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Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 934: debated on Thursday 30 June 1977

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12.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he has made in the fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy since he assumed office as President of the Council of Ministers.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) yesterday when he set out the main decisions on agriculture and food taken within the European Community during the United Kingdom Presidency.

Since I did not see the answer to the Question I can only take it that it was nothing. Will the Minister spell out to the House what actual achievements he can record in the last six months, rather than what he is negotiating?

That would take a very long time. I think that Mr. Speaker would object if I were to spell out the list of achievements that we have set on record. I would isolate the most important one, which in my view is that the great weakness of the CAP is that it has set farm and food prices at far too high a level. In the last price fixing we held down the increase in common prices to 3½ per cent., which represented a fall, in real terms, in other member States. That represents the beginning of a very important change in the CAP. Furthermore, by securing a wholly Community-financed butter subsidy we made it clear that when there are surpluses they should be used to the benefit of our own consumers.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a considerable amount of substance in the policy that was agreed by all the Socialist Members of the Nine? If he accepts that, will he deny the rumour that is going around, which is perpetrated by the Tribune Group, that we wish to get out of the Common Market? Will my hon. Friend state whether the Department agrees that we would be better off in or out?

I can inform my hon. Friend that it is not the Government's policy to take Britain out of the Common Market. I can also inform my hon. Friend that we see considerable merit in some of the proposals put forward by him and his Socialist colleagues in the European Assembly. Furthermore, I can assure him that we have already set out on the road which he and his colleagues would like us to follow in this respect.

Does the Common Market agricultural policy permit France to prohibit imports of sheepmeat from Britain while apparently preventing Britain from prohibiting imports of pig-meat from Denmark, in both cases when the respective Governments believe their own industry to be threatened? If that is in accordance with the CAP, will the Minister try to negotiate the same freedom for us that the French apparently enjoy under the same policy?

The hon. Gentleman probably appreciates that there is a common regime that encompasses pigmeat but that there is no common regime that encompasses sheepmeat. Sheep is still outside the CAP. That is why we fix our own guaranteed price with deficiency payments and the rest.