Oral Answers to Questions — European Economic Community

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1966.

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Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North 12:00 am, 20th July 1966

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will publish a White Paper setting out the main effects of British entry into the European Economic Community on British agriculture and retail food prices, respectively.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I do not think I could usefully enlarge upon the statements that have already been made on these matters.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this is one of the most important questions regarding any sort of negotiations which might be made with the Community, quite apart from any other political considerations, 'and that we need this information to have properly informed public discussion of the matter?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I agree that many statements have been made. I have made statements myself. Obviously, joining the Community could mean a considerable increase in prices.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

Would not the Minister agree that his well-known opposition to the Common Market would be put in better perspective by publication of a White Paper of this kind to enlarge public debate on a major issue which will arise if we again seek membership of the Community?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I am not certain about all the factors in relation to the European Community, which has not finally clarified its own position on many points of agricultural policy. I still adhere to the statements which I have made. Entry could be harmful without proper safeguards to our farmers and it could mean increased food prices to consumers.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

Will not the Minister leave aside his well-known prejudices in regard to this matter and let us look at it factually? Is it not an excellent thing to do as is suggested and issue a White Paper and let us have discussion of these matters? The right hon. Gentleman knows that I take a very different view from him in this regard and that many of us are not satisfied with his negative approach to the whole question.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I may have prejudices, but I believe that they are good prejudices. My only anxiety on this matter is that our home agriculture should not be jeopardised. Therefore, in any future developments we must hear this in mind.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he is having with the National Farmers' Union and the Agricultural Workers' Union with a view to preparing the ground for the United Kingdom's entry into the European Economic Community and what conclusions he has reached about the problems involved.

Mr. Pearl:

I am not holding any such discussions with either of these organisations at present.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

As it is now clear that, in spite of all the gobbledegook from the Prime Minister, one of the primary aims of British foreign policy is to join the Common Market on acceptable terms, is it not deplorable that the Government have been so slothful in considering the effects that this might have on British agriculture and horticulture?

Mr. Pearl:

The Government have not been slothful. If we had accepted the Conservative approach. we would have gone in without any safeguards.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

The right hon. Gentleman must know that that is not so. He has refused to issue a White Paper. Is it not time that he took this matter seriously and tried to take some action which will help to facilitate our entry into the Common Market with proper safeguards?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Tory Party levy policy for British agriculture means the end of major safeguards?