait a little longer and make sure that all those interests are working together before we come to final conclusions. I take what my hon. Friend says to heart.
Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind the enormous power of some retailers, which has a difficult and adverse effect on producers and processors? Will he consider the matter, because serious problems are developing?
This again emphasises the need for all interests in the food chain to work closely together. I am sure that my hon. Friend would acknowledge that, already, with many foods, such as apples and meat, the Central Council for Agricultural and Horticultural Cooperation is doing an enormous amount of work, which we should not minimise.