HC Deb 04 May 1961 vol 639 cc1591-2
34 and 35. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what representations he has had from the National Farmers' Union about the increased cost to the industry of the imposition of the 2d. a gallon tax on fuel oil;

(2) what representations he has had from horticultural interests about the increased cost to the industry of the imposition of the 2d. a gallon tax on fuel oil.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

My right hon. Friend has discussed this question with representatives of the National Fanners' Union, and has received written representations from the President of the Union and from the Chairman of its Central Horticultural Committee. He is now considering these representations and others which he has received from the Tomato and Cucumber Marketing Board, the British Flower Industry Association and a number of local growers' associations and individual growers.

Mr. Browne

I thought that there were two separate Questions here. However, I will ask two supplementary questions together. First, in considering representations from the N.F.U. as such, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, unlike any other industry in this country, any increase in cost cannot be passed on to the consumer? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] Whatever Members opposite may say, that is so. Secondly, does not my hon. Friend think that this increase in fuel costs for the glasshouse industry will vitiate any improvements it got as a result of the tariff last year?

Mr. Vane

My right hon. Friend will bear all these factors in mind. The tariff on tomatoes must have had some effect, but it is wrong to over-simplify the effect of tariffs on prices in this country without going into all the factors involved.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a somewhat puzzling and paradoxical situation that growers, who were expressly exhorted by the Government to convert from solid fuel to oil heating, should now be penalised for so doing?

Mr. Vane

I could not support what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) has said about that, because there has not been express exhortation to convert any heating system to oil. What we have done is to encourage the improvement of heating equipment generally.