HC Deb 05 March 1984 vol 55 cc592-4
8. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he makes of the economic prospects for farming in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The measures needed to reduce surpluses and control Community expenditure on agriculture are bound to affect farming incomes in Wales as elsewhere; but I believe that Welsh farmers are well capable of adapting to the changes.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Secretary of State not aware that many Welsh dairy farmers are very worried that the agricultural and horticultural development scheme will not have a roll-over provision for them for the six months from 1 January? Given that many farms in Wales are mixed, how will it be possible, for the purposes of the scheme, to differentiate between the dairy farming and the non-dairy farming elements in respect of investment in soil improvement, fencing and general work of that type?

Mr. Edwards

At the moment, existing schemes are being rolled over because agreement has not been reached on future provision. In view of the complications of the current negotiations, it is a bit early to speculate exactly how farmers will have to deal with matters which have not been finally settled.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is the Secretary of State in favour of introducing a quota system to dissuade Welsh farmers from producing extra food from the land?

Mr. Edwards

I am certain that a large number of Welsh farmers and farming interests believe that a quota system may be the best way to protect individual farms in a time of change. The current negotiations in Europe lead one to the conclusion that some form of quota system may emerge, even though Her Majesty's Government have advocated a system based on prices. It is right that we should be discussing with the unions the form that a quota system should take.

Mr. Hooson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great satisfaction in the hill areas of Wales at the Government's success in obtaining an extension of the less-favoured areas definition?

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that the announcement that we have been successful in the negotiations on marginal land will be widely welcomed. It has been fought for over a long period and I know that it will make a considerable contribution once we have been able to introduce the new arrangements.

Mr. Cambell-Savours

Should farming prospects in Wales be so dependent on the loss of historic sites as outlined in the article in The Guardian last Friday, in which a journalist bitterly attacked the Secretary of State for Wales for allowing the uncontrolled decimation of historic sites in Wales? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer from the Dispatch Box the accusations levelled in that article, because it is farmers who are benefiting?

Mr. Edwards

There is no truth in the suggestion that there is uncontrolled decimation of sites. The article is riddled with inaccuracies. Certainly there is no truth in the suggestion that farmers are profiting in this way. It is an absurd invention, and I reject it entirely.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge the growing unease in the dairy sector in Wales, especially amongst those farmers with a dependence on the milk cheque from, say, only 40 or 50 beasts? Does he have in mind any major initiative by his Department? Does he accept that there is a parallel between the dairy farmers and those who distribute the milk and that in the latter case many thousands of jobs ultimately are at stake?

Mr. Edwards

I understand the concern. I represent a very large number of milk producers. I have been speaking extremely frankly to them about the changes that will be needed. But they understand the need to deal with a situation in which we are producing surpluses at excessive cost, and many of them will be beginning to look at their farming systems to see whether they can reduce their input costs.

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