Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2000
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.