Common Agricultural Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th April 1998.

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Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Labour, Sherwood 12:00 am, 30th April 1998

What steps he is taking to ensure that CAP reform increases job opportunities in rural areas. [39115]

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Increasing job opportunities in all areas, including rural areas, is a key priority for the Government. We will take account of that priority in the negotiations on CAP reform.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Labour, Sherwood

Is not the most effective way of creating new jobs in rural areas to ensure that Departments work together? Will that not ensure that planning, training and support for small businesses are used effectively? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the present departmental structures and agencies are not necessarily organised in the best possible way?

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend's first point. That is why the Government have instituted reviews across Departments, including a review of countryside and rural policy. As for matters involving reorganisation and responsibilities in Whitehall, some of those are under discussion. The Select Committee on Agriculture also had some recommendations to make, but it is too soon for us to announce any conclusions.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Conservative, Vale of York

Does the Minister agree that, by cutting hill livestock compensatory allowances by £35 million this year, he has damaged job prospects in upland areas? Can he explain why the British presidency has not yet done more to reform the common agricultural policy during the six-month period?

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I was delighted to see that even the hon. Lady smiled when asking the second part of her question. She must know that the detailed proposals for reform of the CAP were published only last month, and that I immediately called a special additional Council meeting for Agriculture Ministers to begin discussing those proposals straight away. Moreover, we had already prepared detailed official working parties, so the proposals went straight into detailed consideration by member states. I assure the hon. Lady that there has been no delay on our part.

As for the first part of the hon. Lady's question, she will recall that in December we announced an additional £85 million of support over and above last year's level for farmers, particularly those in less-favoured areas. Since that decision, we have announced that the Government will fund, with an additional £70 million, items including the start-up costs and the first year's running costs of the cattle traceability scheme.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that some of the new jobs in rural areas will undoubtedly be in tourism and that tourism, especially in the hill country, will mean that we have to preserve the present balance and not destroy those things that attract people to such areas?

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I very much agree with my hon. Friend that we must look increasingly for additional opportunities to improve farm incomes, which means providing farmers with help and support for a variety of developments, including, where possible and where farmers wish it, involvement in tourism. If, as my hon. Friend says, we as a nation wish to preserve the nature, heritage and environment in our countryside and environmentally sensitive areas, we as a nation must find better ways to pay for that preservation than we have found hitherto.