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Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Wells Mr John Wells , Maidstone 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

I am pleased to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) because of his concluding sentences in which he gave the reasons why he thinks we cannot afford to be left out of Europe. It is for the reasons which he has just given that I shall support the Bill tonight.

I want to speak about more domestic matters of which I have intimate knowledge, because I am gravely concerned about the activities of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In recent months he has made proud assertions about his efforts on behalf of this and that sector of the economy, but he has done absolutely nothing for the horticulture industry, about which I know something. No doubt my right hon. and learned Friend will reply that he has achieved a slightly longer transitional period, but that will be gone in the twinkling of an eye, and the residue of British horticulture stands to suffer greatly.

The grading regulations for apples are such that the British Bramley apple will be graded as a dessert apple. Because of its grading, it will be graded as a Grade 3 dessert apple and more than 50 per cent. of the British Bramley crop will be banned from coming on to the market. That, as I understand it, is the position.

The first thing that my right hon. and learned Friend will have to do is either to bend the rules or to evade them. If he evades them, that will immediately be a weakening of British morality, and I should deplore that. He must, therefore, either renegotiate the rules on the grading of apples, or else a large sector of the apple growing industry will be bankrupted.

This very afternoon there must have been about 20,000 people picking fruit in the country. If a great section of our fruit-growing industry is bankrupted it is not only the master men, the fruit growers, who will go to the wall. In the past, 60 acres for apple growing has meant a good living, but 60 acres producing beef or corn is a joke, and these people will have to sell up and all those who work for them, full time and part time, will be thrown out of work.

Let us look for a moment at those who work part time on fruit growing holdings in my county of Kent. The unemployment figures are above the national average. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, particularly those from regions further a field, perhaps find it difficult to believe that in the so-called prosperous South-East the unemployment figures are above the national average, yet our people are surviving and are not in the perilous conditions in which their fellow subjects in other regions find themselves for the simple reason that there is a massive amount of part-time employment in the fruit fields of our county. If that is lost, our people will be worse off in employment and also in health and happiness.

My right hon. and learned Friend has been addressing his mind to great matters, and most of the speeches today have ranged around similar issues. I want to bring my right hon. and learned Friend down to earth with one small parochial point, namely, that unless something is done urgently, great damage will be done to many thousands of our fellow citizens.