§ 5. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met leaders of the farmers' unions in Wales to discuss reform of the common agricultural policy.
§ Mr. David Hunt
I last met leaders of the Farmers Union of Wales and the National Farmers Union on 22 October.
§ Mr. Jones
I congratulate the Secretary of State for taking our advice, and that of the farming unions in Wales, to go to Brussels to fight for the interests of Welsh farmers. During his talks with Commissioner Ray MacSharry, did he urge him to raise the limits on which sheep support is payable from 750 in the less-favoured areas and 350 elsewhere to 1,000 and 500 respectively? If he did, what was the Commissioner's reply?
§ Mr. Hunt
I certainly made the point that those headage limits were unacceptable and virtually singled out Wales as a target for discrimination. I pointed out that the headage limits affect 15 per cent. of the flock in Wales, whereas they affect only 3 per cent. of the flock throughout the European Community. That sort of discrimination is unacceptable. I am afraid that we shall have to wait for the Commissioner's response, but I made him aware of the strong feelings that exist throughout Wales on that issue. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has taken the opportunity to air that important subject.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
Did the Secretary of State discuss the possibility that something close to Commissioner MacSharry's original proposals are likely to be accepted in the near future by the Council of Ministers? Does he agree that if that is the case, there will be a real drop in the level of income received by Welsh farmers? While I welcome the announcement a couple of weeks ago about two new environmentally sensitive areas, is not it now the case that the only way to protect farm incomes in Wales is to adopt an environmental protection scheme covering the whole of Wales and to pay farmers to look after the countryside?
§ Mr. Hunt
I believe that I speak for every hon. Member when I say that we want a reform of the common agricultural policy. However, that must be done in a way that is fair to farmers throughout the Community and does not single out farmers such as those in Wales for discrimination. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's comments about the recent announcement that we made. I am sure that some measures that will link the tremendous work that farmers are doing to conserve the countryside 8 with reward will come in the reform of the CAP. We must ensure that we reward farmers not only for efficiency, but for what they do in the countryside.