As my right hon. Friend said in his statement to the House on 22nd November, the general effect of the decisions recently reached in Brussels is to confirm our ability to continue paying these subsidies on broadly the same lines as at present.
I am sure the whole farming industry will be very glad to hear that announcement, but is my hon. Friend aware that there is uncertainty about the winter keep scheme, and that in view of the escalation of feeding stuff costs it is very important for farmers in hill and marginal lands to have long-term assurances on this subject?
I can only repeat that we have reached a position where we feel able to continue paying the subsidies broadly as they are at the moment. Although the winter keep scheme in England differs from that which operates in Scotland, as my right hon. Friend will know, I have no reason to suppose that either scheme will run into difficulties.
Does my hon. Friend agree that decisions of this kind are made in Brussels by a Council of Ministers consisting of eight Ministers of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend, who is the only one who is also a Minister of Food? Will he therefore accept that a very heavy responsibility falls on my right hon. Friend in protecting the interests of the consumer in these matters?