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European Community Commissioner For Agriculture

Volume 930: debated on Thursday 21 April 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met Mr. Gundelach, Commissioner for Agriculture.

At last month's Agriculture Council. I am, however, to have discussions with him later today.

The right hon. Gentleman is reported as holding out in the Common Market negotiations for a substantial butter subsidy, the continuation of the beef premium and the retention of the Milk Marketing Board. Will he say by how much he estimates that United Kingdom food prices will go up this year if all his conditions are met?

No, I do not at this moment intend to enter into details about the negotiations. I think that that would be wrong. I hope that by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week we shall get a package of which the House and the country will approve. I think that that will be the correct time to give all the necessary information. It would mean tying my hands a little too much—although I appreciate the friendliness of the hon. Gentleman's question—to answer him in detail at present.

As it seems to be endemic within the CAP to build moun- tains of butter and beef, can my hon. Friend assure me that, next time a mountain is disposed of, it will go to the people of this country in greatest need?

That, in part, is what I am trying to achieve. It is a very interesting statistical fact that more butter per head of the population is consumed by old-age pensioners and by those earning under £30 a week than among the higher income groups. That is a factor which I take very much into account in by belief that a butter subsidy is of importance to the British people.

When the Minister meets Mr. Gundelach, will he ask him what on earth is happening to the negotiations with Iceland? Will he also ask him what progress is being made about the fisheries limits around these islands?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I had intended to ask Mr. Gundelach myself despite the hon. Gentleman's question. It seems to me that these are matters which require urgent consideration. However, it is good that for the present six months a British President of the Council will be accompanying the Commissioner to the resumed negotiations in Iceland. Further more, it is of great importance that the Commissioner has promised us that his proposals for the internal régime will be available this month.