§ 10. Mr. Colvin
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his final recommendations to the European Commission for non-rotational set-aside.
§ Mr. Gummer
We are pressing the Commission to come forward with its proposals for non-rotational set-aside as soon as possible. It reported at our last meeting that it would do so.
§ Mr. Colvin
The House may share my hope that the Commission's proposals, when we see them, will be based on my right hon. Friend's recommendations for 1140 non-rotational set-aside. At present, 15 per cent. of our countryside, which at this time of year should be looking a picture, is a mess. The farmers are frustrated, the public are getting angry, and a much better method must be found to take this 15 per cent. of land out of arable production.
§ Mr. Gummer
I am not quite sure that that sweeping generalisation is true. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is rather enthusiastic about rotational set-aside. After all, a high proportion of land has historically always been set aside rotationally as part of the fallowing process. I think that a mixture of non-rotational and rotational set-aside, chosen by the farmer, must be the best answer. I should like that to be attended by environmental requirements so that the public good is respected. That is what we hope the Commission will propose.
§ Mr. Skinner
Does the Minister agree that we have reached a sorry state of affairs when, after 20 years in the Common Market, every family in Britain is paying £19 a week to prop up the common agricultural policy while farmers in Britain are being told to watch the grass grow and collect up to £80 an acre for doing so? When millions of people in the third world need food, the best answer must be to produce food in Britain so that the empty bellies in the Sudan and other parts of Africa can be filled.
§ Mr. Gummer
This is the first time the hon. Gentleman has produced the farmers' argument and I would like what he says to be true, but he should have discussions with Oxfam, Christian Aid and other bodies which know a little more about this than he does. They will tell him that that is not the way to help the agriculture or the feeding of the third world. Indeed, one of the reasons why we want to reduce over-production in the European Community is that it undermines agriculture in the third world. It is scandalous that oilseed rape oil produced in the EC is sold in developing countries more cheaply than the oil that they produce at home. I hope that we shall be able to stop that.