Common Agricultural Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th November 1976.

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Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex 12:00 am, 4th November 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he is having with his EEC colleagues concerning a review of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

I regard the improvement of the CAP as of vital importance and am having continuing discussions with my EEC colleagues. The Council of Ministers will be discussing the proposed programme of action to reduce surpluses in the milk sector at its next meeting on 22nd-23rd November and more general discussions will take place early next year when the Council considers agricultural prices for 1977–78.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer a question about the green pound, although he did not reply to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence)?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I remind the hon. Gentleman that there are eight Questions on the green pound linked together later on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Perhaps I can get one in now, Mr. Speaker, with your permission. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the short-term advantage to the consumer through the revaluation of the green pound is likely to lead to long-term disadvantages through the British farming industry not growing as much as it should? Does he accept that uncertainty about the future course of the CAP is leading to great doubt in the fanning industry?

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

I think that was a googly. As you, Mr. Speaker, pointed out, there are eight Questions on the green pound later on the Order Paper. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will contain his soul in patience for that part of his question.

On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it is clear—I should have thought that it was clear throughout the House—that a number of parts of the common agricultural policy must be changed, and changed soon. For example, I regard our prime purpose as being to contain prices in sectors where there are expensive and wasteful surpluses. That seems an absolutely vital consideration. As we were discussing meat a few moments ago, I should say that another vital consideration is the more liberal importation of meat from third countries.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

Regarding the negotiations that are to take place in Brussels on EEC policy, is the Minister able to give an assurance to our dairy and sheep producers that they will be able to hold on to their marketing boards, such as the Milk Marketing Board and the British Wool Marketing Board?

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

The hon. Gentleman will recall that when we last—I was going to say "crossed swords", but one is not allowed to do that in this House—met to discuss agriculture, we discussed the marketing boards, and I thought that I gave a fairly forthright answer. I believe that the marketing boards are an extremely important and valuable adjunct to British agriculture.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Has my right hon. Friend seen the document produced by the Socialist Group of the European Parliament on this very matter? Will he consider taking that up as a basis for renegotiation of the common agricultural policy, as it lays stress on the importance of the consumer as against the producer, which is the emphasis in the CAP that is anathema to Labour Members?

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

It is interesting that Article 39.1(e) of the Treaty of Rome—I think that I have got it right—mentions safeguarding the rights of consumers. It seems to me that my job, as I am both the Minister of Agriculture and of Food, is to safeguard both and to ensure a proper balance between the two.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

I agree about the need for a continuing improvement of the CAP, but will the Minister tell us what the position of United Kingdom producers will be at the end of transition vis-á-vis their European partners? How does he reconcile his present negotiating position in Europe, as we understand it, with his declared intention of growing more food at home?

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

The two are highly reconcilable. I think that the prospects are extremely good for the industry, with the exception of the pigmeat sector, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison). That is causing considerable worry. Frankly, we must balance the whole position of this country in the context of the Nine and, as I said, hold the balance fairly between the producer and the consumer.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

Will the Minister answer my question about the position of United Kingdom producers at the end of transition, vis-á-vis their European competitors.

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

The basis has been set out in "Food from our own Resources", from which I do not in any way resile.