Intervention Board

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd July 1981.

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Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North 12:00 am, 23rd July 1981

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much was spent by the United Kingdom intervention board in 1980; and how much of this was represented by subsidies for exports to countries outside the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Net of receipts from levies and sales of intervention stocks totalling £116·8 million, the figure is £645·7 million, of which £198·7 million relates to refunds on exports to non-member countries.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

Has the Minister taken the trouble to find out how much of this subsidy from the British taxpayer is going to the Soviet Union?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

In 1980 the board made some modest refund payments on chicken and malt exported to Russia, together with negligible amounts on some other commodities.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Flint West

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if it were argued that it would be cheaper to support British agriculture by deficiency payments, according to calculations made by the Labour Party, and on the most likely set of assumptions, the total cost would be £1·7 billion a year?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I have not studied in detail the Labour Party's proposal on this issue, but normally its estimates on such matters are modest.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

Is the Secretary of State aware that my constituents in Newcastle upon Tyne. West would not mind having to pay higher prices for food if they resulted in aid to underdeveloped countries, but that they bitterly resent having to pay these higher prices when they result in subsidising food which goes to the USSR?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

That is why Her Majesty's Government have opposed subsidised food going to the Soviet Union. Certainly, the Community has supported food aid programmes. One of the most important exports of subsidised food has been to Poland, which, on balance, I think most hon. Members would consider to be correct.