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European Economic Community

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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25.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what negotiations on agriculture he has held with the European Economic Community.

In view of the anxiety which is felt about our future relations with the Common Market or the European Community, will my right hon. Friend consider publishing a statement on the views, of the Ministry of Agriculture concerning the possibilities of our associating with the European Community?

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, what is happening in this field, as in other fields, is a general study to see whether there is a basis on which we would be able to negotiate with the Common Market countries and, at the same time, preserve the vital interests of agriculture and, of course, the many interests of the Commonwealth and other countries which are interested in our food market.

In view of the many contradictory statements which have been made about this subject by Ministers, will the Minister of Agriculture undertake that, soon after we return after the Recess, he will make a full statement of the implications, not only to the agricultural community but to consumers, of our entering the Common Market?

I understand that it has been contemplated through the usual channels that there might be a debate in the House on agriculture soon after we return after the Whitsun Recess. That would seem to be an appropriate time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one is most disturbed that any abandonment of the 1947 or 1957 Acts might not only hurt the farmer and increase the price of food in this country, but also increase our competitive costs with the rest of the world?

Yes, Sir. Of course, integration with the Six in any form would involve quite considerable changes in the methods that we use for supporting the farmer and also in the cost of food in this country. But, of course, the pledges which the Government have given in this regard at the last election stand inviolate.

In view of the general interest in this matter, will the Minister consider circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full account of his rowdy meeting with Conservative back benchers a night or two ago?

I read a report of that in one daily edition and it was one with which I did not agree.