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Green Pound

Volume 172: debated on Thursday 17 May 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further actions he intends to take to help British agriculture while the green pound remains in existence.

The Government are committed to ending disparities between green and market rates of exchange of the pound by the end of 1992 at the latest. To achieve that, we shall be seeking further substantial devaluations of the green pound between now and then.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his hard work and the success that he achieved recently at the Commission. May I also remind him of another way in which he could help? Last July we lost an appeal with the Commission to extend the less-favoured areas. If that appeal could be pushed forward so that we get a reply in under 12 months, it would be a great help to the farming community in areas such as my constituency.

I assure my hon. Friend that we are seeking to ensure that that review is completed as soon as possible. We are constantly pressing the Commission for the result.

Does the Minister accept that, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, the underlying rate of inflation in Britain is within a percentage point of that in Europe, so the case for remaining outside the exchange rate mechanism has exploded? Does he recognise that British agriculture will be tremendously assisted by immediate entry in to the ERM?

The Government are committed to joining the ERM at the time when it is right for us to do so. British agriculture would be harmed considerably if we chose the wrong moment. The hon. Gentleman will know that my European credentials are clear, but I do not wish to damage the British agricultural industry merely to follow the course of action that the hon. Gentleman wishes at a time when it would not be helpful.