HC Deb 19 February 1987 vol 110 cc1046-7
5. Mr. Speller

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to improve the real level of farm incomes.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson)

After a drop last year farm incomes this year have shown an increase of 21 per cent. The best way to improve on that improvement is to bring supply and demand into better balance.

Mr. Speller

I thank my hon. Friend for the first part of the answer. May I remind him that in the last year for which figures are available the incomes of lowland beef farmers in the south-west went down by 31 per cent. and that those of the upland beef farmers went down by more than 40 per cent.? Will he take corrective measures in regard to the suckler cow premium and a major revaluation of the green pound?

Mr. Thompson

For suckler cows the maximum possible rate of payment in 1987 will be around £33.40. The current rate is £24.74. The level of the green pound is kept under continuous review, and the recent hard-won devaluation shows that we are prepared to act when necessary.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister return to the question of the present value of the green pound? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that the beef sector in this country is protected against the present rate of the green pound?

Mr. Thompson

As I mentioned, the maximum rate for the suckler cow premium is going up.

A large number of cows will be coming on to the market to be culled as the milk quota goes down by 9.5 per cent. The Government and the Commission are taking careful note of those considerations while discussing the next round of price fixing.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best improvement in regard to farm incomes is that they should be realistic? The Government are seeking to achieve stability in the market and they should be thanked for that instead of being knocked about by the NFU.

Mr. Thompson

The Scottish NFU is on the right track and I am sure that the rest of the NFU will quickly follow. I agree with my hon. Friend that the best way to improve farm incomes is to stop spending money on intervention and start spending it on farmers and farming.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) to ask his question, I must point out that there is a misprint on the Order Paper. The word "international" should read "interested". I believe that the Minister knows that.

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