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Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 228: debated on Thursday 8 July 1993

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11.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations she has received on financial aspects of the common agricultural policy.

Given that the Minister conceded earlier that the scheme costs £18 per family in Britain and as the CAP serves the interests of neither agriculture nor the consumer, is it not time that she stopped merely talking about it and took some action to get rid of that obscenity of a policy which suits no one, least of all Britain?

I find that fairly rich, coming from an Opposition Member. The cost is too high, as the Government agree. It would be good if, for once, someone from the Opposition supported us when we wanted to cut costs in any area.

Has my right hon. Friend received any representations about the financial aspects of CAP in association with incentives to create environmentally sensitive areas?

Part of the CAP reform package included several incentives for what we call the agri-environment package. We have consulted widely on that package and we expect to announce some schemes in the autumn.

In the light of the Minister's response on the costs of CAP, will she confirm that the costs are due to increase this year by £1·3 billion and that it is expected that by 1995 they will have increased by some £4 billion? How does that equate with the statement made by her predecessor that the CAP reform was good for the taxpayer and the consumer? Will she give us an assurance that the Government will oppose those unacceptable and unjustified increases?

I explained to the House that the £1·3 billion increase was the result of various exchange rate mechanism realignments. The hon. Gentleman may possibly have missed that. The important thing is that agriculture continues to take a decreasing proportion of the European Community budget as a whole—which it is doing—and that it keeps within the guidelines set by the EC and approved by the House. That is also happening, but I agree that the cost is too high. I am delighted to have such support from the Opposition in cutting public expenditure.