HC Deb 16 January 1978 vol 942 cc1-3
1. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has any plans to visit a marginal hill farm in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

It is my intention to visit a number of farms in the coming months. As the hon. Member knows, my right hon. and learned Friend and his agricultural colleagues are currently considering a report by officials on the position of farmers on poor land outside the less-favoured areas.

Mr. Howells

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his reply, but, in view of the present crisis, what specific plans has he to help the marginal farmer? Does he agree that one way to help the marginal farmers would be to devalue the green pound by 10 per cent.?

Mr. Alec Jones

I understand that in the coming few days the House is likely to have a fairly lengthy discussion on the question of the green pound, and I should not like to prejudge what may be said then. The potential for the use of marginal land is being actively considered in the current review of "Food from Our Own Resources".

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if he visits the marginal farms he will find that they are heavily discriminated against, especially in comparison with the upland farms and the prosperous lowland farms? The beef subsidy has been done away with and the other subsidies are to be reduced. In particular, we are badly in need of more lime on the marginal land, which uses five times more lime than land in the eastern part of the country. This cannot he done through a projected plan. Will the Minister note this?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that all hon. Members will make an effort to be as brief as they can be today.

Mr. Alec Jones

I am aware of the problems of marginal land. That is why the Agriculture Departments produced a report on the issue.

Mr. Roderick

What action does my hon. Friend propose to take to mitigate the circumstances in which the French are putting a levy on our lamb exports, which has a detrimental effect on our hill farmers? Has my hon. Friend any ideas about assistance for our beef producers in addition to some devaluation of the green pound?

Mr. Alec Jones

I have already mentioned the matter of the green pound. There is a specific Question later on the Order Paper dealing with the French-Irish consideration.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I welcome what the hon. Gentleman has said about a re-examination. Does he agree that there is nothing final about the present definition of "less favoured areas," and that some of our marginal areas are less well treated than comparable land in Europe? There is a need to re-examine this question to see whether we can have a better definition than we have now.

Mr. Alec Jones

There is certainly room to look at this matter again. I have indicated that we are considering it. The Government will announce their intentions and views on the report as soon as possible.

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