HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc375-6
3. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the meeting between the Minister of State and the Council for the Protection of Rural England on Friday 10 February, on Her Majesty's Government's current European Economic Community negotiations in relation to the future of the United Kingdom's wildlife and countryside.

Mrs. Fenner

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State met representatives of the CPRE and other conservation bodies on 10 February to hear their views on how support for conservation should be incorporated in the proposed EC structures policy. My right hon. Friend indicated that he was very sympathetic to the conservation interests, but pointed out some of the difficulties of striking a balance between farming and conservation in this area of policy.

Mr. Dalyell

Will not the structure proposals trigger damaging environmental consequences, such as the devastation of ancient woodlands, the drainage of wetlands, the development of moorland and all sorts of consequences to habitat which were deplored in the discussion on question No. 2?

Mrs. Fenner

No, Sir. On the contrary, there are a number of references to the need for environmental protection in the Commission's draft proposals. Indeed, environmental consideration is given greater prominence than in the existing structures measure.

Mr. Lord

Does my hon. Friend agree that most farmers are well aware of their responsibilities to the countryside, to conservation and to wildlife, and that anyone who thinks differently does them a grave injustice?

Mrs. Fenner

Yes, I support my hon. Friend in that.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will the Minister reflect that the heart of most of our traditional market towns was destroyed in the 1930s and 1940s by developers and that only when much of the best had been destroyed did people decide to try to conserve what was left? What is she doing to make sure that the same does not happen to our lowland countryside; that we will not start to conserve it only when a few unique examples are left? Does she appreciate that what we want is to conserve the whole and not just a few isolated examples?

Mrs. Fenner

That was the whole purpose of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Does my hon. Friend accept that pressure is applied to wildlife and damage done to it, as well as to the countryside and agriculture, by the failure to reform the CAP, by the failure of our inner cities to remain places in which people want to live and by the loss of agricultural land? Is she aware, in other words, that the issue goes much wider than the original question?

Mrs. Fenner

I agree with my hon. Friend on those three matters.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Does the Minister appreciate that the object of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in asking the question was to show that the price support mechanism of the common agricultural policy as currently working runs counter to what we wish to achieve, and that nothing in the structures scheme will undo, or even mitigate sufficiently, the damage caused by price support at its current levels to the countryside and wildlife?

Mrs. Fenner

I had hoped that I had reassured hon. Members by referring to the Commission's draft proposals, in which there are a number of references to environmental protection — indeed, rather more such references than in the structures measure that has expired.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. There will be a statement later this afternoon about the EC Council of Ministers, and therefore I propose to go rather more rapidly over EC questions than would normally be the case.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at an early opportunity.