My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government on what grounds they ordered in October the destruction of 2,000 tonnes of food.
My Lords, the Government made no such order.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that this has been widely reported in the press, even prominently in The Times? Would he say whether there has been an order for the destruction of certain vegetables on regulations issued by the European Community?
My Lords, the produce which was the subject of an article in The Times of 10th October to which the noble Lord referred, and which undoubtedly underlies this Question, was voluntarily withdrawn from the market by producers' groups who received compensation from Community funds under arrangements which operate in the fruit and vegetable sector. The purpose of these arrangements is to avoid a collapse in the market.
My Lords, is it not the case that thousands of tons of vegetables were destroyed, particularly cauliflowers, nutritious, satisfying and very expensive in shops today? Is it not the case that it is wrong that food should be destroyed when we are cutting down meals in schools, people in poverty are finding it difficult to buy food, and one-third of the world is actually hungry?
My Lords, it is perfectly true that arrangements are made to set aside surplus produce for disposal, and the disposal is made by the producer organisations under arrangements which ensure the best use of their produce be it for animal consumption, be it for human consumption if it is so graded, or be it for returning to the soil. So far as the noble Lord's particular question concerning cauliflowers is concerned, may I refer him to the reply of my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture to a Question for Written Answer on 30th October in another place?
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend in which other European countries similar withdrawals were made and in what quantities?
My Lords, that is another question.