Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 362)



  360. I have to say the record of your industry when you have had good years of protecting yourselves and making provision for the bad is not always all that good. You tend to spend the money you have on perhaps improving your farms rather than providing money for a rainy day.
  (Mr Gill) Thank you, Chairman, for the comment. Can I vary it by saying, putting aside for the rainy day is quite often investment in the farm to provide better facilities and more cost effective facilities. Many farmers have had to invest in those, particularly even in difficult times recently, simply to save labour costs. When we hear comments of "Well, there is a nice big red or green shiny tractor" that has obviously been two tractors sold to buy one to save one labour unit of necessity to cut costs. If you look at our investment record, and the way we spend profits accrued to the industry, I have nothing to hide from anybody in this building.

  361. Do you think it could get worse? We are asking everybody what would be your worst case scenario. Next week at this time the Chancellor will be making an interim Budget statement, what would you hope he does not say?
  (Mr Gill) Chairman, the level of despondency, despair, frustration, isolation, anger, the feeling of lack of understanding of farmers and food producers in this country is something that I have never seen in my life. People who are balanced optimists who live and thrive in the countryside, live on very little in terms of their own drawings, face me and talk to me with a sheer feeling of desperation, how can they go on? If somebody offered them a route out they would leave. Not tomorrow, they would leave now. We need from the Government very clear signs that the Government is listening, it is doing more than that, it is actually trying to understand the depth of this desperation of farming communities, farmers and their wives across the country, and their workers as well, and to show that manifestly in the actions of the Government, and the statement the Chancellor makes next Wednesday will have a significant bearing. When I have a farmer's wife ring me to tell me her husband stormed out of the house after his coffee break, he has gone down to the far end of the farm cutting hedges and she does not know whether he will come back at lunchtime or not, handling those telephone calls, Chairman, is extremely difficult and it is not an isolated case. It is a source of enormous concern to me. The suicide rate in our industry is the highest there is and it is a source of enormous shame to me and to my fellow farmers. We are not asking for goodies, we are asking for a fair share of the UK economic cake and a fair understanding. If there is anything worse, it would be that we do not get those messages from our Government that has been elected and said very clearly to me that it wants to demonstrate those things.

  362. Thank you very much, Mr Gill.
  (Mr Gill) Thank you.

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