Orders of the Day — Agriculture

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th January 1970.

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Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South 12:00 am, 26th January 1970

Yes, I do. I live in the middle of it, in the Vale of Evesham and that is why I understand the dilemma of the farmers I represent.

Although the horticulturist is probably even worse off than the farmer, we have not heard a word about horticultural interests. Horticultural prices are utterly depressed. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, said that Evesham apples were not sold in Leith for 2d. a lb. But they were, and when I proved that to him he said that they were rotten apples. In fact, they were good Cox's Orange Pippins, well graded and packed.

Why in the Vale of Evesham or in Coventry and Birmingham are Californian radishes being sold today? We are exporting Rolls-Royce engines, Jaguar motor cars and every manner of sophisticated engineering product to the United States to earn dollars which we dissipate by buying Californian radishes. This is a splendid example for the schools of Bathos. This is a policy of import substitution in reverse, and I declaim it.

When the Prime Minister made his statement to the House in July, 1967, he said that we must balance our trade not only by achieving a real increase in the value of our exports but by having a real diminution in the value of our imports, a policy of import substitution. He brought the entire House of Commons back the following January, 1968, with a gust of propaganda and publicity to hear his crisis statement on economic affairs, but he did not mention agriculture or horticulture in that statement.

I asked about this earlier, and the right hon. Gentleman said, in effect, "If we can get more agricultural production at a reasonable price, we will arrange to do so". and he went on to agree that import substitution was important. But there has been no import substitution in agriculture or horticulture. There cannot be any simply because our prices are so utterly depressed.

I promise the Minister that when he stigmatised this debate by using the words "cynical" and "opportunistic" he started something. I assure him that those words will be used in every one of the 66 speeches that I shall deliver in the Worcestershire, South constituency in the forthcoming General Election to decimate the Labour candidate there, poor fellow, and to emphasise once again what I sincerely believe and about which I blew off to the farmers of Pershore, which is that we have today the worst Minister of Agriculture in history.