HC Deb 23 March 1987 vol 113 cc5-6
5. Mr. Livsey

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received from farmers organisations on the future of beef production in Wales.

Mr. Edwards

I have received representations about the future of the beef industry in Wales both from farmers' organisations and from indviduals. These representations covered a very wide range of issues concerning the beef regime and the impact of measures taken by the European Commission in the dairy sector.

Mr. Livsey

Will the Secretary of State urge his colleagues, who are involved in the Brussels price negotiations, to have a major devaluation of the green pound, of at least 12 per cent.? It is practically impossible at the present time—I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree—for Welsh beef producers to make a profit out of that enterprise. We shall have little beef enterprise left if the present position is allowed to drift.

Mr. Edwards

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the December reforms represented a considerable step forward in improving the beef regime in general and reducing the dependence on intervention. I certainly agree that the relative green pound discrepancies and valuations will be a matter that will be in the forefront of the negotiations that will take place in the coming weeks in Brussels.

Sir Raymond Gower

Will my right hon. Friend take account of the fact that, while many of our farmers are alive to the problems of over-production in many types of farming, they are deeply concerned at the possibility that, having been driven out of milk production, and having moved into beef production, they may now be driven out of beef production? This seems to be a never-ending tendency and the farmers are extremely worried. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this problem extremely carefully.

Mr. Edwards

I understand the concern of farmers about this matter and their anxiety about knock-on consequences of the various changes in the CAP support system. I believe that we made remarkable progress in December, especially with the protection of the beef premium scheme, for which we have fought so hard and consistently over recent years. Having said that, I also understand that there is a great deal of anxiety about the green pound discrepancies and, clearly, that matter will be a part of the negotiations that are now under way.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is it not a fact that farmers are now a thoroughly dissatisfied body, as witness their recent vote of no confidence in a Conservative Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Farmers are asking why they should cut their production when Britain is far from self-sufficient in its production of food.

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman should not try to give the impression that the Labour party would avoid substantial changes in the CAP and a reduction of the huge European surpluses. The Opposition spokesman on agriculture is much too straightforward and honest to pretend anything of the sort. It does not help if the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) pretends at the Opposition Dispatch Box that the Labour party supports policies that would not involve a substantial reduction in the heavy overspending that is going on in Europe to produce surpluses.