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Reform And Structuring

Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what propress has been made in the negotiations designed to reform the structure and policies of the European Economic Community since his reply to the hon. Member for Southend, East on 3 March, Official Report, c. 188.

The Foreign Affairs Council devoted 23 March to a detailed discussion of the budget problem, the outcome of which I reported to the House on 24 March. The subject was further considered at the European Council and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be reporting on this shortly. Foreign Ministers will meet again on 3 April and will take as a basis for their discussion the suggestions that have been put forward by the Presidents of the Council and the Commission concerning the method of dealing with the United Kingdom's budgetary problem.

As about two-thirds of the total CAP expenditure was concerned with disposing of surplus foodstuffs to Russia and elsewhere, as most Common Market countries—including Britain—are finding ways of evading the CAP, and as the CAP is the basis of the continuing British budgetary problem, is my right hon. Friend at least willing to discuss with his colleagues in Europe the possibility of scrapping the CAP so that we can resolve many problems and begin to co-operate on matters in which we have common interests?

As my hon. Friend knows, our aim is not to scrap the CAP but to reform it. I agree with him that one reform that is needed is that not so much should be spent on producing goods in surplus.

To what extent does my right hon. Friend anticipate that the likely accession of Spain and Portugal will assist the process of reform on which our minds are set?

Before Spain and Portugal accede, we should have solved our immediate problems, because it would not be in the interests of the Community to enlarge without solving those problems.