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8.38 pm

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), and I was interested to hear what she had to say about compassion in Welsh farming, as well as world farming.

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter), I was not born in Swansea, although my mother was born in Aberavon, which is not too far from there, and I have spent a considerable amount of time in Wales. My mother was a fluent Welsh speaker. I have always been keen on learning foreign languages, if I can call Welsh a foreign language in this debate.

Mr. Simon Thomas: It is not a foreign language in Wales.

Mr. Fabricant: I suspect that "foreign" is the wrong word to use in this debate, although it is a sad fact that technically, according to the rules of the House, Welsh is a foreign language in that we are not allowed to use it other than in short, illustrative instances. It is a great regret to me that my mother did not speak Welsh to me, so that I could have been as fluent in Welsh as I am in French and German.

Mr. Flynn: Os yw'n bosib i mi siarad yn Gymraeg, rydw i eisiau dweud wrth y Ty bod y Gwr anrhydeddus yn ynfytyn.

Mr. Fabricant: Were my mother here, she would give the hon. Gentleman the riposte that he deserves. Were I to give him the riposte that he deserves in that language, I would be out of order. It is out of order to intervene or make lengthy contributions in Welsh, which is unfortunate--but I can understand why. Outside the Chamber, the hon. Gentleman may tell me precisely what he said. I can assume only that it was highly complimentary, because outside the Chamber he is an hon. Friend indeed.

A few hours ago, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced a national minimum wage of £4.10 an hour. As I said then, I have never objected in principle to a minimum working wage, provided that it is set at a sensible rate. Sadly, in Wales, both in agriculture and in tourism, many people will not enjoy that minimum working wage. Three weeks ago, I was in the constituency of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), staying at the guest house of Mrs. Pugh, which is called Dolfanog Fach, in Talyllyn, Gwynedd. I spent two healthy days there, perhaps preparing for the general election, and climbed Cader Idris in almost record time. I then went on a 17-mile walk, which would not be possible now because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

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I simply make the point that, like many people who work for themselves in the tourist industry, Mrs. Pugh and her son, who work at Dolfanog Fach, do not earn the minimum working wage. We should never forget that although a minimum working wage is set for those who are employed, the self-employed often cannot enjoy that luxury. That is certainly the case for many of the 31,700 farmers who work in Wales.

Let us remind ourselves of the position of Welsh farming. The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) described in some detail the plight in which Welsh farmers find themselves: 3,800 people--73 every week--left the Welsh agriculture industry in 2000. They did so not because they voluntarily gave up farming, but because they simply could not make a living. A National Farmers Union audit showed that 62 per cent. of farmers were working more than 61 hours a week. The Government have set a minimum working wage and they are trying to set maximum working hours, but those are hard to deliver in practice.

I remind the House that, as I have been reminded by the National Farmers Union of Wales, at the farm gate Welsh dairy farmers receive 3p a pint less for their milk than it costs to produce. The union denounced the drastic fall in incomes and in February, before the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease, called that a "disaster for the industry". The statistics on total income from farming released by the National Assembly reveal that incomes for those working in the agriculture industry in Wales fell by a staggering £60 million in 2000, to stand at minus £2.6 million.

As recently as 12 February, Hugh Richards, president of NFU Cymru, said:

Other industries in farming, not just the dairy industry, have been affected. He continues:

I have heard that somewhere before--

The Welsh Assembly has claimed that the main reason for the fall in income was a fall in output, and in the subsidies for produce, which were £58 million lower. There is real concern about the future of farming in Wales. A 1998 survey by the National Farmers Union in England found that the children of two thirds of its members did not want to take over the farms because they could not see a future for the industry. As I said, people are already leaving the farming industry in Wales. That is desperately sad.

As we all know, the entire industry is under threat from foot and mouth disease. Wales has so far been hit by three confirmed cases, although I fear that there may be more cases by now. They are at an abattoir at Gaerwen on Anglesey, and farms at Painscastle near Hay-on-Wye and Felindre near Newtown. Others are under investigation.

The position of farming in Wales is grave. It is grave in the United Kingdom as a whole, but it is particularly difficult in Wales, which has a varied and difficult landscape in which to farm, especially for hill farmers. It is all very well for the Government to announce provisions such as the minimum working wage, but

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people in farming are earning a negative income. Initiatives from Westminster often mean nothing to those people, whether in Swansea, Betws y Coed or Ceredigion.

8.47 pm

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): I am sorry that I was provoked by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant), who is a friend, but this is the only Parliament that Wales has--we have an Assembly--and we are not allowed to use one of the beautiful languages of Wales, as it has the status of a foreign language in this place. He should not have rubbed that in.

I have a good news story to tell. We are overwhelmed with the trauma of bad news. We feel that we need counselling after listening to the speeches from Opposition Members and the tidal wave of negativity and misery. A remarkable change is taking place in the Celtic nations of Europe. It has passed almost unnoticed, but it is a positive and important change. My hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mrs. Lawrence) referred to the Brythonic group of nations. The two groups of Celtic nations--the Gadhelic nations including the Manx, the Scottish and the Irish, and the Brythonic nations of Wales, Cornwall and Brittany--are separated by thousands of miles, but are coming together for the first time in 2,000 years. That has never happened before.

The Celtic languages and identity have, in the past, been a source of pain, poverty, division and anger against our neighbours--in Britain, it was England; and for the Bretons it was the French nation. That is now changing. In the past, the Celtic language and culture were seen as second rate. On St. David's day, a lady in my constituency, who is my age, 66, told me that when she was at school people were taught and conditioned to believe that Welsh, being Welsh and thinking about Welsh and Welsh literature were second class. We have our slave names: Jones, William and Thomas. The Cornish hung on to their names, such as Pemberthy and Trethown. The reason that the most common name in Wales is Jones, which uses a letter that is not used in the Welsh language, is because the English could not pronounce the Welsh names and called everyone John, William and Thomas. Our young people are now rightly throwing away those names and using their two first names. They take pride in having a Celtic name.

It is marvellous that the two most promising politicians in Wales at the moment are women, Delyth Evans and Eluned Morgan, who are fluent in Welsh and other languages. They are products not of the Welsh Gaeltacht in north Wales or of Gwynedd, but of Splott and of Ely in Cardiff, which are entirely English-speaking areas.

What is happening in Brittany? When I was there in the early 1970s, I spoke to an elderly man who told me that, in his lifetime, the sabot, which is like the Welsh not, was hung around people's necks, and if they spoke a word in Breton they had to take it off and pass it on to the next person. He said, "We were the petits delateurs: we were the little sneaks. That is what they made of us, the young Bretons." The language was on the point of extinction; only the elderly spoke it.

In one village, just one child was learning Breton. Nowadays it is a different story. Five thousand young Bretons are receiving their education entirely in the

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Breton language. There is a brand-new radio station--probably set up by the hon. Member for Lichfield, who has set up radio stations in many parts of the world. It broadcasts entirely in Breton, and is run by young people specialising in bagpipe and flute music.

Moreover, a television station has been set up for hard-headed business reasons, not to function as a cultural ghetto. Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch have put their money into it. It broadcasts six hours of Breton every day, and is putting all the Celtic programmes together, including programmes from Wales. It is broadcasting "Braveheart" in Breton. The whole thing is aimed not just at the 3 million people living in the Breton area, but at the 8 million people throughout France who feel that they have a Breton identity.

Links are being forged between Scotland and Ireland. The magnificent, beautiful building of St. Columbia on the Isle of Skye was designed to reconnect the two branches of Gadhelic in those two countries--what a way to bring together the two communities in Northern Ireland. It is part of the tradition and heritage of those two communities, Scottish Gaelic--pronounced "Gallic"--and Irish Gaelic.

In Ireland itself, we see economic growth and a growth in self-confidence. It was De Valera who sent scholars to the Isle of Man in the 1950s to re-teach them their own inheritance. In Cornwall, there is more recognition of the Cornish identity than ever before. We should remember what was happening there in the 14th and 15th centuries--Cornwall had its own Parliament for 300 years; 10 per cent. of Cornish people voted for Mebyon Kernyw in the European elections.

We note what is happening with pride. Yesterday someone said, "Give us back our country." Some of us say that we want our country back. We want our own Parliament, ac i siarad yn ein iaith ein hunain, and not to be mocked.

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