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European Community

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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asked the Prime Minister what study he is making of the effects of United Kingdom membership of the EEC.

The effects of EEC policies in different fields are kept under continuing review.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Common Market is now regarded as a disaster by the British people in general and by the vast majority of the Labour movement in particular? Does he not feel that it is now time for another referendum, with the Labour Government leading the campaign to come out?

I know that my hon. Friend is very concerned to uphold conference decisions on all these matters. I must remind him that at the special Labour Party conference that was called to consider the referendum, the decision was taken that the Government would accept the result of the referendum as binding. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want me to go back on that.

Is the Prime Minister proud of the fact that as we reach the end of the period of British presidency of the Commission, the Tribune Group should be trying to lead us out of the EEC while others of his colleagues are preventing us from carrying out our obligations on direct elections?

I do not think that any of us should try to silence or stifle the legitimate criticisms of weakness in the EEC structure, some of which are exemplified by some of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends. But that does not alter the basic fact that our presidency has certainly been at least as successful as those of our predecessors—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, yes?"] Oh, yes! I have been there and seen. For the future, it is our job to play our full part in developing a new and wider Europe. That is what we said we would do when we had our special conference.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only realistic view at the moment is to stay in the EEC and make it work much better? Can he confirm or deny authoritative reports that our inflation problem is not even primarily due to the EEC, and will he ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture is honest with the House and gives the figures that will bear that out?

Answers have been given in this House that show the influence of the common agricultural policy on price rises in this country. The CAP has had an impact on certain food prices but certainly not on the general level of inflation, which is due to many other causes. The Minister of Agriculture has played a most notable part in recent negotiations, in that for the first time the increase in rewards given to the agricultural community was less than the increase in their costs. This is the kind of restructuring that we must continue to work for.

Does the Prime Minister agree that the view that we take on the CAP is dictated largely by the view that we take on the balance between the world supply of and demand for food in future? In future, people will be very grateful for having paid a high price to be part of a self-sufficient food community if there is a drastic world food shortage in the 1980s and 1990s. What studies have the Government made of the world supply and demand for food in the 1980s and 1990s?

Studies that have been done have led to the conclusion that the hon. Member has just given—that there will be a growing world demand for food and a possible world shortage as standards improve. That is why, in the case of our own agriculture—although we have not succeeded as much as we would like—we have proceeded with expansion. [Interruption.] There will be expansion of agricultural production this year if we do not have another drought. On world food production—there are some surpluses in North America, and that country would like a greater access to the European market. We should try, temporarily, to adjust ourselves to that, but, at the same time, there is every reason why Europe should become as self-supporting as possible.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister said that he did not want to be pressed about President Amin, Drax B, or direct elections. Is it possible to elicit from him, through you, any area of Government activity in which he would like to be pressed?