Common Agricultural Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th May 1976.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield 12:00 am, 6th May 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what consideration was given during the recent price review negotiations to the "stocktaking" document on the common agricultural policy.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

The European Commission's stocktaking report, and the conclusions drawn by the Council from its examination of it, were taken fully into account.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Is the Minister aware that in the recent review there was no major attempt to reduce the structural surpluses that exist? When will some measure of co-responsibility be introduced so that the consumer may enjoy the benefits of such surpluses as exist?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I cannot accept that. The hon. Member knows that there was an attempt to deal with surpluses, and that has led to the controversy over skimmed milk, for example. In principle co-responsibility has been accepted, but details have to be worked out.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

Is the renegotiation of the common agricultural policy now completed, or is it still going on?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

It is not completed. It is an ongoing process. I have emphasised that over and over again, and we still have to get further improvements.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one embarrassing result of the review, in respect of milk, is that by not taking into account the recommendations of the stocktaking document the milk powder mountain across the Channel is likely to grow? Will he say what progress is being made with the scheme in this country? Are compounders able to take their money out of deposit? Is the skimmed milk powder available for them to use? Is not the real point that the arrangements made for milk across the Channel will, unfortunately, allow the mountain to remain?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I agree that the mountain is there. It was always agreed in the stocktaking discussions that there should be an attack on these mountains. There is no doubt about that. That is why I accepted the proposal in the package, and felt it right to send skimmed milk for food aid, for example.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

Is it not the case that whatever proposals may have been made to deal with the existing surpluses of skimmed milk, other decisions continue to add to the mountain? As for any achievements that we had in the negotiations on the question of a premium system for beef, surely this too is not succeeding, because we are beginning to see a beef mountain developing in this country also?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I cannot accept my hon. Friend's argument that a beef mountain is arising here because of the premium system that we negotiated.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I believe that intervention can play a part. I have always said it. Indeed, it is a safety net. But we shall rely basically on the variable premium which is working, and which, I hope, will be incorporated into the Community system.

Photo of Mr Hamish Watt Mr Hamish Watt , Banffshire

Will the Minister impress on his EEC colleagues that the best way to get rid of the skimmed milk powder mountain is to stop all industrial fishing among his EEC partners for one year and substitute skimmed milk powder for fish meal?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I am prepared to consider some of the interesting ideas put forward by the hon. Member. It is the first time I have heard this suggestion. I am not treating it in a cavalier way; I shall consider it carefully and bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman said.

Photo of Mr Thomas Torney Mr Thomas Torney , Bradford South

Has my right hon. Friend been into a butcher's shop recently, or has his wife, perhaps, told him about the tremendously high price being charged for prime English and Scottish beef, while large quantities of this commodity are going into intervention and storage?

Does he agree that this shows the stupidity of the CAP, which was advocated by right hon. and hon. Members opposite who are now criticising my right hon. Friend?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I have always argued that we should not rely on permanent intervention. I sought to negotiate in the Community something similar to our deficiency payments system. We have got the variable premium, but we have had a little difficulty over intervention. However, I took immediate action and withdrew from intervention meat of a certain category. In other words, intervention will not apply to it. That action has been criticised by other people, but I think it was right to take it. We have achieved success in that respect.