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House of Commons

Thursday 6 July 1995

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

PRAYERS

[ Madam Speaker -- in the Chair ]

NEW WRIT

For Littleborough and Saddleworth, in the room of Geoffrey Kenneth Dickens Esquire, deceased.-- [Mr. Goodlad.]

PRIVATE BUSINESS

Accommodation Level Crossings Bill

[Lords] ( By Order ) Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Thursday 13 July.

London Local Authorities (No. 2) Bill

[Lords] ( By Order ) Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered on Thursday 13 July.

City of Westminster Bill

[Lords] ( By Order ) Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [26 June]. Debate to be resumed on Thursday 13 July.

Oral Answers to Questions

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Milk

1. Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the price of milk quota.     [31158]

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Douglas Hogg): The Department has received a number of representations but, as the House knows, the price of quota is dependent on market factors.

Mr. Evans: I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his new and richly deserved promotion to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and I congratulate my other hon. Friends on their ministerial appointments. As my right hon. and learned Friend will know, the price of milk quota is extremely high, and it is difficult for new entrants into dairying to afford it on top of all their other costs. Will he please take note of the problems of new entrants with the price of milk quota,


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and also consider the possibility of securing more milk quota for Britain, as we have only 85 per cent. of the quota that we need for full production in this country?

Mr. Hogg: On my own behalf and on behalf of my hon. Friends, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) for his kind remarks. I know that, with his constituency experience, he is a formidable advocate of the interests of the farming constituency. I am indeed conscious of the fact that the price of milk quota increased substantially last year. That was due to a variety of market factors. I know, too, that there is concern about new entrants, and if there are sustainable proposals for addressing that question we shall certainly consider them.

Mr. Pike: I congratulate the Minister on his promotion to the Cabinet. Is it not daft that although we have the right climate in this country to produce enough to meet all our requirements both for milk and for dairy products, we cannot do so? That is why the milk quota price is so high. Are not the Government failing the country's farmers if we do not get a higher milk quota which would enable us to meet our requirements?

Mr. Hogg: It is perfectly true that we are not self-sufficient in milk, but that has always been the case. It arose because the base year of 1981 was less favourable to us than we would have wished. To be honest with the hon. Gentleman, however, the prospect of significantly enlarging our quota is remote.

Beef

2. Mr. Riddick: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the cost of beef special premium in the last year for which figures are available in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) the European Union as a whole; and if he will make a statement.     [31161]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Tim Boswell): United Kingdom farmers were paid some £120 million, and European Union farmers as a whole some £500 million, during the year ended October 1994.

Mr. Riddick: First, I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment to the Ministry; he knows rather a lot about agriculture. Is he aware that a farmer of my acquaintance recently lost the premium on two of his steers because he misread one number on each tag, in one case mistaking an eight for a three? I was there at the time of the inspection and the inspector was very particular. This is an EU-wide scheme. Can we be sure that the scheme is policed as rigorously on the continent as it is in this country?

Mr. Boswell: First, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. We want equality of treatment between ourselves and our counterparts in the EU, and we shall press the Commission to ensure that there is an equal level of enforcement in all member states. I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern about the specific case to which he referred, but perhaps it would be better not to rehearse that case in the House this afternoon. As a general principle, while we will be firm in the pursuit of fraud, we wish to be as flexible and farmer-friendly as possible in the interpretation of the rules and any minor errors that occur.


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Nutrition

3. Mr. Clapham: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what projects his Department is funding aimed at improving nutrition for families on income support.     [31162]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Angela Browning): We contribute to the worof the nutrition task force to collate and disseminate examples of effective local initiatives and good practice which might assist those on low incomes to follow a healthy diet.

Mr. Clapham: I do not think that the Department is doing enough. The Minister will be aware that there are 4 million children living in families with incomes less than half that of the average family. In other words, they are living below the poverty line. Does the Minister agree that many of those children will be living in families whose only income is income support and that those families will be unable to provide the adequate and nutritious meals which ought to be provided to children? Is not the health of those children being harmed? Is the Minister aware that many parents are going hungry to ensure that their children receive adequate meals? In the circumstances, does she agree that the Department ought to be doing more?

Mrs. Browning: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not fully aware of what the Department is doing. Under the "Health of the Nation" project team, we are contributing to a project--on which a report will be made in October this year--which looks across the lower socio-economic range in terms of nutrition. That project will embrace the people to whom the hon. Gentleman referred. We are funding research by the Institute of Food Research at both Reading and Glasgow universities, and we are also involved in a project by the Joseph Rowntree trust at the London school of hygiene and tropical medicine on one-parent households.

Mr. John Greenway: Does my hon. Friend agree that fresh produce from British farmers and growers--the price of which has fallen below the rate of inflation since 1979--provides every family in this country with the opportunity of a high-nutrition diet? Will she join me in welcoming the Thank the British Farmer campaign that was launched at the royal show this week and in wishing the campaign every success?

Mrs. Browning: I am happy to join my hon. Friend in wishing the campaign well. Basic foodstuffs, such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, seasonal vegetables and fruit, play an important role in the diets of people on lower incomes.

Tobacco

4. Mr. Etherington: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what will be the cost of the common agricultural policy tobacco regime in 1995.     [31164]

Mr. Boswell: The latest estimate is around £900 million.

Mr. Etherington: I congratulate the Minister and his Front-Bench colleagues on their appointments and wish them well. The Minister confirms that some £2.6 million per day is squandered on supporting an industry which


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leads to the death of people. Will he assure the House that the Government will make every endeavour possible within the EU to ensure the complete elimination of subsidies to this nefarious industry which is well known to be full of fraud? Will he also assure the House that more efforts will be made to have such funding put into something which conserves and improves life rather than destroys it?

Mr. Boswell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I share his view that the present cost of the tobacco regime is excessive. We wish to reduce that cost, and we shall take every opportunity that we can to do so. We have had some success in cutting the subsidised tonnage by an eighth and we shall continue to press that.

On the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the health implications, in a former capacity earlier this week I had the privilege to be on the platform with my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley), then Secretary of State for Health, in connection with "The Health of the Nation". I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is a message that we should get across, particularly to our young people.

Mrs. Lait: Are any studies being conducted into alternative crops to which tobacco farmers could move, so that we can bring an end to this unpleasant subsidy?

Mr. Boswell: My hon. Friend makes a characteristically helpful and constructive comment. It is clearly the case that farmers in all parts of the Community, especially in difficult areas, who are used to growing tobacco, will need alternatives. We need to look at the matter constructively. The danger is that those will simply add to the cost of other commodity regimes within the common agricultural policy.

Common Fisheries Policy

5. Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with his European counterparts on effort control functions in the CFP; and if he will make a statement.     [31165]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Tony Baldry): My predecessor sent the hon. Member a copy of hireply of 19 June to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) on the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 15 June.

Mr. Kirkwood: I welcome the Minister to his new berth looking after fisheries and I hope that he will not get too far out of his depth too quickly. Does he agree that encouraging skippers to pursue fisheries outside traditional United Kingdom waters could make a significant contribution to reducing pressure on North sea stocks? Is he aware that some skippers in Eyemouth in my constituency are finding it difficult to pick their way through the bureaucracy to get their hands on some of the grants that would enable them to transfer? Will he undertake as a matter of priority to make those grants available to skippers in the North sea fleet, as other European Union Ministers do? As he has now been in office for nearly four hours, is it not about time that he got something done about that?

Mr. Baldry: First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. I am well aware of the understandable


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concerns of many fishing communities about their future. The hon. Gentleman's constituents are obviously trying to find out whether there are other opportunities out of traditional fishing waters. If he and some of the skippers from his constituency would like to discuss that with me, I would be interested to find out whether there are ways in which we can help further. It would be disingenuous to suggest that there are either undiscovered waters or undiscovered sources of funding in the European Union budget or our own funds which might give them substantial help, but I am certainly prepared to study every possible detail which might be of assistance to his constituents.

Mr. Harris: I welcome my hon. Friend to his post and hope that he will not find it too painful a bed of nails. I also pay tribute to his predecessor. Has he had time to grasp the fundamental point that for any control mechanism to succeed it must be seen by our fishermen to be broadly fair in terms of the way they are treated compared with fishermen from other member states? In that respect, may I give him a little advice and suggest that he could make an excellent start by completely dropping any idea of implementing our unilateral days-at-sea restrictions, which the industry will never stand?

Mr. Baldry: I think that the whole House would join my hon. Friend in his remarks about my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), who did an enormous amount to assist the United Kingdom fishing industry. The House knows the considerable interest that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives has in this matter. I hope that in the not too distant future I shall be able to visit his constituency and meet the fishermen with him to hear of their concerns at first hand. He can rest assured that we are taking enforcement of fisheries arrangements very seriously. Of course they have to be seen to be fair. Spanish fishing activity, for instance, will be monitored very closely when the new access arrangements take effect next year.

On days at sea, as my hon. Friend knows, we have yet to hear from the European Court on that matter. When we do, we shall have to consider the judgment in the light of existing conditions--not least the fact that, since the idea was first mooted, the European Commission has introduced ceilings on effort in western waters. Clearly that has now to be taken into consideration.

Mr. Macdonald: I join other hon. Members in welcoming the Minister. He mentioned Spanish access. Will he take an early look at the way in which the control regime on Spanish access will affect the inshore fleet around western waters? There is no Spanish access to the inshore fleet, so it would seem absurd to bring the inshore fleet into restrictions that are now being proposed to control both British and Spanish boats in western waters. I ask the Minister to take an early look at that and perhaps write to me about whether an exemption can be provided for boats which operate purely within the 12-mile limit, in inshore waters.

Mr. Baldry: We must recognise that it was at the United Kingdom's insistence that both the coastal and flag states are to have a key role in monitoring the fishing activities of vessels permitted to fish in western waters. The European Commission has just published its proposals. We shall study those proposals carefully to


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ensure that they are fully justified and that they are compatible with the commitment to minimise the burden falling on our industry, because obviously a balance must be struck between enforcement and minimising the burdens on industry.

Animal Exports

6. Dr. Spink: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to encourage the export of animals on the hook rather than on the hoof.     [31167]

12. Mr. Congdon: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what efforts he is making to encourage the export of British meat rather than live farm animals.     [31173]

Mrs. Browning: I am glad to say that meat exports are well up in 1995 compared with 1994 and we are working with the Meat and Livestock Commission to open up new markets.

Dr. Spink: l am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Can she confirm that UK meat exports have almost doubled since 1991, and that that is the result of the very high quality of British beef? Can she also confirm that about 80 per cent. of exports today are on the hook, not on the hoof, and that we want to promote more exports on the hook? Will she avoid adopting the policies of the Labour party, which would bring about worse animal welfare for animals throughout Europe as a whole and would simply betray our farmers and our meat industry?

Mrs. Browning: My hon. Friend is exactly right. Of the meat that is exported--£948 million worth per year--80 per cent. is on the hook. He is also right that if we had followed the advice of the Labour spokesmen and their Back-Bench colleagues--many of whom signed an early-day motion wanting to ban live animal exports completely--my right hon. Friend the then Minister would not have achieved the magnificent arrangement that he obtained in Brussels to ensure that animal welfare is improved throughout the Community.

Mr. Congdon: Given the concern which exists in the country about the export of live animals, I very much welcome the previous Minister's endeavours in Brussels to obtain a good agreement which reduces journey times and improves the watering and feeding of animals. Can my hon. Friend assure me about the steps to be taken to ensure that the measures agreed will be properly enforced?

Mrs. Browning: One of the strengths of the agreement achieved by my right hon. Friend was that those measures will be enforced throughout the Community and a licensing system will be introduced which will be policed throughout the Community. That can only benefit animals throughout the Community. That is what we sought to achieve; we were told by Labour Members that it was not possible, but it was and we did.

Mr. Tyler: While welcoming the fact that the Minister is still there, I also welcome the fresh faces in the ministerial team. May I ask her to communicate to her colleagues the need for fresh priority to be given to the issue of animal welfare and animal disease? I invite her to comment on the changes that have taken place in the


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European Community this week on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which may threaten a significant sector of our livestock producers and pose an export problem generally.

I also ask the Minister to consider the specific issue of bovine tuberculosis in which, as her answers to me this week show, there has been a deplorable increase in the past five years--a 481 per cent. increase in incidence in England as a whole and a 618 per cent. increase in the south- west. That is extremely damaging. Is that not a case of Ministry policy having failed, failed and failed again?

Mrs. Browning: To deal with the last point first, I am very worried about the incidence of bovine tuberculosis. I only wish that hon. Members on both sides of the House would recognise that the cause of that is badgers. It is an emotive issue.

I am very worried about the effect of bovine TB on the livelihoods of farmers, especially in the south-west. It is not only the costs of the animals that have to be slaughtered; it is the on-costs of maintaining the farm, with all that that implies. I assure the hon. Gentleman that he has my full attention on that matter and that I continue to look at it closely. On the first point that he raised, I assure him that I shall share with all new colleagues the concerns that he raised.

Mr. Morley: I congratulate the Minister on his new post and welcome the new members of his team. We note that the Government have felt the need to reinforce their Front Bench against the Labour Front Bench on this issue. Nevertheless, we look forward to a full and frank exchange of views.

On meat and live animal exports, the Minister will be aware of the opinion obtained by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, (by Gerald Barling), QC, that the Government would be within their rights to stop the export of calves going into veal crates that are banned under our laws. Will the new team look again at that opinion, because although there have been some welcome small steps forward in animal welfare legislation, the new agreements will not stop even one calf leaving this country to go into a veal crate system which is banned in this country on the ground of cruelty?

Mrs. Browning: My right hon. Friend the former Minister replied fully to the hon. Gentleman about the Barling advice on many occasions. Nothing has changed on that. As the hon. Gentleman was unable to support us on the animal transport issue, I ask him to support the substantial progress that we have made in seeking to ban veal crates throughout the Community. The argument is the same: it is not just what we do in this country, but the welfare of calves throughout the Community that matters. That is what we seek and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support it.

Mr. Marland: Everybody wants as many animal exports to be on the hook as is humanly possible. Is the Minister aware, however, that there are three slaughterhouses in my constituency and that to my certain knowledge one of them has recently been inspected by the newly created Meat Hygiene Service? In that well-run business, the Meat Hygiene Service has apparently discovered more than 400 items for complaint, which has caused mayhem not only in the company but in the local community because the business employs nearly 100


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people. That is no way to encourage home slaughtering. Will my hon. Friend undertake to keep a grip on the Meat Hygiene Service and to ensure that over-zealous inspections do not result in extra expense and difficulties for local businesses?

Mrs. Browning: I am sure that my hon. Friend and all Members of the House support the need for high standards of hygiene in our slaughterhouses. However, I assure him that my grip on the Meat Hygiene Service is as tight as it possibly can be. If a business in my hon. Friend's constituency has a grievance, I invite him, with the owner's permission, to come along to MAFF and I will personally go through that list item by item.

Torry Food Science Laboratory

7. Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met trade union representatives from the Torry food science laboratory to discuss alternative proposals to

closure.     [31168]

Mr. Douglas Hogg: Matters relating to staff management at the Central Science Laboratory are delegated to the chief executive, who has regular meetings with the trade union representatives. He informed the staff at Torry of my predecessor's intentions for the laboratory on 6 June 1995 and met staff and their representatives on 7 and 20 June.

Mrs. Ewing: The Minister will be aware that his predecessor gave a clear commitment that the report from the task force headed by Professor Pennington was to be considered by all at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food before a decision was reached. Will the Minister give us a clear assurance today that that commitment still stands? He will be well aware of the great concern in north-east Scotland about the future of the food science laboratory and its implications for the local economy as a whole.

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Lady is quite right. My right hon. Friend the then Minister, now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, did indeed give a commitment and I understand that the recommendations have come to the Ministry today, although I have not yet had an opportunity to read them. The proposals will be looked at before any final decision is taken.

Mr. Hawkins: First, I join the congratulations to my right hon. and learned Friend and his new Front-Bench colleagues. He is already aware of the importance of food science to the many food businesses in my constituency. Can he reassure me that there will be no reduction in the services provided by the Central Science Laboratory to the food industry right across the country?

Mr. Hogg: My hon. Friend makes an important point to which the short answer is yes. I will expand slightly on that. When I was at the Department of Trade and Industry, I was often responsible for decisions which involved the co-location and relocation of specialist agencies. There are career enhancement advantages in building up quite large specialist facilities because that offers members of staff more assured career progress. While I understand why people are very reluctant to move, there are advantages to staff in terms of career enhancement.

Dr. Strang: I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his appointment. It is a great challenge and I am sure that he will respond to it.


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Is he aware that the Torry food science laboratory has an international reputation and that it would be an act of vandalism if the scientific teams responsible for that work were to be broken up? Undoubtedly, many of them will not move to York, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman fully accepts. Will he make a name for himself right at the start of his period of office by taking on board the alternative local plan to which he has referred and intervening to secure a long-term future for the research station?

Mr. Hogg: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks and I look forward to exchanges across the Dispatch Box on many an occasion.

The hon. Gentleman will keep in mind the reply that my predecessor gave on 6 June. I hope that it will be possible to transfer some of the jobs now at Torry to the Scottish Office marine laboratory. Whatever else happens, the science base, which is what matters, will be assured. That is really what the hon. Gentleman should address his attention to and I am able to give him an assurance on that point.

Mr. Robert Hughes: I thank the Minister for confirming the promise given to me by his predecessor that the issue of the food science laboratory would be looked at again. Now that the task force report has been delivered to him, will he agree to meet Members of Parliament from the area and Professor Pennington and some members of the task force to review the report in detail, as it is most urgent that it receives proper consideration before any final decision is taken?

Mr. Hogg: Certainly the report of the task force will be looked at before a final conclusion is reached. That commitment was given by my predecessor and it will be honoured. As to meeting hon. Members, perhaps I may say formally that it has always been my practice to respond quickly to requests from hon. Members for such meetings. That practice will be continued in the Ministry by me and by my ministerial colleagues.

CAP Fraud

8. Mr. Stevenson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the cost of reported common agricultural policy fraud in the EU in 1994.     [31169]

9. Mr. Timms: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cases of common agricultural policy fraud were identified in the United Kingdom in 1994.     [31170]

Mr. Douglas Hogg: In 1994, there were 1,610 cases, valued at £313 million, of CAP irregularities, which include fraud, reported across the Community; 228 of these were United Kingdom cases with a value of £9 million.

Mr. Stevenson: Does that answer not confirm that fraud is endemic in the CAP and increasing? Is the Minister aware that, despite Government protestations, the cost of reported fraud in the CAP for the first nine months of 1994 was £110 million more than for the whole of 1993? What specific proposals has the Minister to address this international scandal and will he at least ensure that CAP fraud gets on to the agenda of the 1996 intergovernmental conference?


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Mr. Hogg: I do not think, by the nature of things, that we can ever say how high the level of fraud is, but I accept that it is an important issue and needs to be tackled. The Government have been doing just that. The hon. Gentleman will know well the steps that we persuaded the Commission to take as a result of the Essen Council. The hon. Gentleman will know too that the policies that move support away from refunds on intervention and exports reduce the opportunities for fraud.

The hon. Gentleman will also know the importance of pursuing a disallowance policy for Governments who do not have sufficiently tight enforcement regimes in place. All these things are part of this Government's policy and we have secured great agreement within the European Union on their implementation.

Mr. Timms: I welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman to his new post. Given the alarming scale of CAP fraud, is it not remarkable that the Government do not use the full allocation made available to them through the CAP for tackling fraud? Is the Minister aware that the proportion of the available allocation that has been used by the Government fell from 81 per cent. in 1993 to 74 per cent. in 1994? Can the new Minister assure the House that he will give a high priority to tackling fraud and that he will ensure that the resources available are used to good effect?

Mr. Hogg: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. Yes, tackling fraud is important and I will certainly see how, within the Department, we can do that effectively. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to be fair to the British farming community by stressing that in all probability, the level of fraud within Britain is very much lower than the level of fraud elsewhere in the European Union.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his promotion. May I point out that what causes concern is not the level of reported fraud, but the level of unreported fraud? I welcome the emphasis that my right hon. and learned Friend put on the fact that the nation states in which most of the fraud occurs should be penalised. I also welcome his emphasis on getting rid of the policies that lead to fraud, such as export refunds.

Mr. Hogg: It is always a pleasure to be congratulated by my hon. Friend. I am rather relieved that I am out of the reach of her handbag at this moment. My hon. Friend is correct and she has identified a number of the real points that we need to address. I can tell her that we will address them.

Mr. Garnier: Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure not only that fraud is combated in this country, but that he will use his own offices and those of the European Union in Europe to ensure that national Governments enforce fraud observation in the other countries of the European Union?

Mr. Hogg: Absolutely. Beneath my hon. and learned Friend's question is the important point that although we have a problem of fraud in the United Kingdom, it is--I would wager almost anything on this--infinitesimal in comparison with fraud elsewhere in the European Union.


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That is why we have to work with the Governments of the other countries within the Union and in the Commission; and we will.

Dr. Strang: The right hon. and learned Gentleman uses the word "infinitesimal". Is he aware that one of his predecessor's last acts was, in a written answer to me yesterday, to confirm that there have been serious irregularities involving the substitution and theft of beef going into United Kingdom intervention stores? Will he publicise all the information that his Ministry has on that? Will he tell us whether the United Kingdom taxpayer will have to pay a fine to Brussels and what sort of fine it might be? Does he accept that fraud is inherent in the market support mechanisms of the CAP? If we want to stop it, we need to end intervention buying and the subsidy of agricultural exports.

Mr. Hogg: As to the latter point, the hon. Gentleman is simply reinforcing a point that I made in reply to the hon. Member for Stoke-on- Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson). As to the level of fraud in this country compared with the level of fraud elsewhere, the hon. Gentleman will know that throughout the European Union in 1994, there were 1,610 irregularities --I gave the figure earlier--which were worth £313.2 million. In the United Kingdom in the same period, there were 228 irregularities worth £8.5 million. That is why I said that it was a very small part of the whole.

Fisheries Regulations

10. Mr. Couchman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if United Kingdom fishermen will be able to continue to fish as at present under the proposed regulations for the western waters applicable from 1 January 1996.     [31171]

Mr. Baldry: Her Majesty's Government have negotiated arrangements that will enable current fishing opportunities to continue to be exploited.

Mr. Couchman: Given the importance of enforcement to our fishermen, can my hon. Friend say what resources have been made available for that purpose by the Government?

Mr. Baldry: We spend a substantial amount on fisheries enforcement-- some £25 million a year, including some £19 million a year on enforcement at sea and aerial surveillance. United Kingdom fisheries protection vessels spend more than 3,000 days a year on patrol and undertake some 5,000 inspections of vessels from all member states and third countries fishing in our waters, because we are determined to ensure that the fisheries regime is enforced firmly and fairly throughout our waters.

Mr. Salmond: Will the new Fisheries Minister consult Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food files and see whether there is any evidence in any fishery internationally of a precedent for effective supervision and control of the Spanish deep-water fleet? If he finds no such precedent, will he then conclude that, as Fisheries Minister, it is his duty to recommend that there might well be some aspects of the common fisheries policy that would be suitable for revision at the intergovernmental conference?

Mr. Baldry: The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that we will ensure that every fleet is properly enforced,


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whether it be Spanish or any other fleet. The fisheries regime around our waters will be firmly and fairly enforced.

Arable Area Payments

13. Mrs. Gorman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the minimum size of farm which can apply for an arable area payment under the common agricultural policy.     [31174]

Mr. Baldry: There is a minimum area on which the farmer can apply for arable area payments--0.3 hectares.

Mrs. Gorman: Will my hon. Friend confirm that that is under an acre of land, and that in some countries, such as Germany, because their normal farming methods differ from ours, a large number of people have plots that are really just weekend hobby plots, for which they draw subsidies paid for by our housewives in higher food prices--some £28 a week extra? Will he confirm that allotment holders in Britain would do better to apply for one of these subsidies rather than go on digging over their ground, and that it would be cheaper for them to buy their vegetables in Sainsbury's?

Mr. Baldry: The Government succeeded in removing most of the discrimination against large, efficient farmers, which Ray MacSharry proposed, when the CAP was last reformed. I agree that the best way to prevent discrimination is to have a market-led CAP that is not dependent on distorting subsidies. That would enable the efficient farmers to flourish at the expense of the inefficient. Where particular rural areas need special treatment for social reasons, those reasons should be addressed by appropriate social policies, not farm policy.

Mr. Foulkes: Is the Minister aware that some farmers, particularly small farmers, whose applications for assistance are late can lose a substantial amount of ground? Will he consider some mechanism of appeal or some greater degree of flexibility so that their applications can be considered? There is a case in my constituency where the application was just one working day late, and the farmer lost some £4,000 or £5,000. Is that not unfair? Could we have some degree of flexibility when considering this?


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