HC Deb 04 December 1995 vol 268 cc6-7
5. Mr. Llwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement about the proposed level of hill livestock compensatory allowance payments to farmers in Wales.[1860]

Mr. Gwilym Jones

Against the background of the need to restrain public expenditure, which is of course paid for by the taxpayer, our decision to maintain the HLCA payments at their present rates demonstrates very firmly the Government's dedication to and support for the continuation of extensive farming in the hills and uplands of Wales.

Mr. Llwyd

I thank the Minister for that—I suppose it was an answer. Does not the Minister realise that there was an 18 per cent. cut last year in the HLCA payments? Bearing in mind the dramatic increase in fodder prices and wintering, does he not realise that, on the Government's own methodology, there is a clear case for an increase in this financial year? Will the Government reconsider the matter and, more importantly, stop treating the people of rural Wales with such contempt?

Mr. Jones

I could point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is agreed that net farm income is expected to increase by 13 per cent. in the less-favoured areas during the current financial year. The issue that he will never have to face is the fact that, if one increases spending in any other area, one has to put up taxes or cut spending elsewhere. Which taxes would he increase and which services would he cut—the health service or other services?

Mr. Alex Carlile

Bearing in mind the depth of disappointment over the reduction in real terms in HLCAs and also the concern about the future of livestock quotas, will the Minister remind the House of the most recent initiative taken by the Welsh Office specifically to assist the industry in hill farming areas?

Mr. Jones

Perhaps I should remind the hon. and learned Gentleman about my right hon. Friend's decision to publish a rural White Paper about which we have been consulting extensively in Wales. We hope to come forward shortly with something that the hon. and learned Gentleman will welcome.