HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 c963
2. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

When he last met the Minister of Agriculture to discuss compensation for farmers in Wales in relation to the high value of the pound. [118433]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)

I am in regular and close contact with colleagues in the Cabinet and we discuss a wide range of issues, including the agriculture situation. Compensation for farmers and the high value of sterling were among the matters addressed at the recent agriculture summit chaired by the Prime Minister on 30 March.

Miss McIntosh

Does the Secretary of State agree that the single most important factor in the crisis in farming is the high value of the pound? When will he get the agreement of the Treasury to apply for monetary compensatory amounts to compensate British farmers, given that the pound is overvalued against the currencies of competitor countries in the European Union?

Mr. Murphy

I agree that the value of the pound is vital, and that is why the agriculture summit chaired by the Prime Minister addressed the issue. Of the £25 million of aid that has been given to Welsh farmers, £6 million is to go to sheep farmers, £2 million to beef farmers, and more than £2 million to dairy farmers. All that is to deal with the problems caused by the strength of the pound and will directly help farmers in Wales.

Mrs. Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire)

The National Farmers Union in Wales has greatly welcomed the package for farmers and the Government's commitment to agriculture. However, is my right hon. Friend aware that only 2 per cent. of the lamb consumed by British armed forces abroad is sourced from Wales? Will he endeavour to persuade his ministerial colleagues to adopt the same policy that has been adopted for beef, and source all lamb thus consumed from the United Kingdom?

Mr. Murphy

I shall certainly take up the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I can tell my hon. Friend that our armed forces are keen to support British products wherever possible, and that all the beef and pork that they use is provided by UK producers. However, I shall ensure that I raise the question of lamb with my Cabinet colleague.

Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)

My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) is this afternoon attending the installation of the high sheriff of Powys, but he and I would both like to know the answer to this question: when and how will the exchange rate compensation be paid to dairy farmers in Wales?

Mr. Murphy

Obviously, the details of that are a matter for the National Assembly, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman as soon as they are known.