Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : Hear, hear.

Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman should wait until I give him the facts.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East said that we had done nothing to strengthen agriculture. Our economic policies in fact reduced interest rates to farmers in 1992 by £743 million and in 1993 by £506 million. There was an increase in tractor sales in 1993 of 19,000. Those are tangible examples of the better state of agriculture that the Government have assisted in bringing about.

The hon. Gentleman also challenged the Conservative party, as did several Opposition Members, about our general policies on the way forward for the common agricultural policy. I want to remind the hon. Gentleman of what my right hon. Friend the Minister said on 7 January. I think that that will be of interest to the whole House, because it maps out succinctly and clearly the Government's view of the way forward. She said :

"Over time we want to see a further reduction in support prices to levels which bring supply and demand into balance. If we succeed in this, artificial production controls will become redundant. However, I will not pretend that reforming the CAP in the way that we want will be an easy task. Most of our Community partners will take a good deal of persuading."

I have listened to the voices from the Opposition Benches attacking the Government and Conservative Members as though we were the villains of the piece, when it was we who introduced help to the campaign for financial stabilisers ; we who fought for legally binding ceilings on the Community expenditure on the budget ; we who campaigned for the reform of the common agricultural policy ; we who campaigned for the GATT reform ; and we who achieved the latest breakthrough in terms of budgetary discipline and control of fraud. I suggest that Opposition Members spend some of their energy and time speaking to their counterparts in France, Italy, Spain and Germany--the countries that have been the bulwarks against the positive reform of the common agricultural policy that we want. My right hon. Friend is not only wedded to those excellent words of general policy, but supports the next stage of change in the common agricultural policy--the reforms of the regime of sugar, of olive oil, wine, fruit and vegetables. There is much more to be done. Beef will have to be considered. Those things are on our agenda, but we

Column 519

are but one of 12 nations in the Community, and we have a powerful job persuading them of the case. Nevertheless, it is a task that we shall not shirk.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East attacked us for delaying the reform of the milk marketing scheme. I refer him to the report of the Select Committee, in which the blame for that was clearly put on the cavalier attitude of the milk marketing board.

The hon. Members for Edinburgh, East, for North Cornwall, Carmarthen and for Pembroke, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), all mentioned the reductions in hill livestock compensatory allowances.

My right hon. Friend had a difficult balancing job in reaching her decision, but she realised that about £550 million of income would be available to farmers in the hills. She considered the situation in which, in 1991-92, the income of farmers--especially sheep farmers--in the severely disadvantaged areas was £19,000, of which £7,000 came from HLCAs. She found that the amount of subsidy that they received had increased in 1993-94 to £27,000, of which £5,500 would come from HLCAs. She realised that more income was coming from the increases in sheep annual premium and other sources of income,--for example, environmental programmes--and took a sensible decision to balance the difficulties of the hills with the need for budgetary constraint. She achieved a sensible position, which has allowed the incomes of farmers in the hills to increase, but which has made sense in terms of our United Kingdom Budget.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East mentioned research and development grants. He was perhaps unfair to say that, in spite of minimal cuts-- £6 million in the agricultural sector--we shall spend £125 million on agricultural research and development. I refer him to my right hon. Friend's latest announcement, on 23 March, about new research fellowships in food process engineering. That is a clear example of the way in which we envisage things progressing in research.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall is a member of the Liberal party, which produces a thing called "The Farmers' Charter." That charter tells us that his party supports the reform of the CAP so that farmers are paid "proper prices". What on earth does he mean by "proper prices" ? He told us nothing of that. He says that his policy is to support small and family farms, but at the same time he does not want Britain's large farms to be disadvantaged, because the average size of our farms is greater. The hon. Member's policies are utterly, totally and completely inconsistent. He says in a document that he wants to reform the price structure of the CAP, but he does not want Britain's farmers to be exposed to unfettered world competition. The best he can find is local management agreements administered by councillors.

My hon. Friends the Members for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) and for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) mentioned important matters connected with the fruit and vegetable regime. I assure them that we shall campaign strongly for a reform of the intervention regime. If that is accepted by other Community countries, it opens the way for the grubbing-up grants which they seek.

This has been an extremely good debate on agriculture, but it has clearly shown that it is the Conservative party that understands food and farming, and that we go forward with strength, from seed to supermarket.

Question put, That the amendment be made :

Column 520

The House divided : Ayes 229, Noes 298.

Division No. 180] [10 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Bell, Stuart

Bennett, Andrew F.

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Dr. Roger

Betts, Clive

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Cann, Jamie

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cohen, Harry

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davidson, Ian

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Denham, John

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Donohoe, Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Fatchett, Derek

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

Garrett, John

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hain, Peter

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Henderson, Doug

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Kate

Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Hoon, Geoffrey

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hutton, John

Illsley, Eric

Ingram, Adam

Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)

Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Jamieson, David

Janner, Greville

Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)

Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)

Jowell, Tessa

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Keen, Alan

Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)

Khabra, Piara S.

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)

Kirkwood, Archy

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Terry

Litherland, Robert

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Loyden, Eddie

McAllion, John

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

Macdonald, Calum

McKelvey, William

Mackinlay, Andrew

McLeish, Henry

McMaster, Gordon

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Maddock, Mrs Diana

Marek, Dr John

Marshall, David (Shettleston)

Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Martlew, Eric

Maxton, John

Meacher, Michael

Meale, Alan

Michael, Alun

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Next Section

  Home Page