Skip to main content

Agriculture Council

Volume 543: debated on Thursday 26 April 2012

4. What meetings she has had with Ministers from the devolved Administrations to discuss the European Council meeting on Agriculture and Fisheries on 26 and 27 April 2012. (105406)

May I take this opportunity to explain to the House that I chose to be with hon. Members in the House today rather than to go the negotiations on the common agricultural policy? It is because the next set of oral questions to my Department may clash with the Rio+20 summit.

Normally I would meet Ministers from devolved Administrations to discuss reform of the CAP and the common fisheries policy, which are the main agenda items at today’s Council. I look forward to continuing those discussions, and my next meeting with them will be on 2 May.

It is normal practice for UK lead Ministers to meet Ministers from devolved Administrations before Council meetings, and I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will have done so.

In a recent major interview with a European publication, the Welsh First Minister said of participation in European meetings:

“It is not enough to be in the room, we have to be at the table as well.”

I certainly could not agree more with him. Under what circumstances would English Agriculture Ministers in the British Government give up the table to Welsh Ministers in European Council meetings, or would Wales get to the table only as an independent state in the European Union?

This matter was discussed in a memorandum of understanding when the coalition Government came into office. I regularly invite devolved Ministers to attend Council meetings, and we have on one occasion invited a devolved Minister to speak on behalf of the United Kingdom, but I should like to make two points: the UK is the member state; and as with all devolved nations’ Administrations, when we throw the full weight of the United Kingdom behind the needs of a nation such as Wales, we are more likely to secure what the hon. Gentleman’s nation would like.

Given the global food shortage and rising food prices, in the Council negotiations with other Ministers is the Secretary of State focusing all her attention on how we ensure that we maximise food production by our farmers in order to tackle this crisis?

I certainly am. The European Commission identifies food security and climate change as the twin challenges of CAP reform, but I am on the record as having said that what is proposed is not ambitious enough in that regard. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the United Kingdom is pushing very hard to ensure that the reformed CAP results in more productive and sustainable agriculture, whereby we produce more food both at home and for those in need of it abroad.