§ 6. Mr. Geraint Howells
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what extra plans he has to help dairy farmers in the county of Dyfed; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
Dairy farmers in Dyfed, as elsewhere, will be helped by the measures we have already announced. The reserve set aside for hardship cases and the outgoers scheme will all help to ameliorate the effects of quotas on those most affected. In addition, dairy farmers in Dyfed will benefit from the extension of the less-favoured area.
§ Mr. Howells
I am sure that the Secretary of State is well aware of the fact that many dairy farmers in Wales are in financial difficulties. As he is in charge of Welsh agriculture, may I seek to persuade him once again to go to Brussels to ensure that those dairy farmers are adequately compensated? Given that he went to Brussels to make sure of a good deal for the sheep farmers in Wales, can he tell the House and the Welsh agriculture industry why he should discriminate against the dairy industry?
§ Mr. Edwards
As I pointed out in the Welsh Grand Committee, I learnt some lessons from that visit to Brussels. As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, we have set aside 2.5 per cent. of quota to deal with hardship cases, and later this week the House will debate the rules 10 under which that quota will be administered. That will be the appropriate time for discussing the matter in further detail.
§ Mr. Raffan
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that applications for consideration as special cases will be processed rapidly? Will he ensure that if the local panels are inundated they will be increased or enlarged?
§ Mr. Edwards
Claim forms will be issued to every dairy producer as soon as possible after the necessary regulations have been approved by the House. As I have said, those regulations are to be debated later this week. There will then be only five weeks in which those who consider themselves eligible can put in a claim. We intend to proceed with all possible haste and to have three panels within the Principality dealing with the claims as they come in.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
In considering milk quotas, why has the right hon. Gentleman not been prepared to address himself to the problems of the specialist dairy rearing sector? Many of that sector's members face virtual immediate bankruptcy, so why are they to receive no relief from the Government at this difficult time?
§ Mr. Edwards
I have, of course, seen the letter that the hon. and learned Gentleman wrote on the subject, and, indeed, he mentioned the subject on Wednesday in the Welsh Grand Committee. We have acknowleged that there will be knock-on effects elsewhere in the industry, and that was one of the factors that we had to take into account when setting the total level of quota distribution and the scale of the leavers' scheme. We have no special measure with which to deal with the particular problems of those in the specialist dairy rearing sector.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
When will the Secretary of State realise that farmers throughout Wales are badly affected by the quota system and that that has ramifications for other industries and communities? Will he bear in mind that there is a feeling throughout the farming industry that this could well be the thin edge of the wedge, and that other farm products such as cereals may be next on the list?
§ Mr. Edwards
Of course, as a Member of Parliament for Dyfed, I fully appreciate the effect of quotas and the damaging consequences for individuals. That is why we have listened carefully to the representations made. and why we are making several changes in the regulations to be debated in the House this week. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would make his position clear. When referring to the other products, is he arguing that there should be no cutback on the surpluses and the present expenditure an the CAP, or is he characteristically trying to have it both ways, and to get credit from the farmers while urging savings on the CAP?