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Mr. MacGregor : The festival of food and farming was a great success. Attendance was about 1 million, and visitors clearly enjoyed themselves thoroughly and were impressed. Great credit is due to all concerned in the planning and execution of that most imaginative event.
Mr. Brown : I congratulate my right hon. Friend's Department on its work on the festival. Does my right hon. Friend intend to repeat the festival? In view of his question, I suggest that the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) should be invited to open another festival.
Mr. MacGregor : A most distinguished guest opened the festival. As my hon. Friend knows, that guest could not have been more distinguished. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. I fully recognise what is behind his question, which is the importance of getting over to the public at large, and particularly the urban population, the great contribution that the farming industry makes to our food and to the attractiveness of our countryside. The festival was a great success in that respect. It was the first major Hyde park festival for nearly 150 years. There are obvious difficulties in repeating it year by year. I have noted my hon. Friend's support for the idea of doing it again.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : Is it not the case that British food and farming has been rather soured by salmonella and listeria scares? Does the Minister agree that the British public want cleaner, healthier and pesticide-free food and a system of agriculture with a lower input of fertilisers and pesticides?
Mr. MacGregor : The British public quite rightly want an increasing range of high-quality, safe food. There will always be some problems throughout the world about dealing with safety, because salmonella and listeria are in the air that we breathe. As the hon. Gentleman will know, in the past few months we have taken a wide range of measures to deal with the new problem of one particular type of salmonella. The festival showed the very high quality of food that British farmers are producing, and the consumers' response was extremely good.
Mr. Paice : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the festival was a marvellous opportunity to celebrate the centenary of his Department and to recall the excellent work that his Department has done and is doing on behalf of the British consumer in its polices, which it is pursuing vigorously, for the reform of the CAP?
Mr. MacGregor : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks, and in particular for underlining the dual role which we have and which is correctly done in one Department--that of pursuing the best agricultural production that we can possibly have and ensuring that the consumer interest is completely taken into account.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, substantially foreign-owned fishing vessels can no longer be registered as British fishing vessels and have no entitlement to fish against United Kingdom quotas. Following the failure of certain quota-hopping interests to obtain an injunction suspending the operation of the Act, the Government are monitoring the position and will take any action necessary. The Government are also urging the Commission to take action on a Community level to eradicate the practice of quota-hopping.
Mr. Harris : I welcome that reply. Will my hon. Friend pass on to our right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General the congratulations of the House and of our fishermen for the determined way in which he fought the case brought by Spanish interests? He fought it right up to the High Court and won. Will my hon. Friend also take a message of unity from this House to the European Commission to the effect that its apparent insistence in favour of quota-hopping would undermine the common fisheries policy in a way that would be absolutely fatal and to the detriment of our own fishermen in particular?
Mr. Thompson : I shall pass on my hon. Friend's congratulations to the Law Officers. I noticed in the judgment that the judges congratulated them on the way in which they presented the case. I shall also reinforce, as we have been doing, our unanimity in the House to stamp out quota- hopping.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing : Will the Minister explain what he means by monitoring quota-hopping? When he refers to the Government taking "any action necessary", may I ask him to explain what action will be taken, if necessary, to protect the fishing fleet and the rest of the United Kingdom?
Mr. Thompson : The action that we have taken in the courts up to now has been successful and has driven quota-hoppers away from our shores. A licence can now be valid only if the vessel to which it relates is British registered. We intend to press on--in the courts, in the Community and elsewhere--to eradicate quota-hopping.
Mr. Knight : Does the Minister agree that the whole House should recognise the value of hedges as wildlife habitats? Will he confirm that grants are available for the planting and laying of hedgerows under the new farm and conservation grants scheme? What action is being taken to prevent the erosion of the soil in some areas?
Mr. Ryder : I fully share my hon. Friend's views about hedgerows. As he knows, the farm and conservation grants scheme, which began on 20 Feburary, provides grants of up to 40 per cent. for the planting of hedges in lowland areas. I particularly urge farmers in the east midlands and in East Anglia, my own part of England, to make full use of the grants.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Did the chairman raise with the Minister the whole question of the reorganisation of his Ministry? Is it true that discussions are going on as a result of which the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food might be linked to the Department of Industry? Alternatively, is it true that the Government might be considering setting up a whole new green Department based on a combination of briefs from various other Departments?
Mr. MacGregor : I announced in March the Government's intention to designate a pilot sample of nitrate-sensitive areas, in which a range of agricultural measures could be tested. Since then, a consultation document has been issued setting out the Government's more detailed ideas and inviting comments on them.
Mr. Hughes : When does my right hon. Friend expect to be able to announce the set-aside in the nitrate-sensitive areas? Will he agree that the whole scheme that he has initiated is further proof that the Government care about good water quality and that we are in the lead in the European Community in trying to achieve that?
Column 1116intend to embark. We are getting ahead with our proposals for nitrate-sensitive areas. I hope to have the areas which we are using as pilot samples in place for the harvest in 1990. Of course, we need to have the Water Bill through Parliament, and the National Rivers Authority set up, before we can proceed with our proposals for the nitrate- sensitive areas. The fact that we are getting ahead with our proposals before the decisions in the European Community on this matter must be a clear indication of the Government's leading role in dealing with those matters.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Atkinson : Does my right hon. Friend share the concern of a great many hon. Members that the principal member of her Government, the Lord Chancellor, is today being held to account by his Church for fulfillng his public duties? Does she agree that that is hardly the mark of a Church which would call itself Christian or tolerant?
Mr. Budgen : Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is some confusion on the Conservative Benches about the Government's economic policy? Will she state whether the recent increase in interest rates was to hold up the value of the pound or to restrict private credit and the money supply?
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend is aware, the recent increase in interest rates is to get the rate of inflation down. I am sure that my hon. Friend will find no confusion on economic policy. The Chancellor and I find none. The only confusion that we find has arisen from the interview given on the BBC today by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when he called for import controls and for us to stop treating the pound as if it were a sacred relic. That is against the Common Market, against GATT, against the pound and against common sense.
Mr. Fraser : Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that since the last general election the rate of inflation has doubled, the trade deficit has quadrupled and mortgage rates are going through the roof? If those are signs that the Prime Minister is doing well, what will happen if she does badly?
The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman is aware, to us the rate of inflation is unacceptably high, but to the Labour party it was unsustainably low. It is better than it could sustain for more than a few months. Our performance has given the highest standard of living ever known, the highest number of jobs and a rate of inflation infinitely below the 26 per cent. rate of the Labour party.
Sir Julian Ridsdale : In view of the turmoil in China can my right hon. Friend give some assurances to the people of Hong Kong as, in the present situation, there must be considerable anxiety among them?
The Prime Minister : I share my hon. Friend's view and I believe that there must be very great concern in Hong Kong about events in China. My hon. Friend will recall the joint declaration we negotiated with China to guarantee that freedoms and the capital, economic policy, which Hong Kong enjoys, should continue for 50 years after 1997. I believe that it is very much in China's long-term interests to make that agreement work and to see Hong Kong remain stable and prosperous. I believe that that will be the case and we shall do everything possible to see that it is.
Mr. Livingstone : Has the Prime Minister been briefed on the contents of the book "Who framed Colin Wallace?"? Is she aware that it contains specific details and evidence of acts of treason by the security services and that it contains specific records, on the record, from former members of the armed forces and the Civil Service confirming those acts? What advice would she give to Members of the House who wish to pursue such allegations, when her own Ministers continue to be evasive whenever those issues are raised?
The Prime Minister : No, Sir, I am not aware of the particular allegations in the book referred to by the hon. Gentleman. I dealt fully with allegations of that kind in my statement to the House on 6 May 1987 and I have nothing further to add to that statement.
Mr. Jones : Will my right hon. Friend find time today to plan a visit to Lisburn and North Down where she would find that a huge number of people who see the path away from sectarian politics as being Conservative party participation in elections there?
The Prime Minister : I have been to Lisburn and I had a very warm welcome from all of the people there and I greatly enjoyed my visit. I shall not be able to get there very quickly, but I understand the point that my hon. Friend has made.
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson : Will the Prime Minister please explain to the House how we can have a record deficit on the import of manufactures and, at the same time, barely reach the 1979 level of investment in the manufacturing industry? Will she explain to the House what has happened to the supply side miracle in the economy?
The Prime Minister : The supply side miracle has given us the highest standard of living the country has ever known, the highest standard of business investment ever known and now, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be very glad to welcome, the highest level of investment in manufacturing industry in real terms.
Mr. Goodlad : Will my right hon. Friend find time today to congratulate the police in Wolverhampton on their prompt and effective action in apprehending, earlier in the week, those who were dealing in crack? Will she reassure the House that she will give every support to those involved in making sure that that evil trade, which has brought so much misery and degradation to other parts of the world, is never allowed to take root here?
The Prime Minister : I believe that the police were entirely right to take firm action against drug dealers and that crack peddlers must know that they have no safe haven. I believe that the disturbances that followed the enforcement of the law at Heath Town on Tuesday night were absolutely disgraceful. I also believe that the police should be warmly commended on the action they took and on the way in which they restored order, quickly and effectively. I believe that, in doing so, they have the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country.
Mr. Madden : Does the Prime Minister believe that the threatened expulsion of diplomats and journalists threatens the improving good relations between Britain and the Soviet Union, which are most welcome to the overwhelming majority of people of both countries?
The Prime Minister : I hope that the hon. Member is not suggesting that we should refrain from taking action against people who are carrying out unacceptable activities in this country. We found those people in both the Soviet and the Czech embassies and we had to take action against them. The action had to be taken regardless
Column 1119of the effect upon our relations. The worst thing of all would have been to say that because we have better relations we can ignore all those unacceptable activities.
The Prime Minister : I confirm that. I was absolutely appalled at what happened today. Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman could never take his place at this Dispatch Box because he would object to the line of questioning.
Mr. Morgan : Can the Prime Minister confirm that the economic problem of this country is no longer that we are suffering from overheating but that the radiator has now blown up into tiny fragments all over her?
The Prime Minister : No, Mr. Speaker, but I note that official Labour policy would make things infinitely worse by wanting lower interest rates, lower exchange rates, higher public spending and, according to the shadow Chancellor, a less deflationary emphasis, all of which would lead to the sort of inflation we had when Labour was in power.
Mr. Knapman : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that she has never been a member of CND but has consistently advocated multilateral disarmament? Does my right hon. Friend believe that this consistency is absolutely vital if one is to be taken seriously as a political leader?
The Prime Minister : I confirm that I have never been a member of the CND. I believe in sure and strong defence of liberty. We know from experience that conventional weapons are not enough to prevent war, because of the two world wars that we have had. We must continue to have the nuclear weapon if we are to have peace in Europe.
Mr. Skinner : We have been listening with interest in the course of the past two or three months to the Prime Minister's references to the ozone layer and green issues generally. Can she tell us whether she expects that hole in the ozone layer to be patched up by the use of market forces? Has she got in mind a man, a ladder, a bike and an enterprise allowance?
The Prime Minister : I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman--I believe a grammar school boy--would have had the understanding to know that it is the success and profits of the private sector that have been sufficient to finance the excellent research of the Antarctic Survey and to provide even more money for the survey to discover the hole in the ozone layer, which formed the basis of the action which has been taken on it, and that also it is the success of the market sector which is very rapidly producing ozone-friendly products to stop the threat to the ozone layer.
Mrs. Maureen Hicks : Can I say to my right hon. Friend how much the people of Heath Town will welcome her reassurance this afternoon? I will personally deliver her message to the police tomorrow. Can I have her assurance that she will advise that those who are found guilty of the terrible offence of handling crack be dealt with severely?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend. Crack is a very great danger and we shall do everything possible to stop it coming into this country. I hope that the courts will take notice of what my hon. Friend has said. I believe that people want that offence dealt with by severe sentences.
The Prime Minister : I am not going any further than my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose handling of the economy has given everyone the highest standard of living and the highest standard of social services that they have ever known--
[Interruption.] There is so much row from the Opposition because they cannot bear the facts to be told.
Mr. Rhodes James : Does my right hon. Friend recall the speech that she made at Perth when she expressed strong support for the threatened Glasgow university veterinary school? Is she aware that we in Cambridge have always strongly supported Glasgow veterinary school, as it has supported us? Can I assume that my right hon. Friend's support for Glasgow extends to Cambridge?
The Prime Minister : I am very supportive of veterinary schools, which have a high standard of excellence. Glasgow, in addition, does a great deal of highly relevant research, and attracts much research from the private sector. I fully support my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in his attempt to save it, which I believe will be successful.
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