HC Deb 25 November 1999 vol 339 cc740-1
4. Mr. Phil Sawford (Kettering)

What action he has taken to compensate UK farmers for the effect of the strong pound on the value of payments under the CAP. [98840]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Ms Joyce Quin)

Up to £264 million in agrimonetary compensation will be paid to livestock and arable farmers starting this year, and a further £132 million over the next two years. That is on top of £133 million in such compensation paid to beef and sheep producers in 1997 and 1998.

Mr. Sawford

Hard-pressed farmers in my constituency will welcome any help that my right hon. Friend can give. Although agrimonetary compensation is complex, it represents real money for real farmers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a sad reflection on the previous Government that they did not pay such compensation to farmers when they had the opportunity to do so, and that the Conservative party is no friend of the British farmer?

Ms Quin

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend. Agrimonetary compensation is an important benefit for British agriculture. My right hon. Friend the Minister was successful in persuading our partners of that, and also in ensuring that some of the money would be obligatory and that farmers would benefit directly from it.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

In reflecting on the plight of British farmers, does the right hon. Lady agree that entry into the European single currency at exchange rate mechanism mid rates would be catastrophic for British agriculture?

Ms Quin

I seldom agree with the hon. Gentleman about any of the points that he makes, especially on European issues. Stability in financial arrangements is tremendously important for agriculture. If we are not in the single currency, it is important to do what the Government have done and ensure that farmers in this country do not lose out, as they would have done had we not introduced the compensation measures that have been effected.