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Beef Crisis

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1997

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When he last met representatives of the farming unions to discuss the beef crisis in Wales. [12380]

My right hon. Friend and I met both farming unions in Wales on Friday 30 May and again just over a week ago. Welsh Office Ministers and officials have had discussions with both unions on numerous occasions.

I thank the Minister for that reply. I also thank him for his contribution to this morning's debate. I particularly welcome the Government's initiative on attempting to lift the beef ban, which was made more difficult by the actions of the previous Conservative Government. Does he recognise that there are immediate concerns in the beef industry about the over-30-months scheme, the green pound and the value of sterling? Can the Government do anything in the short term to alleviate those real problems?

I can give no categorical, cast-iron assurances of significant action in the short term, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that, although we are not yet convinced that there is a proven case for tackling any aspect of the green pound revaluation, we have given an undertaking to continue reviewing that. We have until next January to make final decisions on most aspects of the green pound revaluation. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall continue to keep that under review.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many farmers in Wales deplore the Opposition's negative attitude to Europe? Many farmers know that agricultural policy is inextricably linked with European policy. Does he agree that it is high time that the Opposition took a more realistic approach to Europe?

That is certainly the case. It is a pity that the previous Government were so anti-European—virtually at war with Europe. This Government have much improved relationships with Europe. They will be further improved next week, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will visit Brussels for discussions with, among others, the Agriculture Commissioner.

Order. Let me remind hon. Members that they can ask only questions for which the Government are responsible. The Government have no responsibility for what the Opposition do.