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Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received concerning the effects of proposed changes in the European Community common agricultural policy on Welsh farmers; and if he will make a statement.

I have received numerous representations from all parts of the industry in Wales about the proposed reforms of the common agricultural policy. These have centred on the milk and sheep sectors. Negotiations are continuing.

Will the Secretary of State now take advantage of my question to tell the House that he will defend the level of income for the sheep sector in Wales? Can he assure us that, as a result of sheep stabilisers or long-term changes in the variable or basic premium, there will be no drop in the income of sheep farmers?

I agree that in some low-income forms of agriculture—hill sheep farming and beef are examples—incomes must be maintained by one method or another.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, now that the guide prices have been announced for 1988, the sheepmeat regime will continue during that year? Will he also recognise that if the stabilisers which may or may not come out of the European Community put pressure on the lowland arable farmers and encourage them to move into sheep farming, that may have disastrous economic and social consequences for the Welsh uplands? What action will the right hon. Gentleman take to protect our upland communities?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is in negotiations at present, in which he has made it very clear that he is interested, not in maintaining the sheepmeat regime just for next year, but in maintaining the principles of the regime continuously. It would be crazy for the Government to start contemplating what would be done if we were not successful in the negotiations. Our object is to be successful.