asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on progress with the price fixing negotiations in the Council of Ministers.
At the meeting of the Agriculture Council on 30–31 March Ministers set out their initial reaction to the Commission's price and agrimonetary proposals. I expect negotiations to start again at the meeting of the Council next week on 27–28 April.
What was the Minister's initial reaction to the ludicrous proposal from the Commission on the devaluation of the green pound?
I have told the Commissioner that we are looking very carefully at that situation. If the hon. Gentleman is a little patient he will find that I have some more to say about that at the beginning of the debate this afternoon, provided that I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
When my right hon. Friend next meets the Commission to discuss the price review, will he reassure the House that he will not accept proposals for a fats and oils tax?
Again, I say to my hon. Friend that I shall be saying more about that later this afternoon. Our opposition to that proposal is exactly the same as it has been in the past. We are wholly opposed to it.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his opposition to such a tax will receive total support from all sections of the House? This is not a partisan issue in the House. The whole of the British people are opposed to any such tax on oils and fats.
I am grateful for the support of the hon. Gentleman. No doubt he was as pleased as I was to note that the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament yesterday voted decisively against that tax. That fortifies me very much for the discussions next week.
Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that cutting prices will not solve surplus production, that in the past eight years the price of cereals has fallen by about 33 per cent., and that during that same period production has doubled?
On many occasions I have told my hon. Friend that I am aware that cutting prices alone will not deal with the cereals surplus. That is why I proposed last year to the Council of Ministers — when it met in the United Kingdom — that we should go for a land diversion scheme for cereals. I am glad about the decision that was taken a few weeks ago in Brussels in agreeing the socio-structural package and that we now have a door that is wider open to a scheme of the sort that I have been proposing to deal with the cereals sector. I hope that that will be further encouraged in the course of the weeks and months ahead.