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Mr. Nicholas Winterton: It is politics.

Mr. Paterson: It is entirely politics, as my hon. Friend says.

In the dying two minutes of my speech, I turn briefly to milk, where there is also a crisis. Milk prices are down to 18p or 19p a litre. I am delighted that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has returned to hear that farmers reckon to break even when they are receiving between 14p and 18p. A 4p quota on top of that price means that they cannot make money. The money tied up in quota would far better be invested in ring parlours and modern equipment so that we can compete with countries such as New Zealand and Argentina, where milk production has increased by 28 and 36 per cent. respectively in the same time that European production has marginally dwindled. A large dairy farmer in my constituency said:


When the Minister replies, will he clarify the Government's view on the end of milk quotas in the Agenda 2000 reforms?

9.50 pm

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge): Only the shortness of time prevents me from being able to refer to each of the 11 excellent speeches by Members on both sides of the House. It says something about the way in which we conduct our affairs that it is possible to say that.

It is clear that the industry is in crisis. The Country Landowners Association has told us that upland farmers are earning substantially less than £10,000 a year. Letters from the Tenant Farmers Association tell us that hill farmers are making less than £7,000 a year. In the west country, where I come from, The Western Morning News is full of examples--for which I give it full credit--of people living in the most dire circumstances. A report commissioned by that newspaper reveals that the average farming enterprise in the west country is made up of a husband, wife and full-time working son, who will work

4 Nov 1998 : Column 976

between them more than 140 hours a week, for which the average return is about 85p an hour--way below any average minimum wage.

Such figures make one realise that the industry is in crisis and given the financial havoc that that wreaks on farming families, it is small wonder that the Farmers Weekly, as several hon. Members have mentioned, last week discussed not money and the prices of food or cereal, but farmers who are driven to the verge of desperation. I have never before seen an editorial in a farming magazine putting out the number for the Samaritans. That is no idle comment because it is obvious to anyone who reads the agricultural press that farming suicides occur about once a week. That is the measure of the crisis in British agriculture.

Conservative Members have never made the case that the crisis started on 1 May last year. The indictment has never been that the Government are to blame; it is that the crisis was manifest and the Government were not acting.

I pay due credit to the way in which the Minister has spoken tonight. Mood music matters, and the right hon. Gentleman's approach is in marked contrast to that of the Secretary of State for Health, who at a rural health forum last week contemptuously dismissed the idea that it was necessary to put any money into a study on rural deprivation.

The Minister has come across as an absolute sweetie tonight, but he has been in control for the past three months and he could in the first three hours have lifted the ban on beef on the bone. Soft music matters, but the Government have presided over the beef ban longer than the previous Conservative Administration. The conditions set down in Florence were met even before the previous election. Developments only last week, when the Commission took action on the BSE crisis in Portugal, will give cover to those in Europe who want to ensure that even now the beef ban is not lifted. The Minister should consider the way in which tallow has been treated recently. We are still waiting for a visit from the Commission to consider our arrangements on that. He will understand why I am not convinced that we are standing on the threshold of an instant lifting of the ban.

On agrimonetary funds, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) made it clear that if circumstances changed he would certainly revisit the debate. It is common ground that the situation has changed.

I commend the Minister of Agriculture. There is no doubt that he has tonight conceded the case that has been constantly made by Conservative Members. Moreover, he has accepted many of the measures that we set out in "Fair Deal for Farmers".

We need to study the detail. I note what the Minister said about arrangements that he has reached with supermarkets, but he said nothing about food produced by means that would be illegal in this country. I therefore tell the Minister that we shall want another debate soon. We shall want a debate in Government time to allow us to examine carefully the measures that he intends to bring before the House.

By standing four square by the country community, the Conservative party has produced this change of heart. I say to the Minister: the jury is out on the Minister of Agriculture. I commend him for having the humility to admit that the jury is out, but we shall return to the subject.

4 Nov 1998 : Column 977

9.54 pm

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jeff Rooker): In the short time available--for which I do not apologise, as in last week's debate I spoke for 40 minutes with a dozen interventions--I praise my right hon. Friend the Minister's tour de force tonight. I thank everyone who has spoken for the way in which they made their case, and I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he listened. It is no bad thing to have agriculture debates two weeks running. Those who have listened to the debate and who read the pages of Hansard will see the footprints of the farming community across the pages of Hansard in the speeches that were made tonight.

I say almost as an aside that there has been near tripartisanship in the House tonight. To send the right signals to the farming community in this country and to those abroad, we must win friends and influence people. Therefore, on reflection, the Opposition might not want to press their motion to a vote.

Last week, I told the House the totals of subsidies paid by Government to farming. Those are very substantial sums of money, one of which my right hon. Friend the Minister mentioned tonight--the global sum of £600 million a year paid to the hill farming community. When I was walking a hill farm in Cumbria last Friday morning, having listened to farmers the previous evening, I promised hill farmers that I would give others pause for thought by expressing their point of view tonight.

About £20 million a year in farming subsidy goes into the Lake district. The income generated from tourism there is estimated at £580 million a year. No one would argue that that massive tourism income would be generated if the Lake district and the county of Cumbria were not looked after as they are. Therefore, although we must express the subsidy figure as £600 million because it is taxpayer's money, that figure is not the be-all and end-all. That money comes back to the Exchequer in other ways, which are not generally accepted by the accountants, who look at matters in a cold, clinical way.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for coming to the debate tonight to listen to the points that were made in the wind-up. My right hon. Friend is a friend indeed.

The decision taken in Brussels today is important. Today's decision--and, I hope, the decision later this month--to lift the beef ban is very symbolic. However, no one should allow themselves to believe that beef will start to be exported until a long time after that decision, as we know from the case in Northern Ireland. The date-based scheme is slightly different. The industry will need to invest considerably because of the details of the scheme as they relate to cutting plants and abattoirs.

A substantial marketing operation will be needed, especially as there is overproduction of the product and we have lost markets. It will take a long time to win back the market. However, it is highly symbolic that the safety of British food and British beef will be recognised without exception, and that will have a ripple effect on the rest of the food industry.

We cannot deny the voluntary actions taken by supermarkets, which are currently much unloved by the community--both the farming community and the wider community--although they have been managing to take people's money by successfully converting themselves

4 Nov 1998 : Column 978

into banks. Nevertheless, supermarkets have been making their own case with rather less panache. Yesterday, they committed themselves--particularly on pigmeat, including Parma ham, the supply of which is very limited--not to import, from 1 January 1999, pigmeat products from countries that do not provide a genuinely and absolutely level playing field.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 325.

Division No. 370
[9.59 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Dafis, Cynog
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Stephen Day and
Mr. Nigel Waterson.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fatchett, Derek
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Home Robertson, John
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Wareing, Robert N
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. David Hanson and
Mr. Kevin Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

4 Nov 1998 : Column 981

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):--

The House divided: Ayes 248, Noes 132.


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