asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects agreement of the level of European Economic Community common farm prices for 1982–83.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the negotiations of the farm price review with the other member nations of the European Community.
The Council of Agriculture Ministers is currently considering prices for 1982–83. My right hon. Friend will make a statement to the House in due course.
May I remind the Minister that the Opposition stand four-square behind the Prime Minister's determination to achieve a satisfactory solution to Britain's budget problem? Will the Minister assure the House that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will not undermine any such settlement, if it were to be achieved, by agreeing to price increases above those proposed by the Commission, which would lead to bigger surpluses and a bigger burden on the taxpayer?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that the three elements concerned, which are regional and other policies, agriculture prices and the budget, must be dealt with in parallel. That view is taken not only by the Government but by other Governments in the Community. It is on that basis that the proposals are being discussed.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that if we agree to what is likely to result from the European price review, the splendid achievement of British farmers in productivity improvement over the years may not be maintained because farming incomes will continue to drop, as they have in recent years? As the National Farmers Union has stated, there has been a 50 per cent. drop since 1976. Can productivity improvements continue, with such a drop in incomes?
I assure my hon. Friend that in the negotiations in Brussels we shall bear closely in mind the record and present position of British farmers, as well as of processors in the food industry and consumers.