Northern Ireland Agriculture

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 6th February 1984.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry 4:45 pm, 6th February 1984

I beg to move, That this House, noting that agriculture in Northern Ireland is faced with disadvantages which do not confront farmers elsewhere in the United Kingdom, that costs to the intensive sectors have increased dramatically, that the overall impact of European Community membership has been increased productivity without increased profitability, and that the twin pillars of efficiency and stability set out in the Agriculture Act 1947 have been set aside, calls upon the Government to counteract the damaging effects of European Economic Community membership on the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland which directly and indirectly provides a minimum of 13 per cent. of the employment in Northern Ireland. We are grateful to the Official Opposition for granting us half of a Supply day. If we reach the stage when a half day consists of two hours seven minutes, the workers will be most grateful, but I think that that time is far away.

When we were given the opportunity to choose a subject as usual a number of problems confronted Northern Ireland, such as constitutional issues, the fury over the weekend visit by a member of the royal family to Northern Ireland, the change of name from Londonderry to Derry, the security problems and the Maze prison. The business managers have ensured that we shall have a detailed examination of the problems in the Maze on Thursday. We shall have opportunities to discuss the other issues from time to time so we thought it right today to discuss a bread and butter issue that affects the lives of so many citizens in the Province.

Agriculture provides employment for about 13 percent. of Northern Ireland's population and that percentage is not restricted to those who farm the land or are directly involved in farming. It covers all those employed in ancillary industries, but not including the people who service and supply the machinery that is universally in use throughout the Province.

We were further moved to choose this topic because of the recent publication by the Northern Ireland Economic Council of "Public Expenditure Priorities: Agriculture", which examines many aspects of agriculture. It does not make many new proposals that are of direct benefit to the working farmer.

The report notes the decline in agriculture's contribution to the general economy of Northern Ireland. The reasons for that decline become apparent when one reads the report, but it was already apparent to those of us closely involved in the farming community.

The report draws attention to the fact that there has been an 11 per cent. fall in the value of inputs to agriculture in the last decade. That decline in the value of inputs must relate to the losses that we have suffered in the intensive sectors, and the shift to land-based production and the considerable increase in production from milk and other fatstock and grass-based industries.

It is interesting that potatoes seem to have remained stable in value, but that other production has declined fast, principally in the intensive sector, which consists basically of poultry and pigs.

Our motion does not call for a complete reversal in Government policy. It asks the Government to take measures to counteract the detrimental effects of EC policies that concentrate production in a decreasing number of sectors in Northern Ireland.

The diversity that Northern Ireland enjoyed has been eroded and we are beginning to have far too narrow a base for our comfort and for the welfare of the agricultural community. We do not condemn the Government for the measures that they have taken. They have been not only welcome, but necessary. We are trying to advise the Government that special measures are justified. We want fire-fighting measures to take care of a short-term problem, which should be dealt with in the short term but the long-term problems cannot be dealt with simply by putting a little ointment on the boil.

We call upon the Government to conduct an in-depth inquiry into the roots of the decline in agriculture in Northern Ireland. We call upon the Government to take clear policy decisions, which are understood by the agriculture community, for the long term, and to pursue those policies for the benefit of the farming community and for the Province in general.

Employment prospects in agriculture go beyond the working farmer. Let us examine the effects of the decline in the intensive sector on the people beyond the farm gate, because that is where the greatest loss in employment has occurred and will continue to occur.

The pig industry is in serious difficulty. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends will draw attention to those problems in detail later. I shall deal with the general effect of the steady decline in the number of pigs and the lower throughput to the factories. All the benefits of volume and mass throughput are lost, but the overheads remain; therefore, the processing cost increases, the product in the shops becomes less competitive, less is sold and the demand decreases. That vicious circle goes back to the producer on the farm and to the chap who processes the pig in the factory. That inevitably leads to fewer jobs and reduced employment prospects in that sector.

By the same token, as less money goes into the agriculture industry there is a backlash on the amount of machinery and feeding stuffs that is bought and the total input into the industry—that is where the 11 per cent. fall-off must have arisen. As a result, there must inevitably be a loss of employment in the feed processing industry, and right hon. and hon. Members have had drawn to their attention the problems faced by the millers and their employees.

Agriculture is a basic industry. It is, perhaps, the only employment where the individual always buys on the retail market and always sells on the wholesale or manufacturers' market. Therefore, he always buys at top cost and sells at basic cost. It does not take much to go wrong to place him in serious difficulty. For that reason, we urge the Government to consider the problem with care and to formulate a long-term, cohesive policy. The root problems must be understood and the appropriate measures taken to remedy them.

To my surprise, the Government have seen fit to put down an amendment which refers to the advantages as well as the disadvantages that have accrued to Northern Ireland agriculture. The Minister will undoubtedly have come well prepared and will be able to tell the House in great detail what the advantages to Northern Ireland are, and which sectors have benefited from those measures.

However, the only two sectors to have gained any real advantage from it have been the milk industry, which is already running into serious problems, and the grain sector, which involves probably not more than a few hundred farmers in Northern Ireland. The grain-producing areas are very small in extent and the number of people who produce only grain are few. I know that, because I have some in my constituency. It is fortunate that some areas in my constituency are suitable for that product.

The intensive sector, where real employment possibilities exist, has been most severely hit. Large highly mechanised grain farms are of no advantage to the economy of Northern Ireland in the long run. Prairie farming—as it has been described in Great Britain—shows no real benefit to the economy because too few people are employed in it and too few people benefit from it. Our aim should be to support small family farms that would give employment to a great many people and would increase the number of animals, which have a high value factor in the factories, which is to the benefit of many people outside the direct farming industry.

One or two areas could be profitably explored. We export most of our sheepmeat live on the hoof. Why have steps not been taken to process it in Northern Ireland? Why have we not tried to protect and expand our poultry market instead of allowing it to be run down? Why have we allowed the loss of cheap grains, which were the basis of our intensive sector, and why have we not taken a hard look at ways around that? Why has there not been far more intervention grain available and at far more reasonable prices than has been the case hitherto?

The Minister wrote to me on 6 January in reply to our previous Appropriation debate on 8 December 1983. In his letter he said: On farm income estimates I can of course confirm that 1973 was the peak year in the whole of the last decade. I thought you might find it helpful if I set out the figures for the years since 1970 to show the full pattern of change. Using as an indictor farm business income in real terms and taking 1978 as 100, the pattern has been as follows: 1970, 135; 1971, 127; 1972, 128; 1973, 149; 1974, 82; 1975, 76; 1976, 91; 1977, 107; 1978, 100; 1979, 69; 1980, 49; 1981, 75; 1982, 93. If we use the figures published recently in the annual review of agriculture, the figure for 1983 will be 75, which is back to the 1981 figure.

At the end of the letter the Minister said that he could not agree with my apparent conclusion that lower incomes could be ascribed to the United Kingdom's entry to the Common Market. It is mighty funny that they cannot be ascribed to that, because I can see no other reason than the tremendous changes that perforce had to take place in agriculture arising from that entry. It does not matter which year or index is used from 1970 to the present because on every occasion since 1973 there has been a dreadful decrease in the farmers' incomes. With the exception of one or two sectors, that is true throughout the United Kingdom. Hon. Members can check those figures in table No. 26 of the annual review of agriculture; they are quite horrific.

We cannot and should not allow our love of the EC to blind us to the damaging effects that it has had. Agriculture needs stability and has not got it. It needs efficiency, as was set out in the 1947 Act, and the efficiency in which fanners are interested is profit. We have been steadily increasing production without a corresponding real or even partial increase in profits over that period. The Government must create conditions that make a real profit and a reasonable standard of living possible for our farming community. At one time EC policy aimed to give industrial incomes to fanners, but it has not worked, and it is highly unlikely that it will ever do so. The Government should start down the road of protecting our farmers' incomes through national measures, for that alone will be the way to future prosperity.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Hon. Adam Butler Hon. Adam Butler , Bosworth 5:08 pm, 6th February 1984

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: acknowledges the importance of agriculture to the Northern Ireland economy and that there have been advantages as well as disadvantages to Northern Ireland agriculture as a result of European Community membership; welcomes the special provision of aid to ameliorate that industry's special disadvantages; and calls on the Government to continue to recognise the special problems of Northern Ireland agriculture.

I echo what the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) said as a preface to his remarks: it is a matter of great regret that we have such a short time to debate this important subject. It is no reflection on the Chair or on the other subjects for debate. We are rather too used to discussing Northern Ireland matters at dead of night; today we have been given an opportunity to debate them at a reasonable hour, but find that our time has been cut by one third. Therefore, I shall try not to take too long making my remarks, but I have much to say.

I was interested in the way in which the hon. Gentleman spoke to his motion, because I detected a somewhat different tone in his remarks to the way in which I interpreted the original motion. I was delighted that, among other things, the hon. Gentleman said that he was not condemning the Government for their action. He made a sensible point about the problems of Northern Ireland agriculture and its tendency to greater concentration. However, since the motion seemed to be condemning the United Kingdom's policies and the consequences of EC membership, the Government decided to put down an amendment.

Throughout many decades United Kingdom policies have been the bedrock on which a prosperous agricultural industry in Northern Ireland has been built. The annual review, the price guarantees, the capital grants, the marketing boards and the special arrangements for the hills are policies which conditioned the growth of Northern Ireland agriculture before entry into the EC. Today United Kingdom agricultural policies include continued help to the hills, continued capital grants, a continued system of marketing boards, a beef variable premium scheme, and a whole raft of aids and policies which contain some United Kingdom finance. They continue to provide a firm base for Northern Ireland's agricultural prosperity.

It is, frankly, nonsense to suggest that the stated purpose of the Agriculture Act 1947 — the promotion and maintenance of a stable and efficient agricultural industry—has been set aside, either as a consequence of United Kingdom policy or as a result of joining the European Community. Through its system of price support, with general price levels held substantially above those obtaining in world markets, the common agricultural policy has underpinned rather than undermined the security of agriculture in the Community. Northern Ireland farmers could not survive without some protection or income support, and no right-minded person would contemplate for a moment a return to the open market conditions of, for example, the 1930s.

I accept, as does the amendment, that EC membership has not been an unmixed blessing for Northern Ireland agriculture, and later I shall discuss its advantages and disadvantages to farmers. However, it is worth remarking that farmers stand to gain from the wider advantages for the Northern Ireland economy and people which flow from EC membership. One example is the enlarged home market for Northern Ireland goods, with all that that means. Another example is the revenue from the social and regional funds — about £90 million this year — the size of which recognises Northern Ireland's special regional needs. Above all, the Community has made a contribution to the preservation of peace and democracy in western Europe.

One clear consequence of EC membership—the hon. Gentleman referred to it—is an increase in the price of cereals and of feedingstuffs. That has undoubtedly had an impact on the intensive livestock sector, especially on pigs and eggs. However, it must be remembered that the other member states have experienced similar price increases, and it can be shown—this is not fully appreciated—that Northern Ireland's relative position, at least vis-a-vis Great Britain, has barely changed, if at all, since we joined the EC.

Nevertheless, the intensive sector, despite massive Government support, has declined, which has led to the greater concentration of agricultural production into a few sectors, as the hon. Gentleman said and as the recent report of the Northern Ireland economic council pointed out. The intensive sector would benefit from a freeze in cereal prices, as proposed by the Commission, which would represent a reduction in real terms. Those protagonists of the Northern Ireland intensive livestock sector will have heard with some interest what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said during Question Time on Thursday about the Government's preference for a cut rather than a freeze in cereal prices.

It has been suggested that Ministers have not fought hard enough in Brussels on behalf of Northern Ireland agriculture. The facts refute that nonsense. Successive Ministers of Agriculture have made sterling efforts on behalf of Northern Ireland during negotiations in Brussels. Ministers have laboured time after time towards special arrangements for Northern Ireland. A few examples would include the feed price allowance, while we were allowed to operate it, the movement last year to Northern Ireland of 50,000 tonnes of intervention grain, the special arrangements defraying national insurance for some industries, the calculation of gross indigenous production under the sheepmeat regime, the meat industry employment scheme and the milk consumers subsidy. I could continue to list the schemes which have been negotiated by Ministers to favour Northern Ireland.

The motion argues that Northern Ireland agriculture has been damaged by United Kingdom and EC policies. In comparison with what is it claimed that Northern Ireland agriculture has been damaged? In comparison with the past? In comparison with Great Britain? In comparison with other industries? Or is it talking about the future? Let me make my case. I have already referred to the effect on feedingstuff prices of joining the Community; and I said that, relatively speaking, the position of Northern Ireland against that of Great Britain has not changed since the years immediately preceding entry.

I was interested to read in the first paragraph of the report of the Ministry of Agriculture for the year ended 31 March 1968 that The differential between the price of feeding stuffs in Northern Ireland and Great Britain continues to be a serious disadvantage to Northern Ireland livestock producers. Mainly for this reason the recovery in pig production has been rather slow. That was the report for the year ended 31 March 1968, but it could have been similar to what I or anyone else might have said from the Dispatch Box in the past year or two. The differential existed three or four years before entry into the Common Market.

The 1969 report recorded the Ministry's welcome for the policy directives given by the United Kingdom Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in November 1968 together with the financial incentives provided to implement them at the 1969 annual price review. Northern Ireland agriculture was always dependent to a substantial extent on United Kingdom policies, even under devolution, and some of the problems faced then, outside the EC, were the same in kind if not in degree as they are now. If Northern Ireland were not subject to EC or United Kingdom policies, it would not have had access to as many resources to assist its agriculture as has been the case in the past.

What about the comparison with Great Britain? Much play is often made of this. The effects of the peripheral location of Northern Ireland in relation to the main United Kingdom markets have been recognised for many years. They led to a disadvantage comparing Northern Ireland with Great Britain in respect of certain important agricultural inputs and outputs. Special aids in Northern Ireland, above those available in Great Britain, have been paid subsequently, amounting to more than — in some cases much more than — £20 million a year in recent years from both United Kingdom and Community sources. Those payments do not close the whole gap between average producer prices and average feed costs, but they make a significant contribution to bridging it. It must never be forgotten that other disadvantaged groups and regions in the United Kingdom do not so benefit. I regard this as additional evidence to the effect that, on balance, United Kingdom policies are far from damaging to Northern Ireland agriculture in relation to agriculture in Great Britain.

I mentioned the comparison with other industries. Although throughout the Western world the recession has bitten deep and taken its toll of small manufacturing businesses and jobs, farmers in most places, including Northern Ireland, have been spared the worst effects of that recession. To the extent that United Kingdom and EC policies have been effective in so sparing them, those policies have been well advised. But it behoves those who attack such policies in the motion to consider how farmers in Northern Ireland would have fared without the safeguards of minimum prices for imported agricultural produce, export restitutions to help exports, intervention purchasing for some products, aids for consumption, and the working of the green currency system.

What of the future? What about the effects of the reform of the common agricultural policy? I could speculate for some time about that, but it has already been made clear that the Government are committed to changes that will reduce the ever-increasing burden of the cost of the common agricultural policy. The Community cannot continue to produce excessive surpluses which must be disposed of at a penalising and unacceptable cost. Rather than speculate, it would be wise to wait to see what emerges. Of course, the Commission's present proposals would, if implemented, be damaging. They would hurt every member state's farming interests, not just those of Northern Ireland. It is clear already that the eventual compromise will look different from what the Commission originally proposed. Inevitably, there will be some pain, especially in the milk sector, but we believe that it is possible to reform the policy to allow the efficient to prosper and the taxpayer to gain. Yet we are still charged with damaging policies.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East drew attention to dairying, and I suppose that dairying is at the heart of Northern Ireland's agriculture. What is the comparison with years gone by? In 1965, when Northern Ireland had its own devolved Government, there were 196,000 dairy cows in the Province, and in 1983 there were 294,000—an increase of about 50 per cent. The numbers rose virtually without pause throughout that period. In 1965, the average yields of Northern Ireland diary cows were 10 per cent. less than the United Kingdom levels, and in 1983 they were 5 per cent. less and closing. Surely that is a sign of improving efficiency. Yet the motion said that efficiency has been "set aside". In 1965, milk production was 580 million litres and in 1983 it was 1,403 million litres. I should think that the milk industry is in a pretty healthy condition.

This year we shall be exporting more beef outside the United Kingdom than ever before—30 per cent. of total production or 45,000 tonnes. About half of it will go to the EEC and the other half will probably be helped by export restitution payments. That looks like a success story for the beef industry.

Has EEC entry damaged the sheepmeat industry in Northern Ireland? It does not look like it has, according to the figures and to those who know anything about that matter. In 1965, there were just over 1 million sheep in Northern Ireland, and in 1978—just before the Common Market regime was brought in — there were slightly fewer than 1 million sheep. By 1983, the number of sheep had increased to more than 1·3 million.

There have been reductions in pig numbers and in egg-laying poultry, but a substantial increase in poultrymeat production. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East rightly referred to the need for greater added value.

Have not the processing plants benefited from FEOGA payments and from Government grant aid to assist them to expand? They clearly would not have received the money from FEOGA if Northern Ireland had not been in the Common Market. Time and time again, we can see the advantages that have come to Northern Ireland from Common Market membership. Capital investment has been forthcoming, and there have been special grants in aid to supplement what has been forthcoming from the national Government to help those in the less-favoured areas.

There can be no doubting the importance that the Government attach to agriculture in the Northern Ireland economy as a source of economic and social stability, but we must all be aware of the critical years ahead for farmers throughout the Community—on the Continent, in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland — as the financial pressures to bring supply and demand into a better balance become irresistible. The Government have a good record in recognising the special disadvantages facing Northern Ireland agriculture and in taking action to ameliorate them through the provision of special aid.

Today, Northern Ireland agriculture, with some obvious exceptions, is in a relatively healthy condition in terms of output and animal numbers. Every major sector is operating at a higher level than in the mid-1960s— apart from egg-laying and pigs. That is due in no small part to the support and assistance that the industry has received from Government in material form and through the careful and vigorous pursuit of the industry's interests in Europe and elsewhere. As negotiations proceed in the coming days, and possibly weeks, I assure the House and the farmers in the Province that the special and continuing problems of Northern Ireland's agriculture, which, understandably, cause anxieties, will not be overlooked.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith 5:25 pm, 6th February 1984

The official Opposition also regret the fact there is relatively little time in which to debate this important subject. Agriculture is of central importance and will continue to be so in Northern Ireland long into the future.

I read with considerable interest the motion moved by the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) on behalf of the Official Unionist party, and the Government's amendment. There are two remarkable features about this issue. Both the Government and the Official Unionist party, who normally strongly support a monetarist approach to policy and do not like support systems for industry, are only too keen to support this approach to agriculture.

On the Government's part that approach might have something to do with the fact that they have always supported the farmer and the Cabinet is full of part-time farmers. On the part of the Official Unionist party, it has much to do with the realities of economic life in Northern Ireland. Official Unionist Members recognise the importance of Government and EEC subsidies to agriculture. Although both the Government and the Official Unionist party are committed to the free market, as they call it, there is never any delay in rattling the collection box under the nose of a British Minister or, in this case, an EEC Minister.

I recognise that the hon. Member for Londonderry, East said—I believe that I am recalling his words correctly—that he saw it as the Government's responsibility to create a position where farmers could make profits. That is an interesting view of economic policy from a member of the Official Unionist party. It is the view which would, incidentally, be supported by the Government, although they do not like to admit that.

Another remarkable feature about the motion and the amendment is that they make no mention of agriculture in the context of the island of Ireland. One would almost think, after listening to the speeches of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East and the Minister of State, that nothing exists south of the border except the Atlantic ocean. In fact, the link in agriculture is crucial and is becoming more important daily. I shall have more to say on that point as I go through my speech, which I shall keep fairly short in view of the number of Back-Bench Members from Northern Ireland who wish to speak.

It has been said that agriculture in Northern Ireland provides about 10 per cent. of employment and about another 3 per cent. if the ancillary industries are added. Northern Ireland has had lower labour productivity than Great Britain, but that reflects small-scale and part-time farming and, therefore, is not strictly comparable.

The Labour party has always recognised that the EEC was formed partly to subsidise inefficient agriculture. It was recognised that that was a crucial measure to take in Europe's economy. The EEC was not designed to subsidise inefficient industry. It comes as no surprise to me, therefore, that Britain did not benefit. Within the terms of United Kingdom membership Northern Ireland was in the worst possible position, yet it not only received no subsidies for inefficient industry, but less support for its agriculture.

The Minister asked about comparisons, whether we were comparing Northern Ireland industry with the past, with other industries or with Great Britain. The one aspect with which he did not invite comparison was the South, but if one makes that comparison one finds that the South has done much better.

The EEC has brought about the concentration of production. It is significant and relevant to note that beef production has risen by 28 per cent. and milk production by 34 per cent. The agriculture industry is thus extremely vulnerable to EEC policy directives and changes of policy. A recent example is the super levy on milk. I shall not go into detail on that in view of the shortage of time, as I think that everyone knows the arguments — the threat to doorstep deliveries, associated industries, and so on.

The intensive livestock sector was based on cheap cereal imports. With the more expensive EEC grain, things are now more difficult for Northern Ireland farmers. As the Minister and others have acknowledged, this has caused difficulties for pig producers. Indeed, I have seen figures suggesting that pig producers lose about £3 per pig because of feed import costs.

The EEC recognises that Northern Ireland has special problems. Consequently, 45 per cent. of agricultural land is now designated as a less favourable area and it is intended that the proportion should increase to 75 per cent.

Although Northern Ireland has not done well out of the EEC, the Republic has done well. That is the comparison that the Minister should have made, but which he failed to make. The Republic has had the second highest growth rate in the EEC — about 3·8 per cent. — for the past decade. At the same time, and of crucial importance, the differences in the economic structures of both North and South Ireland have been diminishing.

When I talk about harmonising the economy of North and South, as I have done on many occasions, I am simply recognising the hard facts of economic life. Usually both the OUP and the Government are anxious to stress that political philosophy must take account of the hard facts of economic life, but they do not seem to be doing so in this case, as we know that the two economic structures have been coming closer together and becoming consistently more interdependent.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

I give way with some reluctance, as I am conscious of eating into the time available for Northern Ireland Members.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The Republic is receiving EEC subsidies to the tune of £1 million per day. Northern Ireland receives nothing like that amount. That must surely be damaging. When one takes into account additionality as well, it is a different ball game altogether.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

Precisely. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, he may end up agreeing with me—much to his horror I suspect — that there is real scope for co-operation. He should also bear in mind the real benefits obtained by the South and extended to the North either at the direct request of the South or through direct or indirect support. Examples are the suckler cow premium, the calf premium and export refunds for beef. Various other developments of direct or indirect advantage to the North have been obtained by the South and handed to the North by the South, or encouragement has been given to linking them — sometimes with opposition from the British Government until they changed their position.

It is of considerable political and economic significance that Northern Ireland's guaranteed prices and deficiency payments were replaced by the famous CAP payments at the same time as Northern Ireland lost its preferential trading position with Britain. Again, that put Northern Ireland in a losing situation. The OUP motion is right to state that Northern Ireland has done very badly as a result of both British and EEC policy. It has had some benefit from EEC policy and some benefit from British policy, but it could have had far more benefit from both if the British Government had considered the matter in the context of the needs of the agriculture industry in the island of Ireland.

This is the key comparison which the Minister failed to make. In the North, net farm incomes have declined in real terms by 20 per cent. since the 1970s, whereas in the Republic they have increased by 44 per cent. It would be a brave person who sought to argue that the 44 per cent. increase in the Republic was not due in large measure to EEC membership. It is therefore valid and proper to ask why the same benefit has not accrued to Northern Ireland.

In the short term, subsidies are necessary to allow structural change to take place. I suspect that the Minister agrees about that. If so, perhaps he will try to persuade the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues that the same applies to industry. They are quick enough to pull the skids out when industry seeks subsidies, but they do not take the same attitude to agriculture, which I believe is the most heavily subsidised sector of the British economy. We never hear complaints from the Government about that, despite their anxieties about BL, BR or any other area of industry receiving subsidies.

We recognise that subsidies are necessary initially to allow change to take place without excessive hardship. In the long run, however, we must examine the economic requirements of Ireland's economy as a whole, and agriculture and related industries must play a central role in that. However much Unionist Members may dislike it, at the end of the day they will have to face dreadful consequences in the economy, with a falling standard of living and rising unemployment, if they do not meet the challenge of co-operation with the South to benefit farming and related industries on both sides.

The Northern Ireland Economic Council report states that resources need to be redeployed to encourage agriculture and ancillary industries to diversify. We have much sympathy with many of its recommendations, such as expanded local cereal acreage, opposition to the milk superlevy, the overhaul of priorities in research and development and the link with industry, perhaps through a food sector research committee, an idea which seems to have good potential. The report also emphasises the importance of the processing industry and stresses the need to increase agricultural output with, as the hon. Member for Londonderry, East said, higher value added in the processing activities. That is extremely important.

We must, however, consider the potential of Ireland as a whole. It should be a world leader in agriculture. The South already has a good position and is improving it. The North should be part of that, because agriculture is the dominant sector of the economy of the North. The North should be benefiting, but it is not benefiting sufficiently. In that sense, I find myself in sympathy with the OUP motion as far as it goes.

The Republic, as a food exporter, sought devaluation of the agricultural refund rate so as to obtain maximum prices. The United Kingdom, as an importer, delayed devaluation. As a consequence, Northern Ireland suffered. Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that if Northern Ireland had its own pound, that pound would be grossly overvalued. That, too, must be taken into account and its consequences evaluated.

The need for co-operatives also affects both North and South. In the South, 24 per cent. of landowners are organised in co-operatives. The proportion in the North is only 1 per cent. I suspect that there is considerable potential for the smaller and part-time farmers in the North if more consideration and perhaps financial assistance were given to that kind of development. Big farmers do well out of the EEC. Small farmers receive some protection—as I have said, the EEC was designed to protect them—but the smallest farmers and the part-timers obtain the least total cash benefit. That aspect should therefore be considered.

I recognise that in this context the boom in the South ended in about 1980, but that makes the need for co-operation between North and South even greater. As I have said, there is already a certain amount of co-operation. Drainage schemes, animal and plant health and Lough Foyle are good examples. Returning to the intervention of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), however, the key area for close and detailed co-operation is in approaches to the EEC. Nothing could be dafter, more counter-productive and less helpful to the farmers of Northern Ireland than to have the South putting in its case while the British put in a case primarily for Britain and Northern Ireland loses on both. That is why Members of the Official Unionist party have tabled the motion. It is the result of what has been happening to them; they have been squeezed between the Republic and Britain, and they need to get their act together and recognise that, with the South, they could greatly improve the position of agriculture.

Joint applications to the EEC for agricultural support and uniform currency arrangements would be of great benefit. Co-operation between the intensive sector in the North and the cereals sector in the South, and particularly trade between the two, should be looked at as a major area.

Closer liaison between the meat marketing commissions in the North and South, and the exchange of scientific, commercial and training personnel, would be of benefit.

This is an important debate, too important to be packed into the short time that is available. In all seriousness, I urge Unionist Members to accept that they have failed to draw attention to the all-important fact that they have been squeezed between the successful policy of the South and the policy of the British Government, which has not put the needs of Northern Ireland farmers first. They have come second, and that is why they have tabled the motion, which is critical of the Government, and why the Government have defended their position in their usual terms, by more or less ignoring the special needs of Northern Ireland and claiming that they have done a little to help. It has been a little, but a very little.

Every time that we hear about the Prime Minister taking her wheelbarrow to Europe to get it filled with cash to bring back here so that she can disperse it all over the place, what happens? She returns with an empty wheelbarrow, and I am reasonably sure that when that wheelbarrow does come back with some cash in it, first it will not be much and, secondly, that what there is will not be going to Northern Ireland. Personally, speaking as a London hon. Member, I find that sad and a reflection on the duties of the Government.

Photo of John Taylor John Taylor , Strangford 5:42 pm, 6th February 1984

As the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) said, this debate is about one of the most important issues in Northern Ireland. I have had occasion to speak in the House already—because of the problems of Northern Ireland—for one cannot take one's time to make one's maiden speech in the way that one would like. I have had to participate in Question Time and I had to make a statement following the assassination of my friend and colleague, Mr. Edgar Graham. Today, therefore, I rise to make my formal maiden speech, but I gather that I am in good company in that the Prime Minister took 14 months before making her maiden speech. In other words, a maiden speech is not something into which one wants to rush.

I wish at the outset to place on record my appreciation of the way in which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Mr. Speaker have received us in this House. Mr. Speaker made us most welcome as new hon. Members, and that made me recall the first occasion when I entered Parliament in the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1965. I was reminded of the kindness and generosity that was extended to me, as a very young Member in those days, by the then Speaker of Stormont, Sir Norman Strong, who regrettably has since been assassinated by IRA terrorists in the Province.

This is not my first maiden speech but my third; not in this House, of course, because my first speech took place in 1965 in Stormont; my second was in 1979 in the European Assembly, as the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson) will recall; and this is my maiden speech in this House.

It is normal that one pays tribute to one's constituency when making a maiden speech. Mine is a new constituency which was cut out of the three existing constituencies of Down, North, Down, South and Belfast, South. On behalf of my constituents I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) for the way in which they have represented the people of Strangford.

The Strangford constituency starts in the suburbs of south Belfast and extends up through the market and commercial centre of the main town of the constituency, Newtownards, and then down through the Ards peninsula, which surrounds the attractive area of Strangford lough. The constituency has a large farming interest as well as a considerable fishing interest, and I regret that the Minister did not refer to the problems facing the fishing industry in Northern Ireland as a result of the EEC's present common fisheries policies. Tourism is an important subject in the constituency, and all hon. Members who know Northern Ireland will agree that Strangford lough is the most attractive tourist area in the Province.

Above all, the best tribute that I can pay to the constituency of Strangford is that it has the best record in Northern Ireland for being law-abiding. Would that the whole of Northern Ireland was as law-abiding a society as is my constituency. That is the ambition that we all have for the areas that we represent in the Province. But although it is a hard-working, go-ahead community with a good record for maintaining the peace, I regret to say that even during the short period when I have been a Member of this House — since June of last year — and even though there have been no incidents of terrorism in my constituency, three of my constituents have been killed, one only last week, as a result of IRA terrorist activities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) pointed out how vital agriculture was to Northern Ireland, and the figures have been quoted. I know that well in my other capacity as a European Member for the whole of Northern Ireland. Agriculture takes up more of our time in the European Assembly than does any other issue. It is vital to the Province not only because it is a large industry but because the area is suffering from over 20 per cent. unemployment. There are no alternative jobs for our people and it is, therefore, important that the viability and growth of agriculture is encouraged.

Agriculture contributes 6 per cent. of our gross domestic product and employs 15 per cent. of our people. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, and even the Minister, agreed that membership of the EEC had damaged agriculture in Northern Ireland — albeit the Minister was selective in the presentation of his case, for having said that some items had been damaged, he concentrated on the few items in the industry which may have grown during the last 10 years or so of our Community membership. It is important, therefore, that we record just what has been the effect of our EEC membership on agriculture.

In terms of constant 1975 prices, gross output has increased by only 2 per cent. That has been the net result, as recorded by the Northern Ireland Economic Council in its publication, "Public Expenditure Priorities: Agriculture." Since we joined the EEC, net farm incomes have declined and employment in agriculture in Northern Ireland has fallen by 19 per cent. Those general figures show what has happened and it is misrepresenting the issue and misleading the House to concentrate on the few items that have prospered, and to imply that there has been a general growth in Ulster agriculture because of membership of the EEC.

If we look further into the publication by the Northern Ireland Economic Council, we find, for example, on page 11 that since joining the Community, in volume terms the output of our fruit industry has fallen by 20 per cent., vegetable output by 21 per cent., pigmeat by 38 per cent. and the production of eggs by 40 per cent. The Minister concentrated on the way in which milk production had grown, and I agree that the figures for milk show that output has grown by 51 per cent. since we joined the European Community. However, the milk industry would have grown in any event.

There was a shortage of milk in the United Kingdom when we joined the Community and there was great opportunity for growth within the industry. Since then we have spent so much money on financing inefficient milk producers elsewhere in the Community — we have sent British taxpayers' moneys to other countries—that we have ended up with a surplus of milk within the Community, which will damage the Northern Ireland milk producer from this year onwards. It appears that the Minister has no solution to the problem. The pig industry, the egg industry and the intensive sector of agriculture have all been hit and now it is the turn of the milk industry, which has prospered over the past 10 years, to enter a period of great difficulty.

We know why the intensive sector has been damaged. The House will recall that at one time MCAs worked against Northern Ireland. By joining the EC, our access to cheaper feeds from America was terminated. Since then the EC has almost closed the door to the availability of feed substitutes such as manioc from, for example, Thailand. Since last year the EC has clamped down on those imports. We know that the EC's intervention operation has failed with the one exception—it was a one-off occasion to which the Minister referred—of the removal of intervention grain to Northern Ireland last year. We welcomed that decision, which was taken by the Community in co-operation with Her Majesty's Government. Regrettably, however, it was a one-off act and the Minister is unable to say that the resulting action will continue. The intensive sector of agriculture in Northern Ireland needs further assistance.

The dairy and fatstock sectors have benefited in the past, but the fatstock industry is now facing problems. The Community is moving towards the abolition of the beef premium scheme which is under attack. Unless the United Kingdom Government succeed in presenting a good case, one of the main aids to the beef industry in Northern Ireland will be removed.

I regret that the Minister did not refer to fishing, which particularly affects the constituencies of Strangford and Down, South and the ports of Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel. Portavogie is in my constituency in the Ards peninsula and it has benefited from the European regional development fund, which has permitted the modernisation of the harbour and the erection of a covered market.

Difficulties are created by membership of the EC. For example, our waters are now open to other nations and the Isle of Man is proceeding with a 12-mile limit. Under the allowable catch system, the quota system, the Northern Ireland fleet has an over-capacity of about 40 per cent. It is not good enough for the Government to present the odd thing that has done well. It is important that the Government should consider the overall situation and recognise that there has not been the advance in agriculture that we would have liked. There has not been an advance in the fishing industry, and, indeed, there have been great difficulties. Against that background, the Government should say, "This is how we shall solve the problem." Instead, not one solution has been presented to the House this afternoon in answer to the problems that beset the various agricultural commodities.

I am sorry that the Minister did not refer to the vegetable industry. The industry has declined and I should like to hear how the Government intend to improve it. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not refer to the possibility of developing forestry in Northern Ireland.

Agriculture is an important issue in our Province. It is one which requires special recognition. We do not ignore the fact that the Government have carried out various measures that have given special assistance to the farmers in the Province. Nonetheless, we believe that farming there requires more of the attention of Her Majesty's Government and the European Community.

When Ulster agriculture is being specifically considered at a meeting of the Council or by a meeting of Agriculture Ministers, it is unfortunate that a Minister from the Northern Ireland Office with responsibilities for agriculture never accompanies the United Kingdom Minister. Such a Minister should be part of the team when Northern Ireland is specifically on the Council's agenda. I regret that that is not the practice of Her Majesty's Government, and I should like them to give further consideration to including a Northern Ireland Minister.

It is clear from the amendment that the Government recognise the problem of Northern Ireland agriculture. We now ask them to demonstrate that they have the vigour and the will to overcome the problem.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 5:57 pm, 6th February 1984

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) on making his maiden speech. I did not hear his maiden speech in Stormont because I was not then a Member of that place. However, I heard his maiden speech at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Convention. I know that in the first Northern Ireland Assembly he vowed that he would remain silent, which pleased his enemies and perhaps his friends as well. I heard also his maiden speech at the European Assembly and I listened with great interest to what he had to say to us today.

The Northern Ireland Economic Council has issued an important report. The council cannot be presented by any stretch of the imagination as a farmers' body. It is largely weighted with representatives from industry and trade unions that are associated with industry. However, page 7 of the report, which I commend to the House, includes an important report on agriculture. I do not go along with all of the council's recommendations, but one passage in page 7 states: In general therefore the situation of the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland is quite unique in the context of the United Kingdom: producers face disadvantages which do not confront their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The House needs to face that important fact. The disadvantage results partly from the fact that Northern Ireland is on the periphery of the United Kingdom and on the periphery of the Community. However, decisions have been taken by the United Kingdom Government and also by the Community that have been detrimental to Northern Ireland's agriculture. It is important that we consider it as it was and recognise what has happened to it during our membership of the EC. It is important also that we consider the present position.

Before our entry into the EEC, Northern Ireland agriculture had a most successful intensive sector, especially for pigs and poultry. There was a reason for that. The reason was that Northern Ireland people are hard-working. They still are. Some of them inherited small farms. There was no alternative employment so they decided to work hard and to do their best to make an income from which they could bring up their families and be responsible citizens in our community. I praise the industry of the small farmer in Northern Ireland. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for his industry, courage and dedication.

There was only one thing that the small farmers could do—develop the intensive sector of agriculture and go into pigs and poultry. That they did. The main prop of the intensive sector for those hard-working small farmers was, of course, access to the world market for feeding stuffs, and being able to purchase them at a reasonable cost, although it was above the cost of what was available to the rest of the United Kingdom. However, with their industry and dedication, they made a success story of pigs and poultry.

I shall look at the figures. In 1973 there were 112,000 breeding sows and in 1983 there were 69,000. That shows the devastation that has taken place. It is the same in the poultry industry. In 1973 there were 7,125,000 egg layers but today there are 3,750,000. Therefore, almost 40 per cent. of our intensive sector has been destroyed. No amount of platitudes from either the Government or Opposition Front Bench can alter those sad and terrible facts.

What is left in the intensive sector, both in pigs and poultry, is now threatened. If we could be assured that we could save what we have, I am sure that Northern Ireland representatives would be happy. However, we are not sure whether we shall retain even what is now left.

Therefore, we must ask why Northern Ireland has fared so badly. People who are familiar with farming conditions in England have great difficulty in appreciating the difference in Northern Ireland, which is due to the lack of a significant cereal alternative to grass. In England cereals represent over 36 per cent. of the area of crops and grass, whereas in Northern Ireland they represent less than 7 per cent. In spite of generally higher prices in Northern Ireland than in England, the cereal acreage has fallen marginally, while in England there has been a significant increase. That must be emphasised. Because of unsuitable conditions, most of our farmers cannot take advantage of the most profitable sector for farmers in the EEC, and cereals cannot be regarded as a viable alternative to grass in Northern Ireland. Let us put it firmly on the line. We are at a grave disadvantage. EEC membership has reacted against the intensive sector of our industry.

Not only this Government but other Governments have failed to take effective steps to cushion the effects of our membership of the EEC. Some 40 per cent. of that valuable sector of agriculture has been destroyed because of that. The intensive sector still provides employment for 10,000 people. Therefore, what is left is an important sector. We should like to hear what steps the Government will take to protect, defend and maintain it.

Evidence was presented to the agriculture committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Ulster Farmers Union, the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association, the Minister of State, Lord Mansfield, the Pigs Marketing Board, the Milk Marketing Board, the Livestock Marketing Commission and the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association. The conclusion, based upon that evidence, was that the Government should … accept that Community cereal prices be brought progressively into line with world prices.

Until we get that, we cannot maintain our intensive sector. The committee stated that the Government should also accept that the gap between the intervention price for minimum quality breadmaking wheat and feed wheat be reduced … argue that intervention stocks of cereals should be available on equal terms to all regions and attempt to obtain the transfer of intervention grain to Northern Ireland on an on-going basis … oppose vigorously any suggestion that a cereals-deficit area such as Northern Ireland be denied access to cereal substitutes at competitive prices … seek to secure for the benefit of both the cereals and intensive livestock sectors, a scheme to encourage the incorporation of cereals in animal feed, operated under the aegis of the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce. I trust that the Government will take some of those steps to help us in this time of need.

I was rather surprised to hear the Minister talk in the way he did about beef. He said that it was a success story. However, when one looks at the figures, one does not see the success that he sees. In 1974 we had 339,000 beef cows in Northern Ireland. Let us remember that this is said to be a success story. In 1983 we had 197,000. I fail to understand how the Minister can tell us that that is a success story.

As the right hon. Member for Strangford rightly highlighted in his maiden speech, if the United Kingdom beef variable premium scheme is eliminated, that will be serious for Northern Ireland. As an alternative to substantial intervention, the beef variable premium scheme forms the mainstay of the support for producers' returns. It is also a benefit to consumers because beef is supplied at reasonable prices. If the scheme is removed—it is proposed that it should be—there will be serious implications in Northern Ireland, where access to intervention is already restricted by the physical limitations of handling and storage facilities. Therefore, beef is not a success story.

I was surprised when the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) painted a picture of the Republic's farmers being in paradise. When I read their journals, it seems that they are in "Paradise Lost" rather than paradise. The hon. Gentleman seems to know what is happening in the Irish Republic as every time the House discusses matters relating to Northern Ireland he directs his eyes to Dublin first and then to Belfast. He might get a squint if he keeps directing his eyes in that direction. However, if he knows anything about what is happening in the Irish Republic he will know that all is not well with farmers there.

I must also tell the hon. Gentleman that the farmers of Northern Ireland are under no obligation for what has happened in Europe because in Europe I have seen the representatives of the Republic fighting the very things that would be beneficial to farmers in Northern Ireland. I should like to say with all my strong convictions as a traditional Unionist that I would not vote in the European Assembly against anything that would benefit another part of Europe, provided that it was not detrimental to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr John Hume Mr John Hume , Foyle

Give an example.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The beef variable premium scheme. They try to destroy it because they want to put their beef into intervention the easy way and do not want to produce the quality of beef that Northern Ireland is able to produce and sell in Europe. Moreover, let no one think that Ministers from Dublin are lining up in the Council of Ministers to support Northern Ireland farmers. They definitely are not. I have mentioned the attitude of those representatives in the Assembly. Northern Ireland farmers do not need to say thank you to Dublin.

The basis of the Community is to deal with regions rather than with countries. It deals with regions that have similar problems. That is exactly what happened in regard to the calf premium. It was not introduced in the Republic first. It was introduced first in a place which is very like the Republic—Italy—some 10 years ago to arrest the decline in herds there. I shall not go on to say why I think Italy is like Southern Ireland. I shall leave that to hon. Gentlemen's imagination. The premium was extended to Greece, then to the Republic and to Northern Ireland in 1982. To hear the hon. Member for Hammersmith, one would think that people in Dublin were carrying a flag to help the farmers of Northern Ireland. That is not so.

What the farmers of Northern Ireland have got they have got by their own diligence and through their own representatives. Even the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has occasionally been in a lobby different from that of the representatives of the Irish Republic. With regard to the beef variable premium scheme he associated himself with the right hon. Member for Strangford and me. I am glad to see him nodding in agreement. That was a vital matter. We owe nothing to the representatives from Dublin, all of whom voted against it. We should not think that because the South gets something and the North also get it that we are obliged to the South. That is just part of the Community's regional policy.

I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will remember that the move to abolish the calf premium will be disastrous for our beef. We shall lose at least £10 million if that proposal goes ahead. There is also the proposal in the revised intervention arrangements, on which the Commission has not yet fully elaborated but which could apply to a restricted group of classes of carcases, which are described in accordance with the EC carcase classification grid, especially if the classes prescribed are predominantly continental in type. All of those things would tend to act against Northern Ireland's agriculture, which is not in a happy state.

This afternoon the Secretary of the Ulster Farmers Union issued a statement in which he said: if the levels of inputs and outputs remain the same there will be a nil net income from the present proposals, price adjustments, green pound and the CAP reform. That is a serious statement. The milk sector has known prosperity but great pressure will now be put on it. The choice of 1981 as the year on which to calculate the supplementary levy on milk will be disastrous for Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Hammersmith might say that that is what they are shouting about in Dublin. Of course they are. People are shouting about it elsewhere in the Community. Selection of 1981 as a base year would be disastrous for Northern Ireland dairy men. It would mean that, out of total receipts of £189 million, the dairy industry would lose £25 million. I say without apology that if the Government of the Republic of Ireland are excluded from proposals on milk and do not keep to that base year, we in Northern Ireland are entitled to the same consideration.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I am glad that I have the hon. Gentleman's support on that issue. It will not be Dublin that delivers the goods. The people in Dublin are interested in themselves, Sinn Fein—"We, ourselves, alone." We are interested in getting the best possible deal for the farmers of Northern Ireland.

I wonder what the Government will do about the milk issue. I trust that some of the recommendations that the agriculture committees made will be studied and accepted.

It is important to highlight Northern Ireland's fishing industry. It is an important part of agriculture. Those of us who have some knowledge of it know that boats are being sold and that the size of the fleet is being depleted. We also know that some people carry on for the simple reason that there is no alternative employment. The same is true for other sectors of agriculture. There are people who would be out of agriculture if they could get another job. As the Pigs Marketing Board said recently, they will hold on to the end and "will" stay to "the death".

The Minister should be aware that the fishing industry in Northern Ireland is in crisis. All of its representative bodies say the same thing. They gave evidence a few days ago to the Northern Ireland Assembly's agriculture committee. The Minister must take a hard look at Northern Ireland's agriculture. Although we are grateful for all that has been done for it and for all that the farmers have done for themselves, today we stand at a crossroads. It should be remembered that the key industry in Northern Ireland is agriculture. If it declines, the whole economy declines with it. I welcome the fact that, even in the amendment, it is recognised at long last that agriculture has a special place in Northern Ireland. I trust that the Government will take immediate steps to safeguard that industry and, especially with regard to intensive farming, to save what is left of that extremely valuable part of the agriculture industry.

Photo of Mr John Hume Mr John Hume , Foyle 6:19 pm, 6th February 1984

I am grateful for the opportunity to debate this subject in the House today, and to the party that tabled the motion, although I have to confess to having very little sympathy with the anti-EEC sentiments in the motion. We find ourselves in the company of the party of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and Provisional Sinn Fein who are opposed to membership of the European Community -stop the world, they want to get off.

Agriculture is the largest industry in Northern Ireland and therefore must figure largely in any debate on the economy of Northern Ireland. This is becoming increasingly necessary as our manufacturing base continues to contract and it becomes obvious that, for our economic salvation, we shall have to rely increasingly on small and medium-sized industry and, indeed, on our own resources. Agriculture will loom very large in that kind of development. For that reason, there is an urgent need for a rural development plan in Northern Ireland to be considered, to cover not only the issue of direct aid to farmers and farming, which has already been raised in the debate, but the maintenance and development of the rural community as a community.

It is no longer enough to encourage the drift from the land to the urban areas, which can only swell already swollen dole queues. A positive effort must be made to maintain and develop the rural community by methods such as the development of forestry and afforestation. In such development not only is use made of existing mountain land, providing immediate employment, but the foundations are laid for some powerful industries of the future in afforestation and in tourist-related industries, such as the craft industry, thus making the rural towns centres of small industry.

Mention has been made of the damage that is being done to the intensive sector in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Antrim, North rightly referred to the existing 10,000 jobs that need protection. It is generally agreed that the cause of the decline in this sector is due to the high price of feeding stuffs and cereals. The suggestion has been made repeatedly to the Minister, and to the Department, that one way of dealing with the decline is to have a permanent intervention store in Northern Ireland. While we welcome the one-off 50,000 tonnes proposed last year, there is no reason why there should not be a permanent intervention store in Northern Ireland. This is a simple way of getting a hidden transport subsidy to offset the heavy transport costs that have to be paid in Northern Ireland because of its geographical position.

The major weakness in the membership of the European Community in relation to Northern Ireland is the absence of a regional policy. Regional funds are not regional policies. There is no regional policy in the European Community, and Governments in the Council of Ministers have prevented the development of regional policies. In considering the changes that have to be made to the common agricultural policy, I believe that greater regionalisation has more to offer Northern Ireland than any other reform, particularly if that is applied to some of the problems currently faced in Northern Ireland.

I am not one of those who think that the common agricultural policy has been an unmitigated disaster. I happen to think that it has been one of the few successful food policies anywhere in the world. I am puzzled by people who complain about food surpluses. Would they prefer scarcity to food surpluses? The achievement of surpluses is proof that the European Community's common agricultural policy has attained self-sufficiency in food production, which is the objective of the policy. Northern Ireland is one of the few areas of the world where that has happened. There is undoubtedly a problem in relation to dairy surpluses, and something will have to be done about that. However, the proposals that are being put forward must be fought tooth and nail in Northern Ireland, because they will be very damaging to our dairy industry.

Northern Ireland's only raw material is grass, and all that we can produce from that grass is milk or beef. If there are to be penalties for over-production of milk in the European Community, those penalties should be placed on regions which, because of climatic conditions that are better than those in Northern Ireland, can turn to many other products. In Northern Ireland we cannot change from milk or beef. That is what I mean by a greater regionalised approach to the problems; an approach that takes account not only of the specific problems of regions, but of the specific natural resources of the regions.

A major issue in Northern Ireland agriculture for many years has been the extension of the boundaries of less-favoured areas. The absence of such an extension has been a major injustice against those farmers whose lands have been excluded from the schemes for less-favoured areas. Since our entry into the European Community, 75 per cent. of the land of Northern Ireland has met the criteria for inclusion in the less-favoured areas, yet only 45 per cent. has been included in existing schemes.

It was only after a great deal of pressure on an issue in which the farming community and the political community in Northern Ireland were united that Northern Ireland demanded a survey to prove that our allegation was correct. The survey found that our allegation was correct, and recommended a substantial increase in the size of the less-favoured areas. The delay in the implementation of that extended scheme is intolerable. I should like the Minister to confirm to the House that, when the scheme goes through the Council of Ministers, the Government will not be slow in committing their share of the cost of an extension for the less-favoured areas in Northern Ireland.

My final point concerns one of the great problems of farmers today, particularly small farmers, and that is the level of interest rates. In some parts of the European Community farmers have the benefit of rural investment banks and low interest rates. In the Republic, the Agricultural Credit Corporation is used as the agent of the European Investment Bank to provide low-rate loans to farmers. I do not see why something similar cannot be applied in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Jim Nicholson Mr Jim Nicholson , Newry and Armagh 6:27 pm, 6th February 1984

The situation in Northern Ireland agriculture has been deteriorating in recent years. No hon. Member who has listened to the debate could doubt that. The two sectors suffering most since United Kingdom entry into the EEC are pigs and poultry. Farmers in Northern Ireland built a thriving intensive industry based on cheap grain imports from north America. The average farm in Northern Ireland is smaller in size than farms in the rest of the United Kingdom. The farms are mainly family farms and, to make their farms viable, farmers expanded in the intensive sectors. Since United Kingdom entry into Europe, the numbers of pigs and poultry kept in Northern Ireland has been halved, with a number of consequences. One consequence is a drift from the land and resultant loss of jobs in ancillary industry. Many farmers have been forced to concentrate mainly on the grass-based sector, specialising in one sector, which they now find threatened by EEC proposals, especially in the milk industry. This has caused grave concern throughout the industry, and with good cause.

As to the problems connected with pigs and poultry, I believe the present crisis in Northern Ireland to be the most serious for many years. The input costs play a major part in this situation. I am reliably informed that it costs £4 per pig more to produce a pork pig in Northern Ireland than it costs on the United Kingdom mainland.

I listened with great interest to the comments of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) on the decrease in the number of sows in Northern Ireland. Had he been with me at Portadown pig market last Wednesday he would have been amazed, because it was full. The farmers are getting out as quickly as they can because they want to ease their meal bill and salvage something from the serious position. I must tell the Minister that if something is not done quickly in that sector, in six or nine months' time he will have to cite figures to the House that will cause a few red faces on the Government Benches.

Northern Ireland producers carry an intolerable burden, which emanates from Britain's entry into Europe. That deprived Northern Ireland of access to cheap North American grain. Northern Ireland farmers were always able to cope with higher input costs better than other parts of the United Kingdom, but the current difference has become too great a cross to bear, too steep a hill to climb—especially when we read of intervention grain going to other countries. That grain should be used to benefit United Kingdom farmers. The time has come for the Government to stand up for their farmers. They should worry less about what other countries may think of them, because other countries are prepared to protect their farmers at all costs. We need look no further than to the attitude of the French as proof of that.

If Northern Ireland is not to evolve into an agricultural economy based predominantly on grass, some way forward must be found to obtain grain at a more competitive price, and there must also be a more serious study of transport costs. Some form of assistance, especially to the pig industry, would be an unfettered supply of cereal substitutes, especially manioc. The problems in Northern Ireland are not only agricultural but social. Directly and indirectly, agriculture is responsible for 13 per cent. of employment in Northern Ireland, and that must be protected.

The Athens summit failed to reach agreement, which increased the concern and anxiety of the agriculture industry. When the Commission published its price proposals for the 1984–85 marketing year, it allowed only for minor price adjustments, yet the United Kingdom's significant green pound revaluation will sharply reduce support levels. That has been further magnified by the Commission delaying payment on intervention purchases and export restitutions, and the failure of the Council of Ministers to overrule the directives that have held up the hill land compensatory amounts and certain capital grant payments. That has caused serious cash flow difficulties for many farmers, especially hill farmers.

The poultry sector has recently been helped by an improvement in egg prices. That was much needed as the industry had suffered many months of loss of profits. But it still requires many months at current levels to recuperate. Like the pig industry, the poultry sector suffers from high input costs of grain and will require similar help if it is to have any future.

Since United Kingdom entry to the EC, there has been a marked departure from the mixed farming enterprise. More and more farmers have specialised in milk or beef—indeed, they have been encouraged to do so by Government inducements. Many were told that as Northern Ireland could grow grass better and conserve it more efficiently than anywhere else in Europe, we should be prepared to produce more milk and beef. The super levy proposals will have a disastrous effect, especially if they are introduced on 1981 levels of production. The proposal not to renew the variable premium would set back the beef industry considerably, and would have spin-off effects for milk producers and consumers. I am concerned that many farmers now have all their eggs in one basket, and if that commodity fails they will immediately find themselves in a serious position.

Agriculture in the whole of the United Kingdom faces many difficulties. The future of agriculture in Northern Ireland is made more difficult by its remoteness, and entry into the EC has made that remoteness greater. Decisions that used to be made here are now being made in Brussels. That helps to alienate Northern Ireland farmers. Many of them wonder whether their views are considered at all. EC membership has not been beneficial to Northern Ireland farmers, and more consideration of our remoteness must be given.

The position of the monetary compensatory amounts in Northern Ireland will always be open to abuse while the frontier with the Irish Republic remains open. If the Government are not prepared to control the security of the border in the interests of the citizens, we can expect little control of those determined to abuse the system.

The importance of agriculture to Northern Ireland and its economy cannot be over-stressed. It requires much greater foresight than at present, and a greater awareness of the problems faced in such a peripheral area. I hope that there will be a greater awareness from the Minister that will lead to a strengthened industry.

Photo of Mr Ken Maginnis Mr Ken Maginnis , Fermanagh and South Tyrone 6:36 pm, 6th February 1984

Agriculture is the most important industry in Northern Ireland, and nowhere is it more important than in my constituency. In production, processing and marketing, agriculture is the largest employer. It is, therefore, vital that the contribution that agriculture, in all its aspects, has made to the economy is not allowed to diminish any further than it has since we entered the EC. That point has been well made by other hon. Members this afternoon.

The steady decline in rural Ulster's main industry is having a devastating effect on the community, where 40 per cent. of males are already unemployed. That was not the case when market forces were allowed to prevail and our farmers built up a thriving intensive livestock industry based on grain purchased openly on the world market. Now the EC-imposed threshold price has decimated that aspect of farming.

One can continuously quote figures to prove that point. For example, about 10 years ago there were more than 1 million pigs in Northern Ireland, but there are now only 600,000. The number of farmers employed in pig production has dropped from 17,500 in 1972 to fewer than 6,000 in 1982. The reduction in pig production has had a devastating effect on marketing, as evidenced in the Unipork factory in Enniskillen. When the new factory killing line is established in Cookstown, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), a considerable number of pigs will be diverted from Enniskillen to sustain the new plant. The danger is that the hinterland of the Enniskillen factory will not be able to supply the factory with a sufficient number of pigs. The farmers in Fermanagh are generally small producers, and they are being driven out of work by EC policy. The Enniskillen factory employs 400 to 500 men. It is efficiently run and supplies shops and supermarkets all over the British Isles with a variety of products. The future of the factory is at stake, as are the jobs of the employees.

Farmers face other problems, too, in connection with marketing. Milk producers are concerned about the future because of the talk of the imposition of super levies and quotas and suggestions that the base year for any quota system should be 1981. That would hit milk producers hard, because 1981 was a poor year. The years 1982 and 1983 would have been much more representative.

Since we joined the Common Market, policy on agriculture in Northern Ireland has been subject to fluctuations. The change in capital grant schemes announced on 30 November 1983 will reduce the rate of grants on buildings by 2·5 per cent. and grants on road and drainage by 10 per cent. That is most unwelcome. Furthermore, when announcing that change, the Minister with responsibility for agriculture in Northern Ireland said that the rate of grants under the agricultural development programme—a scheme for the benefit of farmers in the less favoured areas—would remain unchanged for the time being. I hope that the Government will not find it necessary to reduce the rate of grants under that scheme. That is an example of the uncertainty that our farmers have to face all the time.

A problem of widespread concern, affecting all schemes, is delay in the issue of grant payments. It seems to be caused by confusion between our own Department of Agriculture, the Treasury and the EC directives. It is claimed that in normal circumstances a delay of six months is the minimum that one should expect. This delay not only reduces the rate at which further development can take place, but means that the farming community has to pay heavy bank interest. There are various explanations for the delays, one being the complexity of the schemes and the difficulties involved in their administration. A farmer may benefit under a variety of schemes, and it is necessary for the Department of Agriculture to check and cross-reference all schemes before payments are made to ascertain that the two-year expenditure limits and six-year farm business limits are not being exceeded. There is an urgent need for simplification of the rules governing the schemes to make possible speedier administration.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down

When the matter was raised in December we received some assurances of a speeding-up in payment of grants approved and due. I do not know whether my hon. Friend's experience is the same as mine, but in my constituency there has been no improvement whatsoever, and I am still forwarding a steady stream of complaints to the Minister as I was six months ago.

Photo of Mr Ken Maginnis Mr Ken Maginnis , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

Sadly, I have to concur with my right hon. Friend.

The continuity so necessary in an industry which requires high investment has been missing, as the EC agricultural policy stumbles from crisis to crisis with little appreciation of Northern Ireland's capabilities or problems. When I remember the stability and confidence that pervaded farming in Northern Ireland before the curse —if I may so describe it—of EC membership imposed the uncertainty that permeates the system today, I fail to understand why we continue to accept diktats which enforce higher production costs so that France and other European countries can compete by producing food that is inferior in quality and in hygiene and originates in areas where animal disease which we eradicted years ago is still endemic.

I hope that the Minister responsible will take appropriate action to remove the serious administrative difficulties. I refer in particular to EC money for funding a Blackwater drainage scheme which would benefit farmers in my constituency. For some reason, when the Department decided to pursue this scheme, it turned to London for a consultant to deal with the matter. We do not mind competition, but we have adequate and able consultants in Northern Ireland—consultants who, if asked to draw up a list of firms to tender for the scheme, would not have left out the name of the largest earth-moving firm in Northern Ireland, which is based in my constituency, although two firms from the mainland and one from Eire were included.

When I inquired about the omission, I was given all sorts of reasons. I knocked down the reasons one by one. The firm has plant worth £3 million and has completed a £4 million scheme on the Naas bypass in the past year. Such a firm is eligible to tender for the Blackwater drainage scheme. Lord Mansfied was unable to give me a satisfactory explanation, and so was the Secretary of State. The Northern Ireland Office told me that the firm might not be up to the job financially. That is a ridiculous allegation to make against a firm which has honoured every contract it has been given over the years and is able, without recourse to an insurance firm, to get a bond for £600,000 from the bank with which it deals. If there is such ineptitude in the awarding of agricultural contracts, what confidence can we have—right across the board—that we are dealing with people who understand Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr Roy Beggs Mr Roy Beggs , East Antrim

Where such a situation has arisen over the obtaining of a tender and awarding of a contract, surely the only honourable thing to do would be to add to the list the name of the company that has been disfavoured or, if that is not acceptable, to go through a fresh tendering procedure.

Photo of Mr Ken Maginnis Mr Ken Maginnis , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

I agree. If there was any real feeling for the plight of the unemployed in my constitueny, where there is 40 per cent. male unemployment among men who are familiar with agriculture, a different approach would be taken to the problem.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North 6:49 pm, 6th February 1984

I have listened with interest since the beginning of the debate to my colleagues on both sides of the House. They have made a plea on behalf of agriculture in Northern Ireland to the Minister. I suggest to the Minister that he heeds what hon. Members have said and goes to Brussels when Northern Ireland issues are discussed. The same is true of Wales and Scotland. Secretaries of State never attend meetings in Brussels, and they are to blame, in my view, for what happens. They are responsible for agriculture in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I hope that the Minister will heed what has been said tonight.

I have pressed agricultural matters in the House, and perhaps the Minister will take note of what I have to say, from this side of the water. Many years ago we had a deficiency payments scheme for pigs. It worked well. I have pressed successive Governments to introduce a scheme for pig producers similar to that which we have for sheep producers in Northern Ireland and this country. It would benefit everyone.

The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) spoke about the capital grant, and the credit system that now operates within the EEC. It is well known in Brussels that, if farmers in Northern Ireland or any other part of Great Britain could have the option of a capital grant scheme or cheap credit, many small farmers in Northern Ireland would prefer to have cheap credit facilities for a period until they had established themselves. Our counterparts in Europe are willing for us to have that, and I hope that the Minister will listen to our sentiments.

After listening to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have no choice but to support the motion in the Lobby.

Photo of Hon. Adam Butler Hon. Adam Butler , Bosworth 6:51 pm, 6th February 1984

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Clearly I shall not have an opportunity to answer every point. As usual, I shall try to do so as appropriately as I can through correspondence.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) on his maiden speech. I have seen the slightly unkind comments in the press, and as this appears to be his third maiden speech he can now forsake the wooden spoon for the triple crown. He spoke with considerable authority and it was only to my annoyance that I was unable to intervene. Another time will come when, perhaps, I will be able to do so. I want to deal with two small but relevant points. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) raised the subject of the selection of contractors for the Blackwater scheme and there was plainly some support for what he was saying. As far as I am aware, the procedures in that case have been properly followed, but I will draw the attention of my noble Friend Lord Mansfield and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the hon. Gentleman's words and the expressions of sympathy for his view that came from other hon. Members.

I appreciate the problem associated with grants. It is a matter of cash flow for the farmers. We are talking only about administrative problems that we have experienced in Northern Ireland. I am told that additional staff have been allocated and that overtime is being worked. It is hoped to reduce the time taken to process the claims shortly. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made a statement about EEC grants on Thursday, and I need not add anything.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) had his little bit of a legpull about monetarism. He then went on to sing the praises of a united Ireland. I do not believe that that is relevant to this debate. The example of agriculture within the Republic of Ireland at present is not one upon which I would necessarily wish to base the future of agriculture elsewhere.

It is also a matter of fact that the major increases in prosperity in agriculture in the Republic as a result of entry into the Common Market came about largely because of the smallness of the base, and the industry's relative inefficiency, particularly in the dairy sector, where milk productivity was half of what it was in the North at the time.

The hon. Member referred also to the green pound and the detrimental effect that that had on agriculture during a certain period in the 1970s. As I recollect it, and I hope that I am not wrong, it was his Government's deliberate policy not to revalue the green pound that had a serious impact on farmers' income at that time. The benefit to agriculture then might well have been improved if his Government had not taken that line.

The original motion, as I said earlier, criticised United Kingdom agriculture policies and their effect on Northern Ireland, and the impact of Common Market membership on Northern Ireland agriculture. Frankly, despite the number of voices that have been raised in support of the motion, I do not find the case made out that the trouble stemmed from joining the EEC.

We can argue facts and figures across the Floor, as we did, and, if I may say it immodestly, I believe that my facts and figures were better and more persuasive than those of some of my opponents. The serious point, I believe, that is acknowledged on both sides of the House by anyone who knows anything about agriculture in Northern Ireland is that agriculture is too concentrated and based on grassland production. It must be a matter of fact that a decline in the intensive sector brings about a greater concentration, as the Economic Council report made clear. We must see how we can reverse that trend. The intensive areas were mentioned liberally and frequently by many speakers. I noticed, however, the absense of reference to the poultrymeat sector.

If one takes the poultrymeat sector into account, one sees that the number of chickens for poultrymeat and egg laying is greater than it was in 1965, not less. There is a better prospect for the intensive sector there. A number of useful ideas were mentioned. The Government would wish to see cereal prices moving nearer to world prices. That must have an impact. I cannot promise a full-time store for intervention grain, but we shall use every opportunity to move intervention grain to the Province, as we have done in the past.

One of the best prospects to help the intensive sector and the dairy, beef and sheep sectors is the excellent way in which the processing side is developing. Employment is increasing, even in pig processing, the hardest hit sector in Northern Ireland. It has increased by about 10 per cent. if one adds beef and lamb slaughtering and processing. Markets within the Common Market, especially for beef and lamb, are opening up and that is yet another benefit.

The right hon. Member for Strangford properly drew attention to the importance of forestry. There, thanks to about £5 million a year that is going into that industry, the output of Northern Ireland forests is increasing substantially.

Although I belive that the anxieties expressed about Northern Ireland agriculture are real, and that the industry's problems will continue, I do not believe that the position is as gloomy as some speakers made out. I do not attribute the difficulties to membership of the EEC. In fact, I have pointed out the advantages that have been gained. It is essential, and I give this assurance, that the Government should continue to pay special regard to the special needs of the industry in the Province.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 27, Noes 208.

Division No. 152][7 pm
Alton, DavidPaisley, Rev Ian
Beggs, RoyPowell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Beith, A. J.Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Bruce, MalcolmSkinner, Dennis
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Spearing, Nigel
Cartwright, JohnSteel, Rt Hon David
Freud, ClementTaylor, Rt Hon John David
Howells, GeraintThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Kennedy, CharlesWainwright, R.
McCrea, Rev WilliamWalker, Cecil (Belfast N)
McCusker, HaroldWallace, James
Maclennan, Robert
Maginnis, KenTellers for the Ayes:
Maynard, Miss JoanMr. William Ross and
Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesMr. Clifford Forsythe.
Nicholson, J.
Aitken, JonathanGround, Patrick
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelGrylls, Michael
Amess, DavidHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Ashby, DavidHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Hampson, Dr Keith
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHanley, Jeremy
Boscawen, Hon RobertHargreaves, Kenneth
Bottomley, PeterHarris, David
Braine, Sir BernardHarvey, Robert
Bright, GrahamHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Brinton, TimHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Brooke, Hon PeterHayes, J.
Browne, JohnHayhoe, Barney
Bryan, Sir PaulHayward, Robert
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Burt, AlistairHeddle, John
Butler, Hon AdamHicks, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carttiss, MichaelHill, James
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHind, Kenneth
Chapman, SydneyHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Holt, Richard
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cockeram, EricHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Conway, DerekHunt, David (Wirral)
Coombs, SimonHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, JohnHunter, Andrew
Couchman, JamesJackson, Robert
Crouch, DavidJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Currie, Mrs EdwinaJessel, Toby
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Durant, TonyJones, Robert (W Herts)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyKershaw, Sir Anthony
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyKey, Robert
Forth, EricKing, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanKing, Rt Hon Tom
Fox, MarcusKnight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Knowles, Michael
Freeman, RogerKnox, David
Fry, PeterLatham, Michael
Gale, RogerLawler, Geoffrey
Galley, RoyLawrence, Ivan
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Lee, John (Pendle)
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Garel-Jones, TristanLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Glyn, Dr AlanLightbown, David
Goodhart, Sir PhilipLilley, Peter
Goodlad, AlastairLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Gorst, JohnLuce, Richard
Gow, IanMacfarlane, Neil
Gregory, ConalMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Maclean, David John.Shelton, William (Streatham)
Major, JohnShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Malins, HumfreySilvester, Fred
Malone, GeraldSims, Roger
Maples, JohnSkeet, T. H. H.
Marland, PaulSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Marlow, AntonySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mates, MichaelSoames, Hon Nicholas
Mather, CarolSpeed, Keith
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSpeller, Tony
Merchant, PiersSpencer, D.
Meyer, Sir AnthonySpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mills, lain (Meriden)Steen, Anthony
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Stern, Michael
Miscampbell, NormanStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Moate, RogerStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Moore, JohnStradling Thomas, J.
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)Sumberg, David
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Tapsell, Peter
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Moynihan, Hon C.Terlezki, Stefan
Mudd, DavidThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Neale, GerrardThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neubert, MichaelThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Newton, TonyThorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Nicholls, PatrickThornton, Malcolm
Normanton, TomThurnham, Peter
Onslow, CranleyTracey, Richard
Osborn, Sir JohnTwinn, Dr Ian
Ottaway, Richardvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Page, John (Harrow W)Waddington, David
Parris, MatthewWakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, John (Oxford)Walden, George
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWaller, Gary
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Pollock, AlexanderWatson, John
Porter, BarryWatts, John
Powell, William (Corby)Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Powley, JohnWells, John (Maidstone)
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWheeler, John
Raffan, KeithWhitfield, John
Rathbone, TimWhitney, Raymond
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWiggin, Jerry
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWinterton, Mrs Ann
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWinterton, Nicholas
Rippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyWolfson, Mark
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Wood, Timothy
Roe, Mrs MarionYeo, Tim
Rowe, Andrew
Ryder, RichardTellers for the Noes:
Sayeed, JonathanMr. Ian Lang and
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Mr. Douglas Hogg.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No.33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House acknowledges the importance of agriculture to the Northern Ireland economy and that there have been advantages as well as disadvantages to Northern Ireland agriculture as a result of European Community membership; welcomes the special provision of aid to ameliorate that industry's special disadvantages; and calls on the Government to continue to recognise the special problems of Northern Ireland agriculture.