asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the present tonnage of grain in storage in the United Kingdom.
There were 3·23 million tonnes of wheat and 0·95 million tonnes of barley in intervention stores in the United Kingdom on 15 June 1985. Comparable information is not available on stocks held on farms or in private stores.
I note the reply, but I am sure the Minister is aware of the problems caused by the storage of this vast amount of surplus grain and of the cost of storage. As we shall shortly have this year's harvest to add to the existing surplus, what is the thinking of the Government about the long-term production of grain in the United Kingdom? For example, will quotas be introduced?
It is important to recognise that the industry found sufficient storage for the record harvest of last year. The Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce has had a very encouraging response so far to the recent tenders for new storage for the early part of the new season. In regard to the general policy on cereals, there are a host of reasons why, if it can be achieved, the policy that we have been pursuing in the Community for price reduction on a longer-term basis for cereals is correct. We are considering all the alternatives. Nevertheless, it remains the case that severe price restraint on support prices for cereals must remain an important part of any policy for some time.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the reduction in price of 1·8 per cent. may well lead to extra production and that the only way to use the price mechanism to reduce production is to reduce prices much more substantially?
My hon. Friend will know that we argued, without in the end enough support, for full application of the guaranteed threshold this year, which would have led to a reduction of 5 per cent. I understand my hon. Friend's concern about the cost of dealing with the disposal of surpluses in the Community. He will know that a policy of price reduction in cereal support prices helps to bring down the cost of the regime.
What proportion of this grain is stored in Northern Ireland, and are the Government taking steps to increase that proportion?
I do not have the figures showing the proportion stored in Northern Ireland. I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman about the matter.