HC Deb 04 December 1986 vol 106 cc1066-7
4. Sir Hector Monro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures have been taken to compensate sheep farmers affected by the restrictions imposed following the Chernobyl disaster.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jopling)

Following full discussions with industry representatives, we introduced three schemes of compensation for sheep producers in the areas in which movement and slaughter restrictions have been imposed. We consider that these compensation arrangements represent a fair and balanced response to the needs of sheep producers whose marketing, prices and costs have been affected by the restrictions.

Sir Hector Monro

I thank my right hon. Friend for the steps that he has taken, unlike any other country, following Chernobyl. However, will he do all that he can to ensure that every farmer who has lost income because of the disaster receives compensation through one or other of these very helpful schemes?

Mr. Jopling

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I shall certainly be prepared to consider any new cases which might slip through the arrangements which we already have. I should have thought that we had already thought through almost all the cases where there has been hardship.

Mr. Torney

What steps has the Minister taken to ensure that British sheep farmers are compensated for the sheep that were stolen or damaged when they were taken across to France? Will he ensure that France pays that compensation to British farmers? Will he take retaliatory action if that sort of thing is continued by the French?

Mr. Jopling

Although the question was about Chernobyl, I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman, as he will no doubt have seen in the press, that the French Government have said that they will be responsible for compensation in those lamentable cases.

Mr. Livsey

Will the Secretary of State, having acknowledged the fact that the sheep farmers have been badly affected by Chernobyl, now recognise that they face further threats in the less-favoured areas from the cereal set-aside policy? Has the Secretary of State plans to assist—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question concerns compensating sheep farmers.

Mr. Livsey

Has the Secretary of State plans to assist the sheep farmers who may be affected?

Hon. Members


Mr. Jopling

I am afraid that I did not hear the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question, because of the noise made by hon. Members wondering whether the hon. Gentleman was aware of what Chernobyl was. He will no doubt have seen—although perhaps he has not—the various schemes, which have been widely welcomed by the sheep farmers affected by that unfortunate fall-out.

Mr. Home Robertson

In view of the public concern among sheep farmers and others about Chernobyl, which is reinforced by the fact that sheep are still under restriction and affected more than seven months after an event which took place 1,400 miles away, will the Minister undertake to publish new contingency measures to deal with nuclear emergencies as soon as they are prepared?

Mr. Jopling

Levels remain high only in the upland areas. Of the 4 million sheep in the United Kingdom which were originally subject to controls, fewer than 300,000 remain under control. Levels remain high because of a number of factors arising from the nature of the terrain and the dietary habits of sheep in upland areas. I shall certainly make announcements as I think it right and proper to make them.