HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 cc945-6
10. Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

What representations he has received concerning assistance for farming in Wales. [41422]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Win Griffiths)

My right hon. Friend and I have received considerable numbers of representations, both written and oral, in respect of the condition of Welsh agriculture since the start of the crisis, and we continue to do so.

Mr. Collins

Now that the Minister has been in charge of Welsh agriculture for more than a year, during which time it has endured probably its worst 12 months for half a century, will he review his policies and actually do something for Welsh farmers?

Mr. Griffiths

We have already done a lot for Welsh farmers. They have received more than £12 million from the agrimoney compensation scheme and £70 million has gone into the cattle traceability and specified risk material regulations in order to give consumers confidence in British beef, and in Welsh beef in particular. We have initiated a research programme for lamb and beef to help raise the quality of both products. We are promoting a very strong food strategy to give Welsh farmers confidence in the future, and I am sure that, before our term has ended, we will have taken considerable steps to revive the Welsh economy.

Ms Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) has a very short memory if he has forgotten that Welsh agriculture is in a mess primarily because of the BSE crisis, which the Conservatives ignored and which the present Secretary of State for Wales was first to bring to their attention? Bearing in mind the fact that a document about the crisis in Welsh agriculture was published today, will my hon. Friend support calls for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the role of supermarkets in the supply chain and the vertical restraints within it?

Mr. Griffiths

I assure my hon. Friend that we shall examine carefully all the recommendations from the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. We know that the Committee took a great deal of evidence, which gave it cause for concern, about the way in which the market works. We shall be prepared to discuss those matters with other Departments to try to ensure that we have the best response possible.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Will the Minister deny that just 10 minutes ago he said that farm incomes have fallen by 43 per cent.?

Mr. Griffiths

I shall not deny it. Total farm incomes have fallen by 43 per cent.