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The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. May I ask him to talk not so much about beef exports but to tell us something about the beef to be sold by the small farmer who is unable to find a market for his beef? May I ask what the Government are going to do for these people?

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, by the improvements that we are making we hope to be able to improve the lot of the small farmer. I do agree there is a difficulty, as has been mentioned tonight, about the supermarkets. I can assure the noble Earl that this Government believe in the small farmer and what he is doing in the farm shop. We do believe in beef being sold locally as far as possible, and we shall certainly do everything we can to assist in that direction.

We are trying in relation to Europe to establish the need to reform the common agricultural policy. I believe that that would help the farmers. We have to take it from being based on production alone to looking again, as has been said tonight, at other areas, taking into account the environment as well. I believe that if we can get through what we are trying to achieve it will be very helpful to small farmers and family farmers. We have to get away from what has been the basis of payments in the past: that is in relation to production.

Unfortunately, on sheep reform we were not able to do this, but we are proceeding as far as we can with other matters. It has also to be said that we must be interested as well in the rural community as a whole. I would like to say to your Lordships that we have a

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vision for the countryside and it is wrong to suggest that we are an urban government. Indeed, we have a long tradition in rural communities as well as in towns. We are well aware of the problems facing the rural areas and of the fact that they need special attention.

In our vision for the countryside we recognise the distinctive features and needs involved, and also the needs of family farms. Our vision has several strands. First, we believe in a living countryside and recognise the need to keep rural communities intact. The countryside should not be allowed to decay or to be turned into a museum or indeed a theme park. Secondly, like everyone else, we want to see a working countryside where jobs are available and residents are not forced to commute or move to the towns. A strong vibrant economy needs the contribution that rural areas can make.

Thirdly, we recognise that town and country are one nation with close relations between the two. Many who live in rural areas work in towns, while those who live in towns rely on the countryside for relaxation and leisure. We want to strengthen those relations. Fourthly, we want to enhance the environment. We want a countryside in which we care for the range of plants and animals and in which the landscape is properly protected and conserved. It is vital for the quality of life of those who live and work there, and equally of those who relax there.

Finally, we intend to promote a rural White Paper. We do care. We have already given help to bus services. We want to see a countryside which is alive. Having said all that to noble Lords and having expressed the concern of the Government for the countryside, I should like to finish by thanking all speakers who have participated this evening. It has been a good debate and one which I welcome. I can assure all noble Lords who took part that I shall ensure that all the views expressed are passed to Ministers, especially my right honourable friend the Minister in the other place.

        House adjourned at eleven minutes past ten o'clock.


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