Protein Deposit and Private Storage Aid

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 1976.

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Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe 12:00 am, 12th April 1976

May I disabuse the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) of any illusions he may retain about the common agricultural policy? I have had the unfortunate privilege of sitting with some of my colleagues in the front seat whilst this Whitehall farce developed, and, although people have not lost their trousers, they appear to have lost their heads.

Put brutally, there have been no structural changes inside the price provisions which will change the structure of the dairy industry inside the Common Market. Because there is no structural change or incentive to encourage anyone to lower his production of milk, we are seeing an absurd attempt to try to recover a situation which has already been abandoned by the Commission.

At the beginning of January, the Commission was asked whether, if it went ahead with this absurd and foolhardy scheme for compulsory incorporation, this would affect the sale of protein and whether it had discussed it with the United States, which was one of the largest exporters. The Commission assured us that there would be no argument, there would be no problems with GATT, and there would be no problems of any kind. Yet, as soon as the price review was agreed, the Commission came back to the member Governments and the European Parliament and said that, because the Americans were upset, it thought that Community taxpayers should pay to have 2 per cent. of the protein put into intervention and that that price should be paid by the ordinary taxpayer.

I leave aside the fact that the CAP is completely and utterly abhorrent to me when it sets out to denature food in a world where two-thirds of the people are starving. I simply say that this is not defensible. It is not defensible in commercial terms, it is not defensible in political terms, and it also raises an absolutely frightening situation.

In the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament we were told that this scheme had come into operation on 19th March irrespective of the views of this Parliament or any other. I have not been elected to stand by and see the imposition of unfair taxes by a non-elected group elsewhere than in Westminster, and I deeply deplore the fact that we are tonight supposedly discussing a fait accompli. The sooner that we get it straight that we cannot accept the sort of scheme brought before us in the form of a skimmed milk powder absurdity, the sooner we shall begin to reform what is a totally unacceptable common agricultural policy.