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European Community (Budget)

Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of the additional cost to the 1980 EEC budget of the price decisions of the Council of Agriculture Ministers of 22 June; and what the United Kingdom's share is likely to be.

The estimated cost of the settlement to the 1980 EEC budget is about £298 million. Under present arrangements the United Kingdom's contribution to that would be about £52 million. The settlement also increased the United Kingdom's receipts. That increase would amount to about £83 million, assuming that the special United Kingdom butter subsidy continues for the whole of 1980.

I would not dream of accusing the Minister of misleading the House, but does he agree that he was far too optimistic in his account of the results of that Council meeting? He obtained a freeze on milk prices, but the amount of money that we are spending on milk has increased. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the letter of amendment sent by the Commission, to the effect that the total cost of his giving way and increasing the price of everything in surplus by 1½ per cent. in 1980 will cost the CAP £890 million extra, of which our contribution will be £150 million? His right hon. Friend is negotiating in Dublin today. Therefore, is not the Minister sorry that he did not stick out for a price freeze?

When I originally came back I said that it was the first price settlement from which Britain had obtained a net benefit. The figures that I have given today confirm that.

Will my right hon. Friend clarify the position on monetary compensatory amounts paid to those who export food for use in this country? They are of great benefit to the housewife, but on which side of the balance sheet does the cost of those MCAs fall?

Will the Minister say when the 1979 allocation of money to this country under the EEC budget runs out, given that the third supplementary budget has not yet been approved?

That is obviously causing concern for the future, but we believe that the current talks with the Commission will solve the problem.