HC Deb 29 November 1990 vol 181 cc1010-1
12. Mr. Hunter

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on the current level of profitability in United Kingdom agriculture.

Mr. Gummer

Farming, particularly in the livestock sector, is going through a difficult time. The Government are determined to ensure its continued viability.

Mr. Hunter

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to put firmly on record his awareness of the problems caused by a lack of profitability and reassure the House and United Kingdom farmers of his belief in the ultimate success of his strategy?

Mr. Gummer

I will reassure my hon. Friend that we continue to stand extremely strongly behind the British farming community. I hope that, with me, my hon. Friend will pay tribute to the success of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in ensuring that the British knacker industry is no longer stopped by the European Community rules. It will remain as it is at least until 1995, and thereafter there will be a review. That will make sure that the environment is protected because of the important job that that industry does.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Minister agree that the great problem in British farming is the gulf between profitability and subsidies and between the grain barons of East Anglia and their huge profits and the hill farmers of Wales and elsewhere? Does he agree that the answer to the real problems of hill farming is to redistribute subsidies towards hill farmers?

Mr. Gummer

What the hon. Gentleman says is absolutely untrue. Our arable farmers are also under a considerable squeeze. Many of them are finding it very difficult to make profits. Unless they are profitable, they, too, cannot look after the countryside. The hon. Gentleman does the farming industry no good by trying to drive a wedge between different kinds of farmers.