HC Deb 20 October 1994 vol 248 c412
5. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with the farming unions about individual base areas for cereal growers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jack

We have had no recent calls from farming unions for meetings on that subject.

Mr. Kirkwood

I am perfectly prepared to understand and accept that there are legal and perhaps even administrative difficulties in using individual base areas as a way in which to control quotas. There is no such thing as a pain-free quota system. But if the Minister is excluding individual base areas as a way of giving individual farmers the ability to control the penalties that they incur, what plans does he have for dealing with this very real problem, which certainly continues to occur in the cereal-growing areas of Scotland?

Mr. Jack

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and for his honesty in acknowledging that there are significant problems in administration and farming practice relating to individual farmers having their own base areas. We are very aware of that.

We publish a great deal of information about crop yields—about yield by cereal type. That is backed up by information from the Home-grown Cereals Authority. That is important because farmers study it and make up their own minds in the light of trends in cereal cropping as they affect their individual enterprises. In the light of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I shall certainly have a discussion with the chairman of the Home-grown Cereals Authority to see if we can further improve the promulgation of that information for the better guidance of farmers.

Mr. Jonathan Evans

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is still a prevailing sense of injustice among cereal growers in Wales, especially in the less-favoured areas? Furthermore, the farming unions—in Wales and, I think, nationally—have expressed their concern to the Ministry, first, about the fact that there is not a joint England arid Wales base region and, secondly, about the fact that, for the past two years, and until the recent welcome announcement made by the Ministry, severe losses have been incurred by Welsh cereal growers because of the previous base-area designations.

Mr. Jack

I am well aware of the situation that my hon. Friend describes to the House. In fairness to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, he has made sterling efforts to try to address the problem. The latest situation—certainly in relation to new yield areas that have been introduced—means that those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all gain. There is a marginal loss of 10 kg per hectare for the English growers but, all told, it is a much better scheme for determining the level of arable area payments made to specialist cereal growers to which my hon. Friend referred.