Orders of the Day — Horticulture (Special Payments) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 1973.

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Photo of Mr Ernest Perry Mr Ernest Perry , Battersea South 12:00 am, 16th November 1973

I am sure that all hon. Members welcome this Bill. The Liberal Party does not understand that this is the kind of day when both parties are agreed upon the business. Friday is a day when Members can visit their constituencies, seeing members of local authorities and constituents. They do not always have the chance to see these people during the week. It is an opportunity for hon. Members to get away from this place because we are all agreed about the business. It is good for hon. Members to have this opportunity of seeing what is going on in the country.

The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) made a valuable point when talking about packaging. Fruit is one of the few commodities for which we get value for money. Often the packaging on food costs more than the commodity. The same is sometimes true of fruit. I would not want increased expenditure on packaging to put up the cost of fruit. The amount of packaging on such fruits as apples and pears and soft fruits is limited, and this keeps the price down.

The crop of Cox's Orange pippins has been a record this year. We should be thankful that we can buy these at local markets for 8p and 10p per pound. I warn the Government not to insist on food being packaged to the extent that it will increase in cost. I would rather buy two pounds of apples in a market where I can see what I am getting than two pounds in Marks and Spencer or some other store when the fruit may be so heavily packaged that I cannot see what I am buying.

I ask the Minister to consider the question of excessive packaging. Farmers are throwing open their fields to the public and allowing them to pick their fruit. They pay for what they pick. This has developed in the South of England and should be encouraged. There is a shortage of labour to harvest this type of produce. It must be galling for a producer to see a fine crop of say, blackcurrants or redcurrants, but be unable to get the labour to pick it. We fully support this measure and will support it in the Lobby if necessary.