HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc90-2W
Mr. Latham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since his reply to the hon. Member for Melton on 8 July 1981, Official Report, c. 141.

Mr. Peter Walker

The annual review of agriculture 1982 White Paper (Cmnd. 8491) shows that farming income increased by 14 per cent. in 1981. We have played an active role in negotiations on the common agricultural policy in the interests of farmers and growers, processors and consumers. In the course of the 1982 negotiation on common agricultural policy prices, we resisted revaluation of the green pound. The final package will increase United Kingdom support prices by 10.2 per cent., but the direct effect on the retail price index over a full year will be ¼ per cent., and on the food price index 1¼ per cent. The consumer benefit of the beef premium scheme, the sheepmeat regime and the continuation of the butter subsidy will be worth some hundreds of millions of pounds, depending on the market situation.

The price of milk has been increased to meet the special needs of this sector as a whole. The changes agreed following the Binder Hamlyn review provide a fair and stable framework for the industry's operations.

We have negotiated the first ever improvements in the variable beef premium scheme. The maximum amount payable has been increased from 7.32 per kilogram liveweight to 10.759, and the FEOGA contribution has been increased from 25 per cent. to 40 per cent. The sucider cow premium has been maintained and this, together with an increase in the hill cow allowance and maintenance of the sheepmeat regime, will benefit the hill areas.

The Government have continued to press for action on State aids and took the lead in securing the phasing out of the preferential tariff for gas supplied to Dutch horticulturists which had been distorting trade in glasshouse produce.

We have continued to encourage improved marketing of food and agricultural produce, and have recently announced plans to seek early legislation to set up a new marketing organisation, Food from Britain, which will have as its objective the encouragement of better marketing of British produce both at home and overseas. The Government will give financial backing to Food from Britain during its first five years in operation.

We have maintained the level of advice available to farmers and growers from the agricultural development and advisory service—ADAS—in particular to ensure that growing methods yield products which meet the requirements of the market. New varieties of vegetables have been developed. We have concentrated on the speedy development and application of new technology so as to increase the competitveness of British farming and the scope for exports of those food products best suited to our farming conditions. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act1981, ADAS now gives advice to farmers and growers and statutory bodies on conservation matters and is consulted by the relevant authorities on proposals for grant-aiding agricultural improvements in special areas. ADAS will also advise local planning authorities, under the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981, on the restoration and aftercare of mineral workings.

We have continued to maintain this country's freedom from major epizootic diseases. In the course of the last year, we introduced a slaughter and compensation policy for Newcastle disease in poultry. We were able to declare the whole of Great Britain an attested area for brucellosis, thereby virtually completing the eradication programme for this disease. We received valuable advice from the Farm Animal Welfare Council on a number of important welfare issues and, in our response to the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, set out our general approach to the welfare of farm animals.

Our defences against non-indigenous plant pests and disease have been effectively maintained. In particular, an immediate ban was put on Italian vegetables while they presented a threat of infestation by Colorado beetle.

On fisheries, considerable progress has been made towards the revision of the common fisheries policy. Improved marketing arrangements have been agreed and an acceptable control regulation has been made which will come into force either as part of a general settlement of the common fisheries policy or on 1 January 1983, whichever is the earlier. Progress has also been made on the other outstanding questions, so that a settlement is now within reach if member States genuinely wish to achieve it. At home, a new Sea Fish Industry Authority has been established, with objectives which place particular emphasis on the improvement of marketing. In addition, the interests concerned have been consulted on the results of a wide-ranging review of inland and coastal fisheries matters, including the relevant administrative structure and problems arising in respect of fish farming, fish diseases and salmon fishing.

The Ministry is contributing to the achievement of manpower reductions in the Civil Service as a whole, and a further 400 posts are to be saved in the current financial year.

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