Common Agricultural Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd July 1992.

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien , North Warwickshire 12:00 am, 2nd July 1992

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects the details of the CAP reform proposals to be finalised.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

The major points were finalised yesterday, and the details will be produced as soon as possible.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien , North Warwickshire

Since the Minister has been in his post, 25 farm workers and 14 farmers have lost their jobs each day. How much will those daily figures increase as a result of the new common agricultural policy, and what does the Minister propose to do to reduce them?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

The hon. Gentleman should examine the figures, which show that the reduction in the numbers of farmers and farm workers have been pretty constant over the past 150 years. That is a fact of life, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that as time goes on. The reform has meant that the European Community is meeting exactly the terms that we wanted, and we can now look forward to a secure future within the common agricultural policy, which will properly defend our extremely good farming, which produces jobs for farmers and farm workers.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the Government's view on the pension provisions for the early retirement of elderly farmers in the United Kingdom, as well as in the Community, bearing in mind that it is important to introduce new young blood to accommodate the changes in agricultural practices?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

I am not sure whether the Community's proposals could be used for the purpose that my hon. Friend has in mind. We were determined that there should be a link with the restructuring of very small farms, so that they could provide a viable future for new blood. I do not believe that the same conditions exist in this country—although I should be happy to consider any specific proposal from my hon. Friend. The restructuring proposal was intended especially for countries with very small farms.

Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

The Minister has just said that the CAP reforms were on the terms that we wanted. Is he aware of the following intervention by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) in the House on Monday: the Court of Auditors described the recent MacSharry proposals accepted by the Agricultural Ministers as 'a recipe for fraud"'—[Official Report, 29 June 1992: Vol. 210, c. 586.] What does the Minister intend to do about that?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

We have always put the combating of fraud at the top of our priorities. We shall ensure that everything is done to see that the system is transparent and properly carried through. What I said about CAP reform stands. We wanted to make sure that it was fair to all farmers, but did not discriminate against British farmers

—that it was a system that directed the money to farmers rather than at supporting prices. We have achieved all those objectives and we have done so with no help whatsoever from the hon. Gentleman.