Given the superb result for Labour in north Wales and the massive rejection in Europe of Tory policies, will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that his colleagues in the Council of Ministers ensures that the views of farmers in north Wales are properly represented, as they are not represented among farmers as a whole in Britain?
Nothing delights the farmers of north Wales more than the sheepmeat premium regime, which I introduced and which they now want to save. When I introduced it, I did not receive great acclaim from the Opposition, but I am glad to say that they are now all eager to defend it. I am delighted to say that the sheep-meat regime is working well, with £56 million of benefits to Welsh farmers last year. We have heard of the great pleasure of the farmers' unions at the considerable increase in the beef suckler cow premium.
I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that his office did not manage to comply with the normal courtesies and inform me before Question Time that my question was linked with question No. 8.
Will he confirm that every county in Wales has had recorded outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy? Will he publicly acknowledge that Welsh consumers are eating beef products derived from infected cattle? That statement has been acknowledged by the farmers' unions, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the British Veterinary Association. To protect the health of the people of Wales and the economic livelihood of Welsh farmers as stockmen, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the only effective way of keeping infected animals out of the food chain is by increasing compensation to realistic levels? Will he give an undertaking that he will do just that?
I do not think that Welsh farmers would be pleased at the way in which the hon. Gentleman has endeavoured, totally without justification, to scare the consuming public about Welsh beef. I regret his exaggerated remarks.
I apologise for the bad mistake that my Office made in failing to inform the hon. Gentleman that his question would be linked. That should have been done.
As for compensatory arrangements, they are constantly under review.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the anxiety among potato farmers in Pembrokeshire about the possible abolition of the Potato Marketing Board? Will he confirm that the Welsh Office has made representations to the review being carried out by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?
In his discussions with the leaders of the farmers unions in Wales, did the right hon. Gentleman discuss the Government's proposals for financial cuts in research and development establishments in Wales? Will he give farmers in Wales an assurance that the future of the Trawsgoed and Pwllpeirian experimental farms and the Welsh plant breeding station at Gogerddan, Aberystwyth, will be safeguarded in years to come?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the reviews are currently taking place. We have discussed the matter with the farmers' unions in Wales and stressed the importance of ensuring that the grass-growing areas of the United Kingdom, of which Wales is a prominent part, have the appropriate research facilities.