HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 cc372-3
5. Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater)

If he will make a statement on discussions with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the common agricultural policy in Wales. [122065]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

My right hon. Friend and I are kept abreast of developments by Cabinet colleagues, and I will be discussing the matter with Assembly Ministers next week.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger

In view of the fact that the common agricultural policy is now a schizophrenic document—in other words, France and Germany are favoured over the UK—what will the Minister do to try to bolster Welsh agriculture, given that it is in such a state under a Secretary of State who is double-hatted at the best of times?

Mr. Touhig

I am not clear about the hon. Gentleman's view of the recent discussions on CAP reform, but I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for her work on delivering a very good deal. I certainly welcome the package as a significant step towards supporting and sustaining agriculture in Wales. My colleagues in the Assembly and the National Farmers Union of Wales have welcomed it, and the Farmers Union of Wales wants further discussions on those developments. It is a good news story for Wales, which will benefit Welsh agriculture.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)

May I echo the sentiments of farmers in my constituency, who have expressed their satisfaction that CAP reforms will lead to the freedoms that they need to develop their own businesses? However, there is immediate concern at the roll-out of biosecurity measures on 1 August and their effects on the blackmill grass-based market. Will the Minister join me in making representations to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Assembly to ensure that small indigenous markets do not lose out from those essential biosecurity measures?

Mr. Touhig

My hon. Friend has made several representations to me and other colleagues on biosecurity measures. We all recognise that they are essential if we are to avoid a repeat of foot and mouth problems that the country experienced a little while ago. I will certainly take account of my hon. Friend's point and bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

Has the Minister had an opportunity to reflect on two votes taken last week by the European Parliament? One relates to the labelling of genetically modified crops and food, the other to the liabilities arising from the planting of such crops, and they will both impact on the CAP and planting policy in Wales. The Minister will know that the National Assembly for Wales has stated clearly that it wants Wales to remain free of GM crops. Will he give an undertaking today that, if the Assembly maintains that view, Wales will remain a genetically modified commercial crop-free area?

Mr. Touhig

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. Although I have not read the documents to which he referred, I will make it my business to acquaint myself with them and take account of what they say. I cannot give the assurance that he asks for on GM crops in Wales. I think that we have to be very careful. We must continue with the discussions and studies that are currently going on and ensure that they are properly evaluated. I urge a further word of caution. I can remember a time when Wales had nuclear-free zones, but such things are often little more than gesture politics. We have to discover what is best for agriculture in Wales and make a proper assessment before making our judgment—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must come to order.