HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc729-30
3. Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon)

If she will make a statement on the impact on the Scottish economy of the common agricultural policy in the last 12 months. [65299]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

Agricultural policy in Scotland is a devolved matter, which rests with the Scottish Executive. Farmers in Scotland receive about £450 million a year in direct subsidy payments from schemes based on the common agricultural policy.

Mr. Djanogly

It is hardly controversial to say that the common agricultural policy is failing the British people as a whole. It hinders job creation in rural communities and the development of rural society. It makes food more expensive and works against the interests of farmers and consumers. But when the Government went to Berlin they failed to deliver on CAP reform. Will the Secretary of State confirm that she will stand up for Scottish and British farmers rather than the CAP?

Mrs. Liddell

The hon. Gentleman has got a brass neck. Anyone who supported a Government who for 18 years ducked the issue of the common agricultural policy has a cheek lecturing this Government. We began the process of CAP policy reform with Agenda 2000, and we will continue it in submissions in response to statements from the Commission that we anticipate will be made tomorrow. The CAP needs to be reformed and the Government are determined to see that it is. It is important to recognise the quality of Scottish agriculture rather than the quantity issues that dominated the debate when the Conservatives were in power.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok)

Does the Secretary of State accept that the impact of the CAP on families in my constituency has been overwhelmingly negative because it has kept food prices at least £20 a week higher than they otherwise would have been? It has also been bad for farmers because it has created a generation of them who are welfare dependent.

Mrs. Liddell

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

Is the Secretary of State aware of the deep disappointment felt by many Scottish farmers last year at the failure of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to pursue agrimonetary compensation despite the repeated entreaties of the Scottish Executive rural affairs Minister? Will she ensure that in the negotiations likely to be consequent on Commissioner Fischler's interim report, the representations made by the Scottish Executive rural affairs Minister will not be treated in such a cavalier fashion?

Mrs. Liddell

It is as well that the hon. Gentleman is a Liberal Democrat Member because people in permanent opposition do not have to make choices. Agrimonetary compensation involves choices because it comes at a cost. The Government and the Scottish Executive go to great lengths to ensure that the voice of the rural affairs Minister is heard within our counsels. The hon. Gentleman should be proud of that because otherwise he is suggesting that his colleague, Mr. Ross Finnie, is not making his case effectively enough.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire)

We welcome the right hon. Lady's admission that the common agricultural policy needs to be reformed. Is she prepared to go further and agree with the Edinburgh Evening News that The Common Agricultural Policy is a fraud that makes Enron look like peanuts"? Although there is clearly a case for reform, is not it essential that if plans go ahead for a 5 per cent. or so cut in cereal prices, safeguards need to be in place to prevent honest vulnerable farmers in the United Kingdom, in particular in Scotland and the north of England, from going out of business? Will she suggest to the Prime Minister that, in the negotiations that lie ahead, instead of trying to court popularity on the world stage, he for once stands up for Britain, our rural way of life and the Scottish farmer?

Mrs. Liddell

The right hon. Gentleman is not being predictable today. He usually asks me about business regulation. I wonder whether Enron, Tyco and WorldCom have convinced him of the value of regulation.

The right hon. Gentleman has a cheek. My party argued for CAP reform for 18 years, but the Government he supported did nothing about it. This Government are committed to change that is in the interests of consumers as well as farmers.