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United Kingdom Budget Contribution

Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has had any further consultations with his Community counterpart since the ministerial statement on 2 June concerning the European Economic Community budget payments by the United Kingdom.

Now that the outstandingly successful agreement on the United Kingdom budget payments has been reached, and the Commission is beginning its work on the longer-term view of the budget, does not my right hon. Friend feel confident that, with the necessary amount of energy and co-operation between member States, all members will be able to move forward on the construction of a new budget in two or three years' time, which will involve the agricultural proportion reducing to perhaps 50 per cent., and more money being spent on other projects, including industrial reconstruction and revival?

My hon. Friend is basically right. The agreement reached in Brussels does, for the first time, give us a good opportunity to restructure the budget so that the over-emphasis on agricultural expenditure can be mitigated, and other areas of expenditure substituted. That is the most hopeful development to come out of our agreement.

Surely the point about reaching an agreement is that, whether successful or unsuccessful, it is only an interim agreement. What response are the Government making to the welcome call by Chancellor Schmidt for a wholesale overhaul of the CAP in the next two years?

The hon. Gentleman said that the agreement is an interim measure. I tried to explain to the House recently that, because of what was said about restructuring, it holds promise for a permanent agreement. Chancellor Schmidt's remarks were very much in line with what we have been saying over the years. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when making a statement recently, said that because other countries are having to share the burden of the CAP it tends to alter people's attitude.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that on 2 June the Government undertook to accept the fundemental principles of the CAP? If they did that, how is it consistent with a review of the EEC budget?

From my hon. Friend's remarks, I have a feeling that he is not as intimately aware of the principles of the CAP as he perhaps once was. If it will not weary the House, I shall read out the principles. The principles of the CAP, as laid down in the Treaty of Rome are first :

"to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, in particular labour."
I do not think that my hon. Friend would object to that. Secondly :
"thus to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture;"
I do not think that my hon. Friend would object to that. Thirdly :
" to stabilise markets."
" to assure the availability of supplies."

It is not waffle. Those are the principles. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not like hearing the truth for a change. If he spoke less from a sedentary position the proceedings of the House would go better. Fifthly,

" to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices."
I think that my hon. Friend would agree that the principles of the CAP—I am not talking about how they were worked out—are entirely in accordance with what he would accept.

We are grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for reminding us of the principles, as well as the practices, of the CAP. Ignoring, as I hope he will, the rather orchestrated sycophancy of his Euro-fanatical friends, will he confirm that, under the remarkable arrangement, we are to pay some £400 million this year and £500 million next year? Will he also confirm that both the French and the Germans have made a claim that their arrangements and agreement to pay back money to Britain is contingent upon agreement on the agricultural price review next year and upon agreement on the common fisheries policy?

Neither of the conditions described by the right hon. Gentleman is true. He spoke of an orchestrated sycophancy on the Conservative Benches, and that is not an apt phrase. If he would, for once, throw off his own peevish insularity and take time off to read the European newspapers he would see that his view of our settlement is quite different from theirs.