Common Agricultural Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:26 pm on 26th March 1981.

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Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset 9:26 pm, 26th March 1981

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to intervene briefly. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) for giving me the opportunity to do so.

I shall confine my remarks to one of the points that I wanted to make. In the last two weeks, for the first time in my political experience so far, farmers have presented me with their accounts. Even allowing for the limitation of written accounts, they revealed a serious picture. My concern is that our small farms are threatened. No doubt those farmers will have been relieved by what my right hon. Friend has said.

I have looked at the typical milk enterprise of between 150 and 250 acres which exists in my constituency and, no doubt, the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills). People in that sector are efficient. They are not contributing to a surplus. However, their future is threatened. Their land cannot be used for any other type of fanning except beef production, and the few people who have tried that have found themselves in even worse straits.

The picture is just as serious for the pig producer. He is efficient. But even where the food conversion ratios are at the top level of efficiency, his profitability is down to zero. In fact, 4·4 per cent. profit is relatively good, even before taking account of any interest payments. A pigmeat processor in my constituency—Case and Sons, near Gillingham—has persuaded its suppliers to take reduced prices in order to keep the factory going. That is a small but viable and efficient factory.

Small businesses are important to rural communities, because all the other facets of rural life depend on them. I know that they will take heart from what my right hon. Friend said today.