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Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 940: debated on Thursday 1 December 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will use his influence in the Council of Ministers in Brussels to modify the common agricultural policy on the lines set out in the proposed common food policy.

The Food and Drink Industries Council's proposal for a common food policy is a useful contribution to discussions on the common agricultural policy. Its main aim of bringing about a better balance between producer and consumer is in line with the objectives that I have consistently pursued.

Does the Minister agree that to produce surpluses to buy into intervention is no longer adequate in the present marketing context? Does he further agree that some other method, be it by way of quotas or targets, is in the interests of the consumer, the food processer and, ultimately, the primary producer?

I said that I thought that the Council's report was interesting. Where I differ from it is precisely in respect of these production quotas. I think that they are a bit too rigid. I have always thought that the real way to tackle surpluses in the Community was through the end price. It is by producing food at a price that people can afford to pay that one avoids structural surpluses

In the context of my right hon. Friend's continuing efforts to get better sense in to the CAP ill he try to persuade the Council of Ministers to give more urgent attention to the need to recalculate the pig meat MCAs, in view of their drastic and critical effect on the processing end of the industry and the very real threat to jobs which is bound up with that?

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) has made this point, because it is vital. It seems that if one is to come into disagreement, as one must, there should at least be no disagreement on the method of calculating the MCAs, and the fact is that the method now adopted is outrageously wrong.

Is the Minister aware of the proposals for CAP reform as set out by Professor Marsh in the Centre for Agricultural Strategy report? When does he expect to be able to comment on that?

I think that I might try now. Basically they are very interesting proposals. Professor Marsh skates round one difficulty when he talks about a common trade policy. It is all very well to say that, but how are we to get the Nine to agree? How are we to get Germany, which lives on high prices, and the United Kingdom, which is on a much lower basis, to agree on a common trade policy?