§ Mr. Boston
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made towards the establishment of statutory grades for fresh fruit and vegetables; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peart
Discussions with representative organisations on draft grades for apples, pears and cauliflowers have now been completed. I have considered a request by the National Farmers' Union that the minimum sizes for apples and pears should be subject to variation in relation to the volume of the home crop. While recognising the need to contemplate temporary adjustments in extreme conditions of glut or shortage of any graded commodity, I do not think it would be right to use the grades, which are intended to promote better quality and greater uniformity, as a means of regulating the quantity coming on to the market. The Union has also drawn attention to the special difficulties which some cauliflower growers fear national grades will create for them. I am not convinced that these difficulties are such as to justify excluding cauliflowers from the scope of statutory grading, which I hope will eventually be extended to a wide range of fruit and vegetables. The proposed grades for apples, pears and cauliflowers will be published next month and I hope that those for tomatoes and cucumbers, on which points of detail remain to be settled, will be made available in March. Explanatory leaflets will be issued as soon as possible as a guide to the grades, and my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I hope that growers of the five commodities will try out the grades on a 27W voluntary basis. Our present intention is that, after this trial period, Orders should be laid before Parliament in due course with a view to the introduction of statutory grading on the following dates—
Apples and pears 17th July 1967 Cucumbers 15th January 1968 Tomatoes and Cauliflowers 13th May 1968