26 January 1996

Bid to halt chop for potato scheme fails

By Tony McDougal

ATTEMPTS by Labour and Lib- Dem MPs to halt the revocation of the potato marketing scheme ended in failure as the measure was approved in the House of Commons with a majority of 32.

Opposition MPs condemned the government for failing to adequately promote a lightweight EU potato regime or any successor body to the Potato Marketing Scheme.

Llyn Golding (Lab, Newcastle-under-Lyme) said government had neglected the needs of jeopardised growers, who now faced threats from competing European growers working with the help of direct national aids.

Mrs Golding attacked junior farm minister Tim Boswell for failing to listen to NFU demands for growers to run their own compulsory levy scheme in a successor body.

Paul Tyler (Lib Dem, North Cornwall) accused the government of a shift away from its former policy under former farm minister John Gummer, who advocated the adoption of a lightweight regime.

Martyn Jones (Lab, Clwyd South West) said the proposed deregulation of the crop would encourage unsustainable, monocultural and intensive production.

But Conservative MPs – under a three-line whip – rejected the claims. Roger Gale (Con, North Thanet) said quotas had been particularly damaging to the crops of first-early growers, who faced ludicrous competition from French growers dumping potatoes in the UK.

"I am absolutely delighted that tonight we are witnessing the dying throes of a regime that placed ludicrous controls on some of the finest potato growers in the world."

Mr Boswell rejected calls to help fund the winding up of the scheme. Government would continue to press for a lightweight regime.

But there was no point in waiting for an EU regime before winding-up the PMB scheme. &#42