asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the damaging effect on food production of the recent vacillations in Government policy statements on fruit and fruit pulp imports; and whether he will now make a firm statement of the Government's policy for the home fruit growing industry.
No, Sir. There has been no such vacillation. It has been clearly stated that the recent restrictions on imports of fruit and fruit pulp have been imposed on balance of payments grounds; they have no bearing on longterm policy for the horticultural industry. Successive Governments have failed to develop a satisfactory long-term policy for the horticultural industry, and the present Government is devoting much thought to this difficult question.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that within three weeks of an assurance being given to the growers early in July that no change would be made in importations, and in the middle of their negotiations with the producers, his right hon. and gallant Friend made a very considerable alteration of more than £250,000 in the amount of importation? Is he not further aware that this caused considerable confusion among the growers and completely stultified the negotiations, and does he not think that that was vacillation?
No, Sir. Questions regarding the balance of payments cuts must be addressed to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. What we are really waiting for now is the result of the National Farmers' Union application on the upward revision of tariffs, when the position will be much clearer.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he was not consulted by his right hon. and gallant Friend before the announcement was made, and if he was consulted, why did he not warn the producers that this was going to happen before they found themselves completely confused in the middle of their negotiations with the trade?