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Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Volume 228: debated on Thursday 8 July 1993

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Gatt

2.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will meet her American counterparts to discuss the impact of GATT on agriculture.

I hope to find an opportunity for a meeting. GATT, negotiations would certainly figure in such discussions.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. While she will be aware that the Labour party has consistently supported a GATT agreement, is she also aware that we share the concern of the National Farmers Union that the Blair House accord could involve much higher rates of set-aside? Will she make it clear, in any meeting with her American counterparts, that we find that totally unacceptable?

On the whole, I would share the hon. Gentleman's misgivings, were such rumours likely to be true. I think that they are unfounded. I believe that the GATT agreement on agriculture, based on the Blair House accord between the European Community and the United States, is likely to be a good outcome for the EC and I hope that the ground rules laid down in that accord will prove to be the foundation for the GATT agricultural agreement.

Will my right hon. Friend continue to support and fund Food From Britain, which champions the cause of exporters in this country? Is she aware how important exporting is to our producers, as they export approximately 25 per cent. of their produce and, to do so, need the openness in trade that an eventual GATT deal will engender?

It is encouraging that such good progress has been made on GATT negotiations in Tokyo and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has played such an important part in achieving that. Like my hon. Friend, I champion the export achievements of Food From Britain and the work of that excellent organisation. As she says, exports are an important part of our agricultural trade. We are not doing well enough, though. Our £6 billion trade gap is far too big and I hope that all our producers, and especially those represented by Food From Britain, will tackle the unacceptably large gap.

Is the Minister aware that the Labour party warmly welcomes last night's agreement as an important step along the tortuous route to a GATT agreement? Will she confirm, however, that although the French Government have endorsed the Blair House agreement on oil seeds, they have refused to accept the agriculture agreement, which would be essential to an overall GATT package? Will she give the House an assurance that there will be no question of the British Government agreeing concessions to French farming that would discriminate in any way against British agriculture and British jobs?

I am more than happy to give the House that assurance. I have already taken the opportunity of making those points to my French counterpart. I expect to meet him in about a fortnight, when I will repeat them. Since France is third in the world for exports, the French will surely recognise that their own interests would be served by a successful outcome to the GATT round.

Integrated Administration And Control Scheme

3.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much subsidy has been distributed to farmers following the implementation of the IACS scheme.

Payments under schemes covered by IACS forms are expected to amount to £1·2 billion for British farmers this year.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her interesting answer. Does she accept that farmers have encountered considerable difficulty in filling in the IACS forms and considerable cost in obtaining maps from the Ordnance Survey? Will she confirm that next year's procedures will be considerably easier to follow than this year's? Will she also acknowledge the debt that we owe the National Farmers Union, which has consistently helped farmers to fill in their forms?

I agree that the NFU has played an important part in giving advice to farmers who had difficulty completing their IACS forms. The NFU has also praised the effort of MAFF staff in area offices who have performed an equally useful and helpful role. There was a problem with maps. In cases where people genuinely could not obtain the relevant maps, the IACS forms were acceptable without them.

I entirely accept my hon. Friend's point about next year's forms. By then, we shall, of course, have established a database, but we are asking the industry to suggest ways in which the forms can be made more user-friendly and entirely sensible for next year.

Fishing (Days At Sea)

4.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when she last met representatives of the fishing industry to discuss compulsory days-at-sea legislation; and if she will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Michael Jack)

On 8 June, my right hon. Friend the Minister and I met representatives of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and I recently met the fishermen of Brixham. Further meetings are planned.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies in welcoming his announcement yesterday evening that there would be a relaxation, or at least a postponement, of the tie-up regulations under the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1992? May I plead with him to recongnise that the most sensible way forward now would be to suspend the Sea Fish Conservation Act and use the ensuing period to ensure that there is a reasonable dialogue between all sections of the industry and the Government and then to introduce a conservation package that has the support not only of the Government and the Community but of the fishing industry itself?

I thank the hon. Lady for the conciliatory tone of her question and in particular for her welcome for the postponement of the introduction of the days-at-sea policy. We are all joined in the common purpose of finding ways to sustain the availability of fish for the benefit of the fishing industry. I certainly accept the hon. Lady's point about dialogue. In fact, I am urgently filling my diary with engagements, including meetings with representatives of the Scottish fishing industry, and will take into account some of the important points raised by hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies in last night's debate.

I cannot, however, suspend our policy for ever or even beyond the period that I have specified because we have to find ways of achieving our multi-annual guidance programme and that set of targets is narrower than the overall desire, which hon. Members on both sides of the House share, to conserve our fish stocks.

Does my hon. Friend agree that all parties involved in the fishing industry accept that some steps must be taken to conserve fish? Will he confirm that limiting days at sea is only one of the ways in which the Government are seeking to restrain fishing effort? Will he further confirm that studies have shown that, in some instances, more than 300 days at sea have been allocated in response to fishermen's applications and that the threat of limiting days at sea is not as fierce as some Opposition Members may want fishermen to believe?

My hon. Friend speaks with a sure knowledge on these matters. I can confirm that some fishermen have received days-at-sea allocations up to that level. The particular concern, though, is for those fishermen who may have received the minimum allocation and are uncertain about their future. There may be problems with records, but we have already indicated many different ways in which those fishermen can submit further appeals to see whether their days-at-sea allocation can be enlarged. My hon. Friend is entirely right to say that we are pioneering other ways in which to limit fishing efforts. That is why the House last night approved a decommissioning scheme with a budget of £25 million attached to it.

I am a little disappointed to find the Minister resiling somewhat on what seemed to be the hopes of last night. Does he agree that it would be far better to provide for proper conservation by stopping the pillaging of our grounds by foreigners—in particular, Spaniards—than by stopping our vessels putting out to sea? In that connection, is it correct that, although as many infringements of fish conservation provisions in our grounds are being discovered by the fisheries protection fleet, fewer of them are being brought to court this year because his Department does not have the money for litigation? Is it also correct that the Irish Government are doing far more than ours to stamp out the secret fish holds that the Spanish are using?

We are spending some £20 million on the enforcement of fishing regulations and policy. I wish that we did not have to. I wish that people would play by the rules and not hide fish in hidden and dark holes, as every time somebody cheats on the fishing rules they deny another fisherman a living. As to prosecutions, the hon. Gentleman will realise that I cannot comment on specific cases. It is important, though, that when people break the rules they are properly prosecuted and that that information is made available.

May I join the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) in congratulating my hon. Friend on his statement last night. It clearly shows that, in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food we now have Ministers who listen. That is welcome. What proportion of the fleet is affected by the maximum limit of 80 days? If it is a relatively small proportion—I assume that it will be —could not the limit be increased to, say, 100 or 120 days without a significant effect on fishing efforts?

First, may I welcome my hon. Friend's kind comments about our announcements last night? On the subject of the number of vessels affected by the minimum allocation of days at sea, approximately half the applications that we have received are affected. I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that some 84 per cent. have already appealed against the minimum allocations. He will be aware that his proposition to increase the minimum number of days at sea was one of many helpful ideas that were put forward during the debate. Right hon. and hon. Members were invited to explore that among themselves and with their fishermen and to put forward their ideas during the period of consultation so that we may consider them.

Land Access

5.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will make a statement about improving access to set-aside and country stewardship land.

We have issued proposals for a scheme to open up new areas of suitable set-aside land for public access to the countryside. Strictly speaking, as I think the hon. Gentleman will know, the countryside stewardship scheme, which makes provision for access to a significant proportion of sites, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does she agree that, if land is not used for intensive farming, it is important that it is used for the community at large and that giving people an opportunity to walk peacefully across the land is important? Will she confirm that it is possible for farmers to receive income from the schemes in exchange for supposed access, but that the general public do not know that they have rights of access to that land?

Mistakes have been made in the countryside stewardship scheme, some of which were about giving adequate publicity. We will certainly learn lessons from the way in which the scheme has worked. However, there is no question of forcing farmers to allow access to land beyond public rights of way, as there are costs involved. The meadowland scheme, which is a new scheme proposed under the agri-environment regulation will provide an incentive and, as the hon. Gentleman has said, the public will benefit.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that most farmers are perfectly reasonable when it comes to people requesting access to their land so long as their behaviour is legitimate? Does she further agree that when people invade their land, farmers have far too few powers under the law to remove people who disrupt lawful activity? Will she therefore undertake to liaise with the Home Secretary to improve the powers of farmers to remove new age travellers and those who wish to disrupt a lawful hunt?

I agree with the examples that my hon. Friend gave to illustrate his point. I am happy to liaise with the Home Secretary on that and other points about law and order in the countryside. Most farmers are reasonable about allowing public access to their land. It is a two-way process. Those who seek access should treat it as though they were going, for example, to a place of work. They should be expected to behave responsibly and in return we would expect farmers to be reasonable.

Is not it an indictment of our society that the set-aside schemes were set up by the Common Market in order to destroy food and to allow farmers to watch the grass grow at £100 an acre while millions of people in the Sahara, other parts of Africa and other countries are starving to death? Is not it a fact that the royal family, including the Queen and the Prince of Wales, have had more than a quarter of a million pounds out of those tax avoidance schemes? It is no wonder that the Queen has offered to pay tax; she is using taxpayers' money to do it.

The fun was quickly over. Far from it being a case of a barrel of lard, it is one of sour milk. The hon. Gentleman has been second to none in requiring surpluses and intervention to be tackled firmly by the EC and set-aside and the CAP reforms do just that. I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman is not welcoming this move forward.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that farmers in my home village of Whimple in the constituency of Tiverton have been refused permission to hold fund-raising public events on set-aside land, the money from which would go to registered charities and the local church, for the sole reason that it is set-aside land? Will my right hon. Friend look at that case?

While the Secretary of State is considering the question of public access, I draw attention to the review group considering the possible privatisation of Forestry Enterprise and the Forestry Commission, on which her Department is represented. Is the right hon. Lady aware that the Countryside Commission's submission to that review group stated that public ownership has been an effective means of achieving public benefits? It went on to say that the disposal of some or all of the freehold estate, which comprises 40 per cent. of all forested land in Britain, is likely to lead to the loss of unrestricted, free of charge public access to the land in question. Does the right hon. Lady agree that public access to woodlands is best preserved by public ownership and will she ensure that her Department makes representations to the review group to that effect?

I was aware of those views and I think that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the review will consider forest land from the point of view of its commercial management, public access—which is important—and the protection of our heritage. Those three aspects are at the heart of the review and I keep an open mind about its findings.

Small Producers

6.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps are being taken to help small producers.

An important source of help to small producers is their ability to be able to claim arable area payments under simplified arrangements that do not require any land to be set aside.

I welcome my hon. Friend's reply and the assistance to small producers, but could not more assistance be given to some of our organic farmers, many of whom are small producers, perhaps via lower limits through the organic aid scheme?

I am pleased that my hon. Friend mentions organic farming, which is an important and developing area. However, it is equally important that, in developing, it does not swamp the available market for its excellent produce. A recent consultation document that we put out showed that a minimum eligible area of 10 hectares, and 50 hectares in the less-favoured areas, might be a possibility. As a result of the responses that we have received to that consultation document, we are considering whether a lower limit might be possible without excessive administrative cost.

Common Agricultural Policy

7.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent meetings she has had with her European counterparts to discuss financial aspects of the CAP.

Will the Minister confirm that the common agricultural policy costs each family in Britain approximately £18 per week extra in food bills and that part of the money is due to the absurd subsidies that continue to be paid into areas such as the tobacco mountain, which, even two years ago, cost £70 million? Does she agree that the Government's reluctance to address those absurd subsidies is a result of the sweetheart arrangements that they have with tobacco companies?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman—the cost of the CAP is far too high. I am sure that he will be delighted that the United Kingdom has consistently argued that its cost is too high and that it hampers the efficient allocation of resources in the economy. May I take it that his enthusiasm for lower costs shows a change of heart by Opposition Front-Bench Members over the whole range of policy?

I reject entirely the hon. Gentleman's accusation of sweethearting. Certainly tobacco excesses and tobacco mountains should be tackled in the same way as other surpluses have been tackled in the EC.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that good financial control depends on the famous level playing field, or level ploughing field in this case? Did she see the letter in Farming News recently which described a British farmer visiting a French farm after 20 years and finding that nothing had changed, that the farmers had never heard of the set-aside scheme or health and safety regulations, that they were still making butter in the kitchen and selling it at the farm gate and that the village slaughterhouse had not changed either? How can we be more certain under the new rules that financial control is to be applied equally across the European Community?

I totally agree that we should aim for a level ploughing field as well as a level playing field. One hears the accusations that nobody keeps the rules but us in every member state in the Community and in every policy area. However, there is no doubt that the agreements reached at Edinburgh will help the tightening-up and monitoring of the rules, and not a day too soon.

The Minister confirmed that the average cost to a family arising from the CAP is £18 a week. She has congratulated herself many times on the recent renegotiations of the CAP. Will she confirm that the renegotiations have increased the figure to more than £18 per week?

It is the case that the figure has increased and much of that is to do with exchange rate mechanism realignments. The package was negotiated within the agricultural guideline that expects and looks forward to agriculture taking up a decreasing amount of the EC budget.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the worrying aspects of the set-aside scheme is its adverse effect on the employment propspects of workers in agriculture? Do the financial arrangements of the CAP, to which we, as a nation, make such huge contributions, make any provision for paying compensation to agricultural workers who lose their jobs because of set-aside?

No. There are no such arrangements in the CAP. However, my hon. Friend will know that while in this country, as elsewhere, agricultural employment is declining, growth of population in rural areas is increasing and, with it, prosperity and jobs.

Has the Minister had the opportunity to discuss with her European partners the free-market pricing arrangements that exist in New Zealand, which have some support in the British farming community and some support in interested quarters of the House of Commons? Has she any preliminary views on those matters?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that the recent CAP reform package represented a move towards more market-orientated arrangements. I recently met representatives from New Zealand and I was most interested to hear from them about the way in which things were working. I lose no opportunity to press on my EC colleagues the need for farming and agriculture generally to look towards the markets because that is the only sure way in the future.

Fish Conservation

8.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans she has to consult further the fishing industry over its current concerns about the requirement to reduce fishing effort.

I announced last night a postponement of the introduction of days-at-sea restrictions which will give us the opportunity to consult the industry about the need to reduce fishing effort. I already have plans to visit fishermen in Humberside next week, and further visits and meetings are being arranged. I look forward to an early and positive response from the industry.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the fishermen of Poole will welcome the opportunity to make their contribution to devising sensible—I underline the word "sensible"—conservation measures? Will he assure the House that he will not introduce conservation measures in this country until he has a firm and binding agreement that our EC partners will introduce them at the same time? It is ridiculous that our fishermen should have to watch fishermen from other EC countries blatantly flouting regulations that they are expected to obey.

I very much welcome my hon. Friend's kind comments on our announcements last night. Everyone in the industry shares the desire to conserve fish stocks. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance on the policy announced, especially with reference to days at sea., that we should not dream of going beyond the proposals I outlined last night without clear signs that our Community partners are making an effective attempt to reduce their fishing effort.

Is the Minister aware that, having read carefully his remarks last night, I realise that my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) is right to point out that the hon. Gentleman is today putting a different gloss on his announcement? Surely he understands that the fishermen are considering bringing forward additional technical conservation measures as an alternative to compulsory tie-up. Will he accept that, during the postponement, the Government should look at all the options? Can he give us an assurance that one of the options is the complete abandonment of the days-at-sea restrictions?

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an assurance on the complete abandonment of days-a t-sea restrictions. I remind him of the words in his own document "Marine Harvest", in which he couples with his support for a decommissioning scheme the need for effort reduction. Days-at-sea restrictions have an important contribution to make.

However, I said last night that we should look at all the ideas put to us for modifications of the details of the days-at-sea restrictions. I gave the undertaking, which I am happy to repeat this afternoon, that we should continue to work with, for example, the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, which is undertaking a conservation review. We shall also look at any ideas that others put forward on the subject of technical measures which might be tradeable against effort reduction. However, I make it clear that we cannot say whether those ideas will be accepted in terms of our multi-annual guidance programme target. The only people who can do that are the Commissioners. However, I give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that we shall discuss sensible ideas with the Commission.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, this morning, the wives of the fishermen in Hastings and Rye marched through the town and presented a petition warning of what they think will be the hardship that they will face because of the introduction of days-at-sea restrictions? Does he agree that that is a welcome sign of a vibrant democracy? Will he please give me some idea of what reassurance he would give the wives, who are very disturbed at the thought of the impact of the restrictions?

I had some flavour of the feelings of fishermen's wives when I met them today after my right hon. Friend the Minister and I had given evidence to the Select Committee on Agriculture. They were forceful in the views that they put to me and I was left in no doubt of their feelings. However, I was able to reassure them, as I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend's constituents, about the minimum 80 days, which worried them. I pointed out to them that those who, for example, did not have complete logs or who had been fishing for non-precious stocks, such as crabs, would have an opportunity to have their allocations reviewed. I also said to them that we were interested in a sustainable and viable fishing industry. I said that if there were good ideas, in terms both of fishing policy in general and of modifications to days-at-sea restrictions in particular, we should look at them. I urge the wives in my hon. Friend's constituency to sit down with their papers and to let us have their ideas without delay.

Animal Transport

9.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans she has to improve the welfare of animals transported from the United Kingdom to the rest of the EC.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Nicholas Soames)

We have maintained strict national rules to safeguard the welfare of animals during transport, both within this country and for export.

We are pressing for these rules to be extended throughout the Community.

As there are no official figures that show the number of British farm animals that are exported, we must rely on the estimates of the trade, which suggest that there has been a huge increase.

Does the Minister accept that at risk are not only the welfare of animals but the jobs of British meat processors? Instead of watching a year-on-year increase in the number of animals making long journeys abroad, will the Minister fight for meat to be exported on the hook rather than on the hoof, for slaughter to occur as near to the point of production as possible and for a maximum journey time of eight hours?

The hon. Gentleman did a good job in getting all the salient points into his question—I congratulate him. The British trade in animals is important. Statistics for 1992 show that the live export trade—mainly of cattle, sheep and pigs—is worth more than £160 million. The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a strong demand for British beef and lamb because they are outstandingly good beasts which command a premium on the continent.

Our European friends prefer that the animals be slaughtered on the continent because they particularly like their butchers' cuts. The hon. Gentleman should be equally aware that the export trade keeps a great number of people employed on farms to raise the animals. I take the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about abattoirs, which is a regrettable side effect. On balance, the trade is important for British farmers.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the incomes of lowland livestock producers have fallen dramatically during the past few years and that those producers are worried about the future of their industry? In his future negotiations with EC colleagues, will he take great care to agree to nothing that could disadvantage the United Kingdom livestock producer?

My hon. Friend has my complete assurance that the Government would never do such a thing. As I said to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy), the trade is important and expanding. Nevertheless, the point that the hon. Gentleman made about the welfare of animals during travel is relevant and is one of which we are most mindful. We intend to bring the rest of the EC up to the same high standards of animal welfare that we have in this country.

Woodland

10.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions she has had about introducing long-term non-rotational set-aside relating to woodland.

I have received many representations about the importance of allowing woodland planting on non-rotational set-aside. As recently as last week, I raised the matter at the informal agriculture council in Denmark, and I shall continue to press for it to be allowed.

Does the Minister appreciate that a higher rate of set-aside may be necessary to establish environmentally friendly schemes, such as the Greenwood community forest in north Nottinghamshire? Will she continue to press the EC to have such a scheme established quickly?

The European Commission at the moment is rather negative. It feels that such a scheme might allow marginal land to count against set-aside. We do not agree. The way forward is to make a link with the community forestry measures and arrangements for set-aside to allow farmers to enter the land in the farm woodland premium scheme. The farmers would not receive set-aside payments as well, but they would have a long-term guarantee. I shall continue to press that case.

My right hon. Friend will know that the new national forest in the midlands is centred on my constituency of Leicestershire, North-West. Additional incentives are required if farmers are to set aside land to encourage the creation of the wondrous new forest. Will my right hon. Friend impress on those in Brussels that the forest is of national and European significance?

There is a link between those proposals and the proposals for non-rotational set-aside on which we expect the Commission to introduce proposals by the end of July. My hon. Friend may rest assured that I will continue to press that case, not only for woodland but for rules on set-aside that our farmers need now.

Common Agricultural Policy

11.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations she has received on financial aspects of the common agricultural policy.

Given that the Minister conceded earlier that the scheme costs £18 per family in Britain and as the CAP serves the interests of neither agriculture nor the consumer, is it not time that she stopped merely talking about it and took some action to get rid of that obscenity of a policy which suits no one, least of all Britain?

I find that fairly rich, coming from an Opposition Member. The cost is too high, as the Government agree. It would be good if, for once, someone from the Opposition supported us when we wanted to cut costs in any area.

Has my right hon. Friend received any representations about the financial aspects of CAP in association with incentives to create environmentally sensitive areas?

Part of the CAP reform package included several incentives for what we call the agri-environment package. We have consulted widely on that package and we expect to announce some schemes in the autumn.

In the light of the Minister's response on the costs of CAP, will she confirm that the costs are due to increase this year by £1·3 billion and that it is expected that by 1995 they will have increased by some £4 billion? How does that equate with the statement made by her predecessor that the CAP reform was good for the taxpayer and the consumer? Will she give us an assurance that the Government will oppose those unacceptable and unjustified increases?

I explained to the House that the £1·3 billion increase was the result of various exchange rate mechanism realignments. The hon. Gentleman may possibly have missed that. The important thing is that agriculture continues to take a decreasing proportion of the European Community budget as a whole—which it is doing—and that it keeps within the guidelines set by the EC and approved by the House. That is also happening, but I agree that the cost is too high. I am delighted to have such support from the Opposition in cutting public expenditure.

Produce Marketing

12.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress is being made with the marketing of British agricultural produce.

The Government are committed to encouraging the agriculture and food industries to improve and enhance their marketing. That is why we have established the market task force within the Ministry, introduced the group marketing grant and promoted the Agriculture Bill.

Does my hon. Friend agree that even though food exports are now increasing at a faster rate than food imports, it is vital that we improve our trade position in food? Does he further agree that, given the competitive exchange rate, all the help that is given to producers with marketing and processing and all the help from Food From Britain, it is up to food companies to make the most of the opportunities that are available to them?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. There is no doubt that dazzling and glittering prizes are available for the food industry in its export markets. It is one of the industries in which Great Britain truly leads the world. I wholly endorse my hon. Friend's view that we look to the industry for greatly enhanced performance in marketing.

I refer the Minister to his earlier answer on the welfare of animals that are transported in awful conditions. Those conditions have no place in today's modern society. Is the Minister aware that the export of sheep from Britain has led to the closure of a modern abattoir in my constituency with the loss of 35 jobs? Surely the Ministry should encourage the export of farm produce chilled rather than on the hoof.

I explained to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) why our continental friends prefer the export of animals on the hoof. The hon. Gentleman must understand that the business is important for our farmers. Equally, he is perfectly right to highlight the important welfare aspects of the business. That trade can take place only if the conditions in which it operates are honourable and have the integrity of properly enforced rules. I deeply regret the closure of the abattoir in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I am afraid that that is a function of the marketplace and, for the moment, the very admirable British stock is commanding very high prices abroad.

When my hon. Friend meets those who buy British goods in this country, will he urge them to plan their purchases carefully and as gently as they do when they plan purchasing goods from abroad?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Naturally, we always hope that our British—[interruption.] I am grateful to the House. We always hope that our British goods, which are so very reasonably priced and so excellent in quality, will always command the support of the housewife wherever she buys them.