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Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 929: debated on Thursday 7 April 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made towards change of the common agricultural policy of the EEC; and if he will report on his latest discussions on the matter in Europe.

I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 30th March about the latest discussions in the Council of Agriculture Ministers.—[Vol. 929, c. 411–22.]

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the Minister will resist, with every means at his disposal, all policies that are likely to result in the creation of massive surpluses, whether of beef, butter, wine or anything else? Will he give a further assurance that the Minister will also resist any attempt to sell off such surpluses at bargain basement prices to countries outside the Community? Will he also give an assurance that the Minister will do all he can to protect the consumer from the profligate policies based on the common agricultural policy?

There is a great deal of agreement between my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) on these matters. The House has debated the proposals of 16th March and the statement of 30th March. The main objective is to reduce surpluses by setting support prices at a sensible level. We want better and less wasteful use of the Community's resources. My hon. Friend is right in implying that there should be a balance between producer and consumer, because if the consumer cannot afford to consume it affects the producer and results in the surpluses that we want to avoid.

Has the hon. Gentleman studied the responses of such nations as Canada and the United States, which have experienced large surpluses of various commodities in the past? If such a study has been carried out, what lessons have been learnt which might profitably be learnt in the Community with particular reference to our agriculture industry?

The lessons are clear in the Community already. We want to avoid surpluses, which means setting prices at a sensible level. We want to ensure that the most efficient producers are encouraged and the less efficient discouraged. We want to fashion the CAP garment to the needs of this country as well as to the Community as a whole.