I should like to explain that my right hon. Friend's absence is due to his being unwell. He has had to cancel his engagements for today, tomorrow and the weekend.
The value of glasshouse output in the United Kingdom is approximately equal to the value of imports of comparable produce, although with imports it is not always possible to tell whether they were grown under glass or in the open.
May I say that from the Opposition side of the House we send our best wishes to his right hon. Friend?
Is the Minister aware that we are extremely concerned about the general implications of the import situation, par- ticularly as it affects tomatoes? What is being done within the EEC to achieve a common line, particularly on imports from COMECON countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be grateful for the hon. Gentleman's expression of sympathy. He will acknowledge that in practice the reference price system provides us with protection. A great deal of discussion has taken place on Dutch imports. The hon. Member will take some satisfaction from knowing that tomato imports are down sharply.
The hon. Gentleman is under the misapprehension that the Dutch and other member States are paying an oil subsidy. The Community's guidelines on oil subsidies ended last month. The good weather in Scotland will help to boost the prospects of the industry, because of the demand for lettuce and tomatoes.
The long-term policy for the glasshouse sector has been clearly enunciated. We see a continuing need for this sector of the industry and we are investing in it through capital grants and through the advisory and research services.