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European Community Budget (United Kingdom Contribution)

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of the effect of the common agricultural policy on Great Britain's contribution to the European Economic Community budget.

It is not possible to make these estimates, because the common agricultural prices for 1980–81 have not yet been decided; and the question of our contribution to the European Community budget is still being negotiated.

Will the Secretary of State resist the pressures from other Common Market countries for a farm price deal which would mean for us an additional £1 billion on the cost of the CAP? Does he agree that any decrease in our overall Common Market contribution will be a phoney decrease if the British housewife has to pay for it by further increases in the price of food?

With every respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that he has got his figures rather mixed up. The proposal for the package would not mean an extra £1 billion on the cost to us. It would be I billion units of account for the Community as a whole, towards which we make a contribution. I assure the hon. Gentleman that both the CAP settlement and the budget settlement will be far better than was ever achieved by our predecessors.

My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the resistance that he has shown so far to the rather half-baked proposals which seem to have been esteemed by the Commission. However, does he agree that even a large budget settlement would be a dubious bargain if it were accompanied by a settlement on prices and on sheep-meat which led to a huge increase in unconsumable surpluses?

Yes, Sir. It is important that we pursue a policy which, over a period of time, erodes the unnecessary surpluses that exist in Europe. Certainly the British Government will pursue policies to try to achieve that.

Will the Minister confirm that Great Britain is not a member of the European Community at all, and does he agree that it is a pity that the United Kingdom is?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, whatever negotiations may be taking place, his immediate priority will be to secure a revision of the CAP, which has worked so badly, which has led to so many surpluses and which could lead to a surplus in cereals and other commodities in the immediate future?