HC Deb 08 June 1995 vol 261 cc309-10
6. Mr. Jenkin

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which Minister or office in his Department is responsible for overseeing the fundamental review of public expenditure in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the level of possible savings. [25817]

Mr. Waldegrave

Officials conducting the fundamental expenditure review are reporting to me. It is too early to say what savings might arise from the review.

Mr. Jenkin

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I hope that he will be in charge of the fundamental review of public expenditure in his Department because, unless it is driven by politicians, it is unlikely that there will be much of a review at all. My question may be connected with the previous one in that, if we want to see a reduction in the costs of government, there may have to be a reduction in the costs of the agricultural policy in Europe as well as reform; otherwise, it is not really reform in the proper sense of the word.

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is perfectly right. As I said in answer to an earlier question, the first battle is to get some sense into the agrimonetary system. That threatens to drive up costs in the short term, which would be really disastrous. The frustration for my Department is that those parts of our expenditure that are entirely under the control of Ministers answering to the House and are without the structure of the agricultural policy—our marketing grants and our environmental grants—would be genuinely supported on both sides of the House as being rather well targeted, but the pressure is always on them, because we cannot make unilateral cuts in the CAP fund.

Ms Janet Anderson

Will the Minister tell us how much his Department spends every year on tribunals of appeal against Ministry decisions to close slaughterhouses? Does he believe that cleanliness and hygiene should be taken into account when determining those appeals?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Lady has a particular case in mind in her own constituency and I shall write to her with the answer. I do not think that we have had any expenditure on those appeals, because the tribunal has only just been set up alongside the Meat Hygiene Service. I shall write with more details to the hon. Lady.

Mr. John Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the search for further savings in his Department's expenditure is important, it must not, under any circumstances, be achieved by a further reduction in the support paid to hill farmers through the hill livestock compensatory allowance? Hill farm incomes are falling and the HLCAs should increase, not reduce.

Mr. Waldegrave

I hear clearly the message from my hon. Friend, and I am sure that we shall endeavour to take that into account in our discussions with the Treasury in the expenditure round.