HC Deb 19 March 1998 vol 308 c1398
5. Mr. Eric Clarke

When he last visited the north of England to discuss subsidies to farmers. [33755]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jeff Rooker)

I visited the region in February when I attended a meeting with the local National Farmers Union.

Mr. Clarke

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. So much for the Conservatives being the party of the countryside. How can the Conservative party represent the countryside when it has no rural representatives—and no urban representatives, either, come to that—in Scotland or Wales? It is illogical. I assume that my hon. Friend will continue to meet farmers throughout the United Kingdom in order to discuss their problems.

Mr. Rooker

The answer to the question implied in my hon. Friend's comments is that we meet farmers regularly throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Subsidies to farmers in Scotland—part of which my hon. Friend represents—were £480 million last year, which is an all-time high.

Mr. Jack

Farmers in the north of England will be interested in the recently published proposals for Agenda 2000—and particularly the way in which they affect the dairy sector. Can the Minister tell me whether, at the special Council which his right hon. Friend the Minister will be attending at the end of the month, he will be raising the fact that there is to be a 2 per cent. increase in milk quota, but that, as we have no mountain dairy producers or, at this stage, a newcomers' scheme, Britain will get no increase in milk quota, but will suffer a 15 per cent. reduction in the price of milk? Can the Minister give us an assurance that he will protect Britain's dairy farmers in those discussions?

Mr. Rooker

Yes, the issue will be raised.