We have recently announced a new assured return to beef producers. Welsh farmers will also get extra benefit shortly from the increased hill sheep subsidy and the advance payment of beef cow and hill cow subsidy.
I am disappointed with that reply. I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware of the crisis in the livestock sector. Will he agree to compensate farmers in the livestock sector, because they had to sell store cattle during September, October and November, through no fault of their own? Will he reconsider his decision?
What we have announced gives to the industry the kind of floor which was required, perhaps to the surprise of some Opposition Members. We have brought forward the payments on the beef cow and the hill cow for next year, and that step has been welcomed by the industry. Perhaps the industry was not aware of the amounts involved. As regards the hill cow subsidy, there will be two payments of £24·50 each— one for June, most of which is already paid, and one for December. As regards the beef cow subsidy, £11 will be paid in respect of the December situation and another £11 shortly afterwards in January. That, coupled with almost a doubling of the hill sheep subsidy, will ensure a substantial injection of money into the industry. When I announced these particulars to the House there was a great deal of surprise among Opposition Members.
We have heard a number of reports recently about Welsh farmers becoming bankrupt. This would be an extremely grave and disturbing development. I should like to know whether there is any validity in that statement.
There is no general picture. I have seen one report of a case in the newspaper over the weekend. It is important to ensure that within our resources we do our utmost to make sure that the industry remains liquid. The steps that we have taken by way of advancing these payments and giving a floor to the market will ensure that the industry has the necessary liquidity to tide it over what has been a very difficult situation.
We welcome the measures taken, but is it not a fact that hay is now costing up to £100 a ton in parts of the Principality? Store cattle men who had to sell their cattle during October and early November are finding it very difficult to raise the funds necessary to obtain fodder even where it is obtainable. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider the matter and look into the possibility of some kind of winter keep supplement, or other aid?
We shall always consider suggestions by the hon. Gentleman. However, he must be aware that although the picture in some parts of Wales relating to fodder is and has been serious—there is another Question on this matter— every effort has been and is being made to see what can be done about it. There are limitations to what any Government can do in that sphere.