Parties unite over Welsh support

Opposition parties have told Welsh Assembly’s rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones to expect a fight over his plan to scrap targeted support for less favoured areas.

Mr Jones had invited farming spokesmen for the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru to an unofficial meeting to discuss the future of the Tir Mynydd hill support scheme.

From the outset they told him that their hostility to the idea of phasing it out was “absolute” and “unshakeable”.

“We made it 100% clear that we speak with one voice on this issue,” said Brynle Williams, the Conservative AM who also farms in north-west Wales.

“There can be no compromise if we are to keep farmers, their families and communities in the hills and uplands.”

Opposition parties would unite at the Assembly, where Labour has no overall majority, to oppose the winding up of Tir Mynydd, while similar support schemes continued to operate in the rest of the UK.

The spokesmen insisted that the £36m a year scheme should continue as long as it retained EU approval, and they called for an all-party task force to be set up to examine how less favoured area farmers might be assisted if and when it had to end.

“The meeting was remarkably frank, but there was no name calling.

The minister listened, but gave no hint that he was willing to change his mind,” said Mr Williams.

The talks came a week after Mr Williams told the minister that, to maintain the landscape, he would have to pay at least 25 people to replace every farming family driven out of the uplands.

Arwyn Owen, Farmers Union of Wales policy director, said he was delighted that the meeting had gone ahead.

“We have put our members’ feelings to the minister very forcibly on several occasions.

Now he knows the strength of political opposition.”