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Column 478will not be only the British who will suffer if that does not happen ; the Spanish and other nations whom we sometime accuse of damaging the markets will also be affected.
The points made so far in the debate about the philosophy of the CAP underline the importance of the report that has been much mentioned today-- the famous report that appears to have been suppressed by Brussels bureaucrats. The publication of such a report would contribute to a healthy debate about the future of agriculture. We need that report, and presumably we have paid for it, or part of it, so we are entitled to have it.
I have some of the press releases of the time. The defence in Brussels of its non-publication was :
"There could be as many as 100 studies going on at the moment . . . These reports are ten a penny."
I bet that they are not 10 a penny ; this one took two years, was produced by 10 leading agricultural economists and must have cost a great deal of money. It seems to be an important report.
I will also quote some of the comments in the newspapers : "The two-year study concluded that the CAP could no longer be justified, and said farm prices should be left to fall to world market levels, with subsidies, import barriers and production quotas all abolished. The result would be cheaper food in the shops, with every British family saving at least £530 as artificially high prices tumbled.".
Another article stated :
"According to Professor Kenneth Thomson . . . one of the report's authors, it would also save British and other European consumers about £37.5 billion per year in food prices".
The report proposes renationalising agriculture and passing back to nation states the obligation--an important condition--to pay farmers direct income support and other national supports. That is extremely important and is music to our ears. Many of us have been calling for the repatriation of most agricultural policy for a long time. We may be right or wrong, but we should be debating the issue. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will ensure that that report is out in the open and published very soon.
I shall be brief as I know other hon. Members wish to speak. I shall concentrate my remarks on horticulture. The hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) talked about one of his constituents having to destroy a large quantity of lettuces. I speak not for lettuces, but for apples in particular, and other horticultural production from Kent. We might be talking about lettuces--or apples, as we do in my part of the world and other parts of United Kingdom--but many horticultural products are equally vulnerable. Something has to be done in the near future, not just in the interests of the British horticultural industry, but ultimately for other horticultural interests throughout the European Community. I particularly welcome the report that my hon. Friend the Minister of State instituted-- the survey of horticulture. I understand that it is very wide ranging and will cover all aspects of horticulture. I hope that my hon Friend will beef up the report, because it comes at a crucial time and is of tremendous importance. We have very high expectations of it. I hope that my hon. Friend is aware of that and will deliver an analysis of the problem and a range of answers. One of the key criteria on which that report works is
"market co-ordination, matching volume and continuity of supply to requirements".
That is a magnificent objective, but what on earth is the point of having a British study trying to match continuity of supply to requirements if virtually every horticultural product from Britain can be challenged and its marketing
Column 479distorted overnight by floods of imports from overseas, whether from other members of the European Community or from outside Europe ?
We need to deal with excessive imports into the United Kingdom. It is no good saying that we must improve our marketing arrangements, as has happened with apples, improve our research and development to the point of perfection and do everything possible to sell our lettuces, blackcurrants, apples or pears, if we cannot prevent a sudden flood of imports into the market just when we are trying to market those products. That is the crucial point.
I return to apples--the product that concerns us most in Kent at the moment. As hon. Members will know, a few weeks ago we had a splendid lobby of apple growers at the House of Commons. They did a wonderful job and put a very strong case. The price of quality Cox's apples has dropped by nearly a third since last year and they are facing a serious threat to their livelihood. We tabled an early-day motion and hon. Members from all parts of the House signed it enthusiastically. There is tremendous understanding and support for the English apple grower. The English apple is a super high quality product--one of the best apples in the world, if not the best. Everyone knows that the industry has done everything it can to help itself. It has paid for much of its own research and development and improved its marketing to a high level, but what is the point of all that if there is a structural surplus in the European Community, a growing world surplus and freedom to dump products on the market where our product is on sale ? It requires only a small volume to kill a price.
On the other side of Westminster bridge there is an enormous advertisement for every variety of French apples, all with good Anglo-Saxon names. It is surprising how the French abandon their passionate belief in their language when it comes to marketing their apples in the United Kingdom.
In Sittingbourne in my constituency--the heart of the apple country--there is an advertisement for United States apples. At this time of year, when our apples are still coming out of store--many have been stored for a long time--we need high prices, but just at this very moment in come floods of foreign apples.
Some 20 years ago, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State who is in the business will know better than I, there used to be a sensible marketing arrangement with countries in the southern hemisphere. They did not market in our season but came in when English apples were no longer available. In the interests of all producers--they all have an interest in an orderly market, leaving markets intact and not destroying a market or their competitors--it must surely be possible, within the European Community and with our main importers from abroad, to try to engineer an agreement such as the one that applied many years ago to the southern hemisphere. If we can do it for apples, we can also do it for a range of other commodities. It will never be perfect, but orderly marketing arrangements--perhaps operated throughout the European Community--are vital.
People might say that I am concerned about apples because I am from Kent or that I am concerned only with my own backyard, but it is important that the House of Commons and the nation should understand the importance of horticulture. Today we have a debate on agriculture. We seldom have a debate on horticulture ; yet its contribution to the national economy is enormous. It is one of the Britain's major industries. We are told that
Column 480agriculture contributes 1.2 per cent. of gross domestic product, but all the industries looked after by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represent some 9 per cent. of GDP. That shows how far reaching are the implications of the agriculture industry. Agriculture accounts for 14 per cent. of all employment. I understand that horticulture accounts for about one third of that in production terms and, I suspect, much more in employment terms. It is hard to get figures. Perhaps I can make a plea to my hon. Friend that a serious effort be made to have a proper analysis of just how many people are dependent on horticulture, because if we can understand that factor, we might get a regular and more robust defence of British interests whenever they are threatened. In my constituency alone, in which some 2,000 people are dependent on agriculture, during the summer season, some farms will each employ several hundred pickers. One can multiply that figure quite dramatically. They are employed for a few months--and pay their national insurance, just in case anybody doubts that. That income is very important for those families.
Horticulture is of tremendous importance and that is not fully understood. Some £2 billion in production comes from horticulture.
Mr. Tyler : I have listened with great interest to the hon. Gentleman's argument, but having made an eloquent plea for the repatriation of the CAP he now seems to be developing a case for a common horticultural policy negotiated right through the Union. It is a good case, but one needs both.
Sir Roger Moate : Perhaps I did not express myself as clearly as I should, but in fact I am saying exactly the opposite. I do not believe in the CAP : I believe that we should have national agriculture policies controlled by the European Community within a free trading area to try to prevent market distortions. That is what we are moving to anyway and I welcome it very much. It is not easy to operate, but the present system is failing in any event. No system of protection operates efficiently. We are moving away from centralised price support systems and we should do the same in horticulure.
Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North) : I presume that the hon. Gentleman means within European budgetary limits. That is, national or member state expenditure would have to be within budgetary limits set by the European Union.
Sir Roger Moate : I believe that nations could administer these policies, as they are nationally sensitive matters and are best done nationally. That is the theme that is emerging. What I am trying to say is that, in horticulture matters, there is a great international and national interest in trying to protect each sector of the market. It is easy to say, "Well, it is only £50 million or £100 million, and it might be tomatoes today or lettuces tomorrow," but every one of those sectors is important. It is all too easy to sacrifice any one of those to a competitor one day--Spain, for instance. That is a dangerous road to go down.
Mr. Ainger rose
It is important to emphasise the importance of horticulture and to take legitimate steps to protect our
Column 481interests, not just because of the employment factor or its high gross product, but because it is one of the highest added value factors in agriculture. We argue about the value of wheat or cereals. An acre of wheat might produce £200 or £300 while an acre of strawberries might produce £5,000, £7,000, £8,000 or £10,000 of product for UK Ltd. and generate a lot of employment. The same applies to top fruit, and right across the board. We should be wary of allowing sectors of horticulture to be undermined or destroyed. That is a good message for every member of the European Community. We should take steps to protect our home markets and home industries at the sensitive time of the season.
With regard to apples, what we are asking for will not cost money ; indeed, it will save money. In my view, the intervention system must be changed. It is a great distortion and must be modified and, ultimately, eliminated. That in itself will save money. Europe has a large structural surplus. A number of varieties of apple are in serious surplus and need to be grubbed out. We are asking the Government to support a European-wide grubbing-out scheme. That is being proposed in the European Community and I hope that it will come to pass. It will pay for itself in a very short time because it will save a great deal of fruit from being wasted or taken into intervention.
I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench for the support that they have given so far. I urge the strongest possible support for structural change, especially for apples, but also that we give a great deal of backing in future to studying new regimes within the European Community to prevent marketing distortions, particularly with minimum import prices for products coming into the United Kingdom.
Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen) : I strongly sympathise and agree with the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate), particularly on the first half of his comments about the need to repatriate part of the CAP. I like the word "subsidiarity" in the Europe-wide context and within Britain, too, in terms of the regions. It is important that we move towards devolving as much power as we can, especially concerning the CAP.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) made quite a scathing attack on the whole of the CAP. I have had similar views, as have the general public, for decades. Indeed, when we joined the European Community, the cost of the CAP was one of the big problems. The policy was devised for France, Germany and Italy, not for British farms, which are larger and more economic and efficient than French or Italian farms.
The nonsense of the CAP seems to carry on and on in terms of its cost, the support mechanism, surpluses, the dumping of those surpluses and their effects on third world trade, and high food prices for the consumer. Its environmental effect is very damaging, because the whole thrust is on production and that has encouraged more and more intensive agriculture.
I have sat through debates in the House on reform. We talked about stabilisers in 1988. We talked about the MacSharry plan and its variations. We debated GATT and the influence that it might have on the CAP. We are on
Column 482some kind of roller coaster, in that no matter what we try to do, it seems to get more expensive by the year. I notice that, in the current reforms, the CAP will cost us £30 billion this year--£4 billion more than it did last year.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East talked about set-aside and the absurdity of it. The general public cannot understand why we need to put away 5, 10 or 15 per cent. of our land and not grow anything. Environmentally, it does not help in any way. It is even questionable whether it reduces production substantially. I notice that, in the United States, which has had set-aside for decades, only some 13 per cent. of the land is efficient, because the land that is set aside is usually the poorest land and therefore the farmer will grow even more intensively to maintain his output on the rest of his land. So that for every hectare that is set aside, only one third is effective in reducing production.
The compensation amounts that are available to cereal growers for set-aside fill the general public with fury. I read a few weeks ago of subsidy payments for set-aside as high as £1 million. I presume that those farmers are millionaires. We need to find some alternative to the whole idea of set-aside.
Mr. Williams : I do not have access to my sources of information now, but about a month ago The Sunday Times quoted several people to that effect. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that a £50, 000 maximum, in terms of income derived from agricultural support for any one holding, makes good sense. As was suggested earlier, that should apply to all farmers, whatever their source of
subsidy--set-aside or otherwise.
Like the Government and farmers' unions, my party realises that the CAP is not appropriate to British agriculture, but we are not clear about what should replace it over five, 10 or 15 years. We know that the replacement system should sustain the rural economy and maintain farmers on their land, given the current size of holdings : we have already been through a massive amalgamation phase. The system should also contribute to the environment, helping to bring about less intensive farming and maintaining the landscape. I wish that the Government had spelt our more clearly their long -term vision of a replacement. There is probably a fair consensus that the present support mechanisms are based too much on production, and need to be based more on people and the environment.
I am no expert, but I have seen how New Zealand has moved to a free market. I am amazed that a Conservative Government should be so supportive of what must be the most rigged market in the world. Every country has its agricultural support mechanisms ; the arrangements become curiouser and curiouser, and more and more complicated, with every twist and turn of every new agreement that is worked out. A recent television feature seemed to suggest that, despite terrific fears before the introduction of the free market and real problems of adjustment to it, New Zealand's agricultural system has become attuned to the new arrangements. It is producing its food more cheaply
Column 483and efficiently than any other part of the world, developing its exports and becoming environmentally friendly by using less fertiliser and similar products.
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) : Is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that we should follow New Zealand's example ? He must realise that one of the effects of moving in that direction was the devastation of hundreds of farms, and the driving of hundreds of farmers off the land. Is that what the hon. Gentleman proposes for this country ?
Mr. Williams : I have already confessed that I am no expert. I understand, however, that those were exactly the fears that New Zealand farmers expressed before the move to a free market. There were enormous demonstrations--the kind organised by French farmers--before the changes were introduced. According to my most recent information, however, those fears have not been realised. I do not explicitly advocate such action ; I am merely suggesting that we should work towards a long-term, concrete replacement for the absurd common agricultural policy. We should think about the position in 10 or 15 years' time. The CAP is unsuitable for us ; it is unpopular with consumers because it means high food prices, and it is not good for the environment.
Mr. Williams : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting the matter in context. Let me suggest a possible long-term alternative. A free- market mechanism could be backed up by a form of income support, or similar social payments, to maintain the rural population ; but the largest contribution should come from farmers, whose role should be to maintain the environment. That involves an enormous amount of work.
Given the present framework in the European Community, however, I cannot see how such an arrangement is possible. That brings me back to the question of subsidiarity. The CAP needs to be devolved as far as possible to individual component states, and to the regions : Wales, for instance, should be treated differently from Scotland, and the same should apply to the various agricultural areas of Wales--horticultural, cereal-growing and grassland.
One of the major long-term alternatives to the CAP must involve the role of farmers in environmental protection. Last summer I wrote to the Welsh Office asking for a breakdown of the environmental grants now available to farmers in Wales : what were the individual schemes, and how much did they provide altogether ? In the current financial year, total planned expenditure was £16.6 million ; total support for the CAP in Wales is £197 million. I was surprised and pleased to learn--I could not quite believe it--that some 8 per cent. of support for agriculture in Wales is now environmental.
The Welsh Office administers a plethora of schemes--far too many, in fact. There is a range of them, involving environmentally sensitive areas such as Tir Cymen, sites of special scientific interest, management schemes and so forth. I think that it would be much wiser to amalgamate them into a single scheme as was suggested by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis).
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Nicholas Soames)
Column 484The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. May I amplify it ? He said that he was surprised at the amount being spent on such policies. He should know that there is no doubt that the United Kingdom leads all the European countries in the progress that it has made within environmental farming. United Kingdom farmers and the Government can be very proud of that.
I am pleased that the Welsh Office is showing the way to the rest of the country. According to figures from the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Government have provided a total of £43 million in environmental grants. In her opening speech, the Minister mentioned a total of £100 million in a budget of about £5 billion for agricultural support. That means that only about 2 per cent. is provided in environmental grants across the country. As I have said, I was pleased to learn that the figure in Wales was 8 per cent.
Hill farmers in my constituency have a particular problem. Their morale has been generally knocked by a second successive year of cuts in hill livestock compensatory allowances, and there is an air of despondency about the future. Farm incomes have risen, and Welsh farmers have shared in that increase--although there is a problem with the statistics ; we do not know which figures to believe. The NFU tells me that the average for less- favoured areas throughout England and Wales is between £13,000 and £14,000, and quotes the Ministry as its source ; ministerial statements, however, mention £19,000 a year.
The NFU branch in Llandovery, in my constituency, has 127 members, 51 of whom are on family credit--a staggering 40 per cent. of farmers in the area. The average age of hill farmers in Wales is 57, and young people see no future in hill farming. They drift from the land to other professions and to the towns because of a lack of confidence in the future of hill farming. I hate to think who will be managing the rich landscape of Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, Carmarthen and Ceredigion in 10 or 20 years' time. The hill farmers' role in maintaining that landscape should be recognised.
I read a briefing earlier today about the Lake District which stated that in 1991 3 million people visited Cumbria, generating £470 million for the local economy. The rich landscape that those people come to see and admire has not come naturally but has been created and maintained by farmers in the region.
Hill farmers work in the tourist regions of Snowdonia and mid Wales and we should maintain them in their profession.
I have been certain for the past 20 years that the common agricultural policy is the wrong way to support agriculture and I think that 90 per cent. of the British public agree with me. As a society we need to develop a clearer vision of the future--that goes for the political parties and farmers' union--and of where farming should be at in 10 or 15 years. Support for agriculture should be based not on production but on people and the environment.
Column 4857.31 pm
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East) : I declare an interest. As stated in the Register of Members' Interests, I am a director of a farmers' co-operative and I have a very small farming interest that, even in Portugal, would be recognised as such. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) responded earlier to my intervention about the milk marketing board and the penetration of the British produce market by imported dairy produce. He laid the blame for that penetration on the quotas, which were introduced in 1994, and on the fact that we do not have enough quota for our production. He is shaking his head, but that was clearly his answer. That penetration was already taking place during the 10 years before the introduction of the quotas. Since their introduction, we are continuing to put butter into intervention because of the rigidity of the milk marketing scheme, which prevented our dairy industries from facing up to the challenges of the market place.
Dr. Strang : The hon. Gentleman makes an intelligent contribution to our discussions. There is common ground between us in that we both want more production of high-value products. The milk marketing scheme encouraged the consumption of milk in liquid form because the Labour party supported, and still strongly supports, the doorstep delivery scheme and the idea that preference and priority should be given to the liquid market. Since the statutory arrangements were abandoned, that has changed, but I hope that the hon. Member will acknowledge that point and give us support for the doorstep delivery service.
Mr. Paice : Like the hon. Gentleman, I do not want to engage in cross-party bickering over the matter. Like him, I have followed these debates for many years. When he was in Government, I watched his performance from outside or from other parts of this Chamber and I am aware of his knowledge and genuine understanding of the issues. The penetration of the British dairy market resulted from the rigidity of our system, which meant that changes had to be made. I agree that we concentrated on the liquid milk market and the doorstep delivery service and I want that to continue wherever possible, but we have to face the fact that many people prefer to buy milk in supermarkets or elsewhere.
When the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Council of Ministers, there were only nine member states. Even then--as he will have experienced--it was difficult for the nine member nations to reach genuine decisions and to speed up those decisions. There are now 12 member states and we are moving towards 20 in a few years. By castigating the Government for failing to destroy the CAP, he fails to recognise the reality of power, as opposed to the desires of the Government in power.
I was interested in the hon. Member's kind comments about my contributions to debates on agriculture. It is five years since I spoke in an agriculture debate, having spent four and a half of those years as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when I was prohibited from participating. Never in my lifetime, which has been spent in or close to the agricultural industry, has farming and agricultural policy been so unpopular.
That unpopularity has been brought about by many factors. Memories of the shortages during and immediately
Column 486after the war have become dim and do not exist in many people's minds, including those of my generation. I believe that £28 per family per week--the alleged cost of the CAP--is a spurious figure. It is based on the assumption that Britain could meet all its requirements on the world market at today's world market prices. We all know, however, that the world market price is not a true, free market price --it is achieved by the competitive dumping of surpluses, as each major trading bloc seek to out-subsidise each other's dumped exports.
The current dissatisfaction is caused by the supposed desecration of the countryside by agricultural policy. That has been massively exaggerated, but none of us can deny that that concern has some foundation. The policy of set-aside is another reason for the unpopularity of agricultural policy, as are the health scares caused by pesticides, nitrates and other chemicals in food, which are of particular interest to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Often those concerns are based purely on emotion and the fact that modern technology can detect almost anything in anything rather than on genuine scientific evidence.
It must be recognised that farmers have shown in some cases an unwillingness to change. That is changing dramatically, but they have shown themselves unwilling to face the free market. It cannot be denied that the cost of the CAP--£21 billion a year--to the European Community taxpayer is excessive. There have been successive efforts to adapt a system that was designed to deal with shortages to one that will deal with surpluses. There have been co-responsibility levies, the advent of quotas, and set-aside. Under the latest system, we are faced with the spectre of politicians and bureaucrats deciding how many acres of each crop should be grown and how many cows or sheep should be kept. It is a system of supply management gone completely mad. It is little different from the planned economies of the former Soviet Union, where politicians decided how many cars, tanks or widgets should be produced.
With every turn of the screw as we have tried to reform the common agricultural policy to reduce production, it has become more and more complex, with more and more bureaucrats and paperwork. Hon. Members have already mentioned the mountain of paperwork that landed on farmers' doorsteps a year ago, and I join in the congratulations that some of my hon. Friends have already offered the Government on having dramatically reduced the paperwork in this year's integrated administration and control system--IACS--round.
The more complex the system has become, the more open it has been to fraud. We have all heard the stories of olive groves that apparently moved, or did not exist at all, and of the Italian milk quota farce, whereby the quotas have not existed since the system started 10 years ago.
We have a system of intervention, and it is difficult to justify intervention with perishable commodities such as apples, which have already been mentioned, and, even worse, cauliflowers. I cannot help thinking that if my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) were here he would say that not the scheme but the people who designed it were the real cauliflowers--or Janice might tell him to say that. Already this evening, the question has been asked, how can we justify a system that supports tobacco growing at a cost of £1 billion a year when at the same time the Community wants to ban tobacco advertising altogether ?
Column 487While I am in destructive mode, I shall add that the events of the past two years, since the alleged reform of the common agricultural policy, have demonstrated the nonsense of the whole shooting match, the nonsense of the idea that politicians and bureaucrats should try to manage an agricultural industry. In 1993-94, expenditure on agricultural support in the United Kingdom alone, through both the CAP and the Treasury, has risen by £1 billion--that is, by one third. That is another £40,000 for each holding in the country. That is crazy. No farmer would say that he is £40,000 better off than he was last year. The system is designed to lose the money within it, yet there have been extremely small reductions in our production levels. The reforms agreed on the back of the original MacSharry proposals were designed to reduce production, but they ignored two factors. The first was that agricultural production relies as much on mother nature and the weather in any particular season as on any other factor. The first year after the reforms were introduced there was a substantial increase in yields in much of the country, and that completely got rid of any suggestion of a reduction in yields. Coming as it did on the back of the devaluation resulting from our leaving the exchange rate mechanism, it meant that farmers' incomes rose dramatically.
Opposition Members will not be surprised to hear that I do not criticise our Ministers for what has happened. Within the present framework, British Ministers have fought hard for British interests. My right hon. Friend the previous Minister, now the Secretary of State for the Environment, fought hard against the original MacSharry proposals to get rid of the discrimination against large-scale farmers that would have ensured that virtually all the support went to the smaller-scale farmers in mainland Europe, with very little coming to this country.
Our present Minister has worked hard on the issue of pigs, as we have heard, on trying to encourage the Commission to allow woodland to be planted on set-aside and on dealing with unfair national aids in other resources. For example, the proposed limits on nitrate residue levels in vegetables have hit the lettuce growers in my constituency hard.
I do not blame farmers either. Of course there are rogues in every fraternity, and one cannot deny that a few farmers have probably over- exploited the system. But the vast majority have done exactly what both successive British Governments and the Community have encouraged them to do. They have made the right business decisions based on the situation that faced them at any one time. They have now had 47 years' experience of varying systems of market support and they have responded to the challenges.
The hon. Members for Edinburgh, East and for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) criticised the Government for not laying out their policy clearly. Those two hon. Gentlemen cannot have listened to some of the speeches and comments that my right hon. Friend the Minister has made. She has rightly said that we must move towards world prices. Judging by the speeches in the debate so far, that view seems to be shared almost universally throughout the Chamber.
I want not only to support that view but to emphasise the fact that prices should not be supported either directly or indirectly--it is important to mention indirect support, too. The Commission cannot be allowed to decide acreage payments--not simply the principle that we should have such payments, but whether we should receive X for oil
Column 488seed, Y for cereals or Z for something else. That is going back to the policy of the madhouse. How can people in Brussels decide on such issues, given the scale of even the present Europe, let alone of a future Europe that I hope will stretch from Trondheim to Athens, and from Dublin to Gdansk ? It is a system of the madhouse.
Every time that we try to do something about the problem the system becomes more complicated and more absurd. How are we to make progress ? I came to the debate thinking that I had a good idea--I am somewhat chastened to learn that everybody else seems to have had the same idea. We must not only get rid of price and market support but bring into play the concept of subsidiarity. We must get rid of market and price support and all the paraphernalia that goes with
it--intervention, acreage payments based on crops, headage payments, export restitution, and so on. Those are all part of product support.
All that must be done quickly. The longer we allow the system to wither on the vine the more time there will be for the weak-willed among politicians to lose their resolve and to back-track. We saw the first example of that over the GATT negotiations, with the need to buy off France.
However, I do not believe that British farmers can survive just like that, without an alternative form of support. There must be alternative measures, otherwise the massive bankruptcies that would result from the destruction of the asset base that would inevitably follow would devastate our rural communities. As several hon. Members have already said, that would also destroy the British landscape as we know it and as it is maintained and nurtured by our farmers. The concept of subsidiarity should be brought to bear on the CAP. I do not believe in the wholesale repatriation that some of my hon. Friends have suggested ; I believe that there is a halfway house, and I shall return to that idea in a moment. There is one sound reason why I do not wish for total repatriation, and it is a point on which the hon. Member for North Cornwall sought to chide the Government. As any Government have always known and always will know, ultimately the Treasury wields the whip. We all know that it is unrealistic to expect the British Treasury, with an agricultural industry very small in comparison with that of the rest of the Community, to pour in the resources that many of us believe are necessary to support agriculture. That is why I do not want total repatriation of the CAP.
At the Brussels level we should stick to setting up a framework of support, with budgetary controls and an allocation of resources to individual countries, for each nation. Common standards should be set for pesticide levels, animal welfare criteria and many other matters relating to common trading and production terms. After that, each member nation should be allowed to decide how to use its allocation of resources within the criteria set by the GATT green box. That is the most important thing.
In the United Kingdom, as has been said so many times, the system would have to be based on environmental matters and on the enhancement of our environmentally sensitive areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) made a most sensitive speech on that subject, reflecting his genuine concern and knowledge of such matters. We must make the whole country, not just those parts of the country that we seek especially to protect, a conservation and environmentally sensitive area. The countryside stewardship scheme has considerable potential to be extended to deal with such matters. There would
Column 489obviously have to be substantial enhancement for the upland areas, the less-favoured and the severely disadvantaged areas.
Mr. Paice : Yes, I do, and I shall quickly explain why. First, they are an annual payment which, as the hon. Gentleman said earlier, is made to compensate for whatever else has happened to affect the income of the producers in that particular year. The matter is reviewed every year and the payment depends on what has happened. Secondly, because the payments are related to headage, which is a pity, they are production linked, and I do not believe that that is the way to proceed in the long term.
An ever-increasing number of farmers now recognise that we can and should move towards a free market. Let us consider the wheat crop, which is the most important in my constituency. Economists believe that, contrary to the present low levels of world markets for wheat, the price will rise, probably to about £90 a tonne. Most wheat producers can survive at that level, provided that they are operating on reasonable land. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) referred to support levels for cereal growing in Wales. Many of us wonder why anyone in Wales grows cereals as the land there is not appropriate. [Interruption.] Most of it is not. One of the results of the CAP has been that much of the land that has been put into cereal production is not appropriate for it.
Mr. Ainger : I do not know when the hon. Gentleman last visited Pembroke, if, indeed, he has ever done so. Perhaps he does not realise that parts of Pembrokeshire are traditional grain-growing areas. I have here information which, if I have the opportunity to make my own contribution to the debate, will show that 8 tonnes is the average in certain areas, even in our LFAs. The hon. Gentleman should not run away with the wrong idea. I am sure that the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) can also tell the hon. Gentleman that there are significant yields in Wales, some of which are certainly comparable with those of many parts of England.
Mr. Paice : I am delighted to hear it, but the principle still applies--most of the cereal growing in the marginal areas has come about because of the development of the CAP. That is not to the long-term advantage of those areas.
A free market would enable us to compete and not only to increase our self- sufficiency in products that we are good at--cereal, livestock products, particularly where they are grassland based, and sugar beet--but to fight back on the export market. I know that that point is of particular interest to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. We would be able to fight back against the countries that have taken our markets and start to penetrate theirs. I use an example from my own constituency.
Column 490Celery is grown on a massive scale in the Fens near Ely and much is now exported to the mainland of Europe, for example, to Italy. That product is entirely within the free market but it shows that even in the horticultural sector, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) said, is often under considerable pressure, it is possible to fight back successfully. However, I believe that a small proportion of the money released by the ending of price and market support should be used to encourage further the development of export markets and marketing groups.
Another advantage of the move to the free market is that there would be much less room for fraud because the system would be so much simpler, and it would therefore be harder for fraud to be hidden. I now differ from some of my colleagues because I believe that it would also do away with much of the opportunity for national aid. The amount of money spent by each country would be clearly ring fenced and allocated from the Community. Any national aid that might arise would be clearly identifiable. At this point, I announce my support for what the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) said about iceberg lettuces about which the Minister knows I am concerned.
My right hon. Friend the Minister also referred to regulation and bureaucracy. Farmers in my constituency complain about the ever-increasing bureaucracy more than anything else. They not only complain about the total amount but believe that other countries do not face the same level of bureaucracy. They do not believe that other countries are adhering to, or enforcing, their regulations. The problem, of course, is that of proof.
When officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food talk to their opposite numbers in Paris, Rome, Madrid or anywhere else, they are reassured that regulations exist and are being enforced. That is understandable but the evidence on the ground is that they are not being enforced. We have to examine ways to find out more clearly what precisely is happening in other countries. Most important, a free market would correct the bias against alternative production. In terms of livestock, there are deer, goats and even horses in the free market, but in arable terms, many potential new crops for industrial purposes--oil-seeds, sugar as an industrial feedstock, coppice and energy and pharmaceutical crops-- currently have to compete against subsidy, and they cannot but fail.
Britain has a high population density and an increasingly urban population who regard the countryside as their place of recreation. I do not believe that they would stand for long for what would result from a complete abolition of all support for agriculture, although some hon. Members may think otherwise. The devastation of part of the countryside as marginal land was left derelict and as better land was farmed even more intensively would eventually cause a public outcry. Therefore, it is essential that we produce an alternative system based on environment factors so that the farmers can face the public with their heads held high and say that they are providing tangible benefits for the public's money, benefits that the public can recognise and respect, such as access to woodland areas for recreation and other purposes. Otherwise, we shall continue as we are.
The proposals that we are discussing today merely tinker with the reforms that we have already introduced and the CAP will continue like some Frankenstein monster, still charging on while every attempt to shackle it