The elimination of the Dutch growers preferential gas tariff on 1 April will strengthen the competitive position of our growers. Our industry is also benefiting from the fall in inflation and interest rates; in addition, recent changes in the sterling-guilder relationship will help, provided that costs are kept under control.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome measures taken by the Government were in response to unfair competition in the European glasshouse industry? What further monitoring role does he see for himself and the Ministry in the second half of this year, and what will be the role of the Commission?
I assure my hon. Friend that not only will my Ministry conduct severe monitoring, but the German and Danish Ministers are in close collaboration with us in insisting to the Commission that no further disruption of genuine market forces takes place.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that his inspectors continue to increase their vigilance on the import of cut flowers and produce from overseas, because standards for the elimination of chrysanthemum rust are much higher in Britain than on the continent, and our producers do not receive compensation when stock must be destroyed?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that if our producers are part of a scheme, from which they may suffer considerably if white rust is brought in, the toughest possible inspection must take place.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would now be in order for him to reply to my supplementary question to question 2, which was whether he was aware of any glasshouse growers who had had the advantage of a 45 per cent. increase in income during the past 12 months?
I know my hon. Friend's views about the need substantially to reduce British agriculture. As he knows, the 45 per cent. increase followed a 52 per cent. drop. My hon. Friend should put the matter in the correct context.
To help to improve the competitiveness of British glasshouse growers, will my right hon. Friend arrange the setting up of a marketing organisation that would provide information, for example from the Dutch clock options and the French auction markets?
Yes, Sir. The Food from Britain organisation is examining ways in which we can substantially improve our marketing information. Nowhere is it more important than in horticultural produce, where the Dutch take most advantage.
Yes, Sir. The current change in the competitive position between our main rival, Holland, and Britain means that in 1983 there will be a considerable improvement over this year. I am anxious that we should understand the markets, both here and in Europe, to ensure that we produce goods appropriate for those markets. That is why my answer to the previous supplementary question about improving the entire system of marketing is important.