HC Deb 23 May 1974 vol 874 cc576-7
5. Mr. Rost

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has any plans to meet the Derbyshire branch of the National Farmers' Union.

Mr. Peart

I have no plans to do so at present.

Mr. Rost

That is probably just as well. When will the Government realise that livestock farmers in Derbyshire and elsewhere are losing money on pig and beef production, and that they have lost all confidence in the Government, because promises are no substitute for paying them a fair price for their food now? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not stop trying to rig the retail price index at the expense of the farmers?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman knows that the difficulties facing livestock farmers occurred under the previous Government. There were high feed costs then. I have tried to alleviate this by giving direct aid, and I stand by that. Only yesterday I announced in reply to a Written Question that the subsidy affecting pig producers will continue. I believe this will help to strengthen the market. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's doctrinaire view.

Mr. Swain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a visit to Derbyshire by him or my hon. Friend the Minister of State would be very beneficial, particularly for the Minister who went? Is he aware that I have asked my hon. Friend privately whether he will make a visit to Derbyshire, because it is a county with multifarious farming activities, ranging more widely, perhaps, than those in any other county? I am certain that a visit will do a world of good.

Mr. Peart

I note carefully and sympathetically what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Granted, the right hon. Gentleman has given direct aid in the form of a calf subsidy, but will he explain how that will help the farmer trying to fatten cattle?

Mr. Peart

The aid goes direct into that section of the industry, but I believe that it has an effect all round. I believe that our approach is right. Moreover, we must have talks with the industry—we are having talks now—about a long-term approach to the beef industry.

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