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European Community (Council Of Agriculture Ministers)

Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next expects to meet his EEC counterparts.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when next he will meet Commissioner Gundelach of the European Commission.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when next he will attend a Council of Agriculture Ministers of the European Economic Community.

When I attend the Fisheries Council meeting on 3 December and the Agriculture Council on 10 December.

Does my right hon. Friend intend to discuss with his EEC colleagues the application of the EEC regulations for the slaughter of poultry? Is he aware that there is widespread concern among British poultry farmers that these regulations are more fully applied in the United Kingdom than in other countries in the Community and that this is to the competitive disadvantage of British poultry farmers?

Yes, I am aware of that and I have taken the matter up with the Commission. As a result, the Commission is currently carrying out a survey of all member States to see that there is a standard application of this regulation. I hope that there will be a report at an early date.

When my right hon. Friend meets Commissioner Gundelach, will he make it clear to him that his proposals for a sugar regime give Italy a quota of 50 per cent. more than Britain, Germany two-and-a-half times more than Britain and France over three times more than Britain? In those circumstances, is there any reason why my right hon. Friend should not assure British sugar beet growers that he will veto those proposals until such time as there is a broad balance among the four countries?

Yes. I have already informed the Commission, and made it clear publicly, that a system of quotas based upon the average of the last four years works strongly against the British position over a whole range of factors and is totally unacceptable to the British Government.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the outcome of his last meeting will have given some comfort to hard-pressed hill farmers and milk producers? Can he, none the less, envisage ways in which the undoubted good will of the European Parliament towards Britain's contribution to the agricultural budget can in some way be harnessed rather than rebuffed?

I do not think that it is a question of rebuffing the views expressed by our parliamentary colleagues in Europe. It is certainly my intention to work very closely with our parliamentary colleagues in Europe to see that changes are made for the benefit of this country.

I accept that the Minister is as sincere and as determined as his predecessor was in fighting for the interests of the fishing industry. Will he please use whatever influence he possesses to persuade Commissioner Gundelach to exert his influence upon the Ministers of other States in the EEC whom we have found to be completely unhelpful in our efforts to obtain a better deal.

Commissioner Gundelach and myself have now visited, and had bilateral talks with, all those representing fishing interests in the Community. As a result of that and, I believe, the influence of the Commission, I am optimistic that in the coming months we can make constructive progress towards a fishing agreement that will be suitable and acceptable to the British fishing industry.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, at the next meeting, he intends to discuss with his European counterparts the possibility of their extending the less favoured areas directive provisions to include marginal land, as has been done in many other European countries?

This is part of a general package under consideration. As a result of this, I and my colleagues who have agricultural responsibility for Scotland and Wales are discussing plans and prospects for marginal land to put to the Commission.

Whatever happens at the talks in Dublin, when the right hon. Gentleman meets his European counterparts will he express the growing dissatisfaction of the people of this country that we are contributing more than £1,000 million to the EEC and that the effect on housewives and consumers in this country is that they pay more for their foodstuffs than they would if we did not have the CAP?

Nobody can accuse the Government of failing to communicate these facts and views to our EEC colleagues.

When my right hon. Friend next discusses these matters in Brussels, will he take up again the question of monetary compensatory amounts? Will he remember that his predecessor in the Labour Government signally failed to renegotiate the basis upon which MCAs were calculated when he had the opportunity to do that? Will my right hon. Friend press this matter?

Yes. However, a unique opportunity was lost. Such an opportunity may not occur again.

When the Minister next meets his European colleagues will he proclaim to them the qualities of British milk, which he urged us to recognise a few minutes ago? Will he also make it clear to them that he recognises the determination of the French to unload milk on Britain? Will he further make it clear that he will not allow that to happen, since that would consign thousands of milkmen to the dole queue?

Such is the quality of our milk, and such as the manner in which we produce it, that a lot of British milk could be going to France at some time. Certainly, it is vital to retain our door-to-door deliveries. If Europe had the delivery service that we have, there would be no surplus of milk in Europe.