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Rural Payments Agency

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 7th November 2006.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:33 pm, 7th November 2006

On the hon. Gentleman's last point, it would not be appropriate for me to say that I will not keep the House informed. I have made two written statements and two oral statements. When I first joined the Cabinet, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House gave me this advice: "If you've got difficulties or problems in your Department, make sure that you're open and honest with the House of Commons about it." I think that it is right to come to the Floor of the House to report on progress, notwithstanding, Mr. Speaker, your right to say that you are tiring of my voice and my appearances here.

The hon. Gentleman speaks in a dedicated way for the farmers in his constituency and elsewhere. He is right that there are difficulties in British farming—or in English farming, which is my responsibility—but I hope that he will reflect on the following point. When the Bank of England published last week its latest figures on the finances of the farming industry, the National Farmers Union put out a press release saying, "Let's recognise the strong financial performance of many parts of British farming shown in this report." It did not say, "Let's thank the Government for the strong performance of many parts of British farming", but "Farmers deserve credit for the way they are innovating and working and winning market share both at home and abroad." I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is in none of our interests to cover over the problems that exist, but equally we must not talk down the many successes in British farming.