HC Deb 18 November 1985 vol 87 cc10-1
8. Mr. D. E. Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what was the total amount spent by his Department on agricultural support in Wales in the latest year for which figures are available.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The sum of £82.2 million was spent by my Department in support of agriculture in Wales in 1984–85.

In addition, certain other payments under the CAP were made by the intervention board for agricultural produce, including payments in Wales amounting to about £4.7 million on the beef variable premium scheme; about £21.4 million on the sheep variable premium scheme; and about £0.8 million on school milk.

Mr. Thomas

In view of that figure, does the Secretary of State acknowledge the vital contribution made by public expenditure to the Welsh rural economy? Will he give us an assurance that there will be no further attempt to reduce jobs or opportunities for farmers to obtain advice through the advisory services as a result of his Department's privatisation proposals?

Mr. Edwards

My Department's estimated provision for expenditure in support of agriculture in Wales in 1985–86 is £82.7 million. That is a substantial sum. The Welsh Office's share of changes over previous plans for agricultural support for 1986–87 involves a net reduction of about £4 million over the previous year. That reduction mainly reflects revised forecasts of future demand-determined expenditure on grants for capital and other improvements. We have announced that we are making some savings in ADAS and charging for some of its services. I can confirm that there will continue to be provision for a substantial level of advice from ADAS.

Mr. John

When does the Secretary of State expect that the help to compensate for the wet summer will be available? The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced to the Conservative party conference that it was to be finalised by the end of October. October has come and gone, and no aid is forthcoming.

Mr. Edwards

Discussions are going on at the moment. I well understand the need to arrive at early decisions. It is not entirely a straightforward matter to arrive at a scheme that directs help to those people and areas that most need it, because, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the damage and consequences vary substantially. In some places they are horrendous, while in neighbouring areas the effects have been much less. They are not entirely straightforward matters. We are considering them urgently. I hope that it will not be long before we can make an announcement.

Mr. Raffan

Will my hon. Friend assure sheep farmers in my constituency that the Government will resolutely oppose the EC Commission's surrender to French protectionism by its iniquitous proposal for a claw-back on exported ewes.

Mr. Edwards

As my hon. Friend will be aware, we registered our objections formally. We voted against the European Commission's proposal about a week or 10 days ago. We continue to oppose the alternative proposals. The position is somewhat uncertain at the moment because the original scheme has come to an end and no new scheme has yet formally taken its place. I fully understand the importance of that matter, and the Government will continue to take a resolute stand on it.