HC Deb 19 December 1991 vol 201 cc438-9
4. Mr. Ian Taylor:

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what schools liaison programmes his Department promotes which enhance young peoples awareness of agricultural issues.

Mr. Curry

Young people's awareness of agricultural issues is promoted through publicity material, information packs and planned visits to farms.

Mr. Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that information on agricultural issues for school children is important? Will he provide encouragement so that those schemes teach young people, particularly from inner-city areas, that the beauty of rural areas such as parts of my constituency is not necessarily just given by the good Lord, but often is created by man, because of the traditional and excellent pursuits of hunting and shooting?

Mr. Curry

It is important that children are able to find out what happens in the countryside. Three points are important. First, everyone should realise that the countryside is a workplace and not just a recreation place. Secondly, recreation and sport and conservation are allied activities. Thirdly, there is a great heritage in the countryside and we have sought to enhance that, in particular through our environmentally sensitive areas scheme. I have no doubt that that will be an extremely good place for school children to begin. I know that the farmers of Esher would particularly welcome school visits.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that young people show a keen awareness of animal welfare? They will be greatly perturbed by the way in which his Department is undermining the provisions of my Badgers Act 1991 by issuing licences to more than 600 fox hunts to enable them to dig up badger setts and unleash terriers into them. Will the hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance this afternoon that that practice will stop immediately?

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The dreadful things that he forecasts will not happen. I suggest that he waits for the consultation paper and I think that he will then be reassured.

There is no doubt that it would be to the advantage of school children if they could find out what happens in the countryside. Perhaps they should recognise that the countryside is not just a theme park where everything is nice, woolly and furry, but that real combat occurs between animals.

Mr. Sayeed

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is worth pointing out to young children that in 1950 it took a man on average industrial wages a week to earn enough to buy his Christmas turkey and that it now takes a person in a similar position just 90 minutes to do so? Is not that a tribute to the massive increase in the productivity of the farming community and to the massive increase in the earning power of the British worker?

Mr. Curry

I am sure that that is absolutely true. I am sure also that, in the light of our education reforms, most children will eventually be able to do that calculation.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister also accept that, in considering agriculture, it is crucial to bear in mind the responsibility of all involved in the food chain, from production to consumption, to ensure that at all times consumers get good, healthy, pure products at the best possible price?

Mr. Curry

That is a self-evident truth. When children go into the countryside and visit farms, they will see that the conditions are completely different from those that their fathers may have seen when they worked on farms during their holidays—that was one of the great traditions of United Kingdom cities. Our aim is to ensure that food is wholesome, of high quality and produced as economically as possible and to ensure that, not only in the United Kingdom but in the export market, people have the benefits of an outstanding product.