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European Community (Council Of Ministers)

Volume 972: debated on Monday 22 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects next to meet his EEC colleagues.

Either my right hon. Friend or myself attends meetings of the EEC Foreign Affairs Council when trade matters are discussed, as do our counterparts in most other member States. The next Foreign Affairs Council is 29 October to 30 October, and I will be attending it.

When the hon. Gentleman meets his EEC colleagues will he make clear that, because of the enormous imbalance in trade between the EEC and ourselves and because of the huge subsidies that Britain is giving to the other member countries, the British people are increasingly mystified about what benefits they are supposed to be getting from our membership of the Common Market?

As I pointed out in answer to an earlier question, the EEC is far and away our biggest market. Our trade is growing more quickly with that market than with any other market. The answer to improving our performance inside that market lies in our own hands—through better industrial performance at home.

When my hon. Friend goes to Brussels, in whatever capacity, will he take an opportunity to speed up the attempts to harmonise the processes of members of the EEC for dealing with oil pollution at sea?

I know my hon. Friend's keen and well-informed interest in this subject and I take note of what he has said.

Mr. Peter Jay. [Interruption.] I apologise to everyone. Mr. Douglas Jay.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that the common agricultural policy, which the Conservative Party foisted on this country, has helped to keep down prices?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that his question is a matter more for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food than for me. However, the Government have made clear that they are not satisfied with the working of the CAP and they seek reforms.

Will the Minister take the opportunity at the meeting to which he referred to press the Government of France about their attitude towards the import of sheep meat and the detrimental effect that their attitude is having on sheep producers in Wales and the United Kingdom generally?

The hon. Gentleman has identified an important matter. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has the support of all his Community colleagues in pressing the French to acknowledge the ruling of the European Court and to do their duty in opening their market to our sheep.