§ Mr. Nelson
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has yet reached a decision on temporary aid for the United Kingdom glasshouse industry, which is facing unfair competition from growers in other parts of the European Economic Community who enjoy subsidised fuel prices.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Yes. The Government propose to introduce, in accordance with guidelines laid down by the European Community Commission, a short-term adaptation aid to enable growers of heated protected crops to adjust to the distortions of competition in this sector brought about by the preferential gas tariff for horticulturists in Holland which is currently the subject of unresolved legal action under the Rome Treaty. Three other member States, Germany, France and Belgium, have taken advantage of the Commission guidelines, and the aid we are giving takes maximum advantage of these.
In order to simplify administration and make payments as quickly as possible, it is intended to relate the aid to the costs which growers incur on heavy and light fuel oil used for the production of such crops during the period 1 January to 31 December 1981, and in respect of which applications are made for rebate of fuel oil duty to the Customs and Excise departmant under section 17 of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979. The adaptation aid will be paid at the rate of 5p on each gallon of heavy fuel oil and 8p on each gallon of gas oil in respect of which rebate of duty is claimed.
The scheme is estimated to cost up to £5.5 million. Of this sum £3.5 million will be met from the Contingency Reserve, the remainder being found from within existing programmes through additional receipts from land sales. The full cost of the scheme is thus met within the Government's existing plans for total public expenditure. A Supplementary Estimate will be laid in due course: payments will rest on the authority of the Estimate and the confirming Appropriation Act.
Further details will be announced shortly.