Hill Farming

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd May 1974.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan 12:00 am, 23rd May 1974

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in integrating the hill farming policies of the United Kingdom with those of the EEC; and whether he is satisfied with the assistance available to British hill farmers.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham East

Integration of our hill farming policies with those of the EEC would be through the Directive on Less Favoured Areas, which has not yet come into effect. The level of assistance that we are giving to our hill farmers at present appears to be adequate.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

I know that the Minister is aware that there are two schools of thought in Britain and within the EEC on the future of hill land in Britain. Many believe—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

Is the Minister aware that, given the right incentives, production from the hills could be doubled? Will he assure the House that he will do everything in his power to persuade his counterparts in Europe that he will fulfil this promise?

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham East

Yes, Sir. There are still a number of negotiations to carry out, and we shall carry them out with that end in view.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , West Derbyshire

Does the Minister agree that the hill farming directive was passed by the Council of Ministers, that all it needs now is its implementation, and that if it is implemented properly in the United Kingdom it will be of great benefit to hill farmers and increase the production of not only hill farms but marginal land?

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham East

Certainly the directive has to be implemented. We have done all we can at this stage to ensure that it is implemented.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

Will the Minister confirm that the hill areas in this country which receive assistance, and the grants, will remain roughly similar?

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham East

I do not want to disagree. "Roughly" is, I think, the word.

Livestock Farmers:

(Vale of Belvoir)

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Melton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make an official visit to the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, in order to meet livestock farmers there.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I have no present intentions to make an official visit to the Vale of Belvoir. I have had full discussions with representatives of the farming community and am well aware of the present situation of livestock farmers.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Melton

I regret that answer. As the 50p pig subsidy has not stopped the level of sow slaughtering so far, what confidence has the right hon. Gentleman that keeping it going next month, at the present amount, will reduce that level of slaughtering?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I have said in reply to Questions, and have repeated it in speeches when pressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that if I felt that the subsidy should continue I should take action. That is what I have done. I am carefully watching the market.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

Will my right hon. Friend accept some of the invitations to visit certain areas? If Conservative Members are to make political noises as friends of the farmers, will he go to those areas to tell the farmers that the Conservatives are making dupes of them? Conservative Members appear as their champions and then, when it comes to a vote in the House, instead of their having a majority of 19, we have a majority of 11. On the occasion to which I am referring they pulled 30 Members out of the Lobby. The farmers might be interested in that.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Many farm leaders have noted the Opposition's attitude, especially on a crucial debate. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that many farmers very much regret that he will not visit fanners from widely varied constituencies or allow them to come here to meet him? Does he recall that I have been trying to persuade him to meet my farmers since 11th April, and that he gave as his reply to my request the fact that he did not think it would be helpful to meet farmers from any particular area? Will he accept that my farmers and many others take the opposite view, and feel that it would do him a great deal of good to meet ordinary working farmers and not only their national officials, good though they are?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I am continually in touch with the farming community and farming leaders. Moreover, I have told the hon. Lady that I shall be delighted to see her at my Ministry if she wishes, at any time, to discuss the problems of her constituents. [Interruption.] She is the representative of her constituents, and I am sure that she will be able to put their point of view adequately and eloquently.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

The trouble in the debate was that the Minister gave no hope to the industry. Is he aware that we on the Conservative benches are interested in the consumer? Are not Labour Members aware that if there are shortages, prices go up? Does not the Minister agree that the fact that there were 15 per cent. fewer gilts in pig in the first quarter of this year compared with last year means shortages and higher prices? What will he do about it?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I am rather surprised at the right hon. Gentleman, who was Chief Whip in the previous Government. He knows that his own leader said that he would reduce prices at a stroke, and look what happened.