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The Heath Government’s ‘fundamental change’ to agricultural policy: an interim import levy scheme (and restitutions?) for cereals

Swinbank, A. ORCID: (2023) The Heath Government’s ‘fundamental change’ to agricultural policy: an interim import levy scheme (and restitutions?) for cereals. Agricultural History Review, 71 (2). pp. 160-181. ISSN 0002-1490

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The ambition of the Conservative government elected in June 1970 was to fundamentally change the system of support for British agriculture. Rather than a relatively free import regime, with farm revenues supported by guaranteed prices and deficiency payments, minimum import prices (mips) and variable import levies would be deployed to switch support from taxpayers to consumers. This idea, however, was far from novel. It reflected a policy shift first envisaged in 1963 and then pursued by both Conservative and Labour governments through the 1960s. It also anticipated membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) and adoption of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The government’s declared aim was to switch the system of farm support whether or not EEC membership was secured, and to that end an interim levy scheme, pending adoption of the CAP, was planned. This meant abrogating various international commitments. The USA’s response was particularly hostile (as it had been in 1963-4) and became more so when the UK proposed to add a system of export restitutions/allowances to its protectionist regime. Although an interim levy scheme was eventually introduced, the UK’s ambitions were severely constrained by US opposition, and the impact of its policy was largely muted by soaring world market prices. Whether the UK would have followed through with its longer-term plans had EEC membership not materialised remains an open question.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Agri-Food Economics & Marketing
ID Code:114157
Publisher:British Agricultural History Society

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