Oral Answers to Questions — United States and Canada (Prime Minister's Visit)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1977.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 12:00 am, 24th March 1977

asked the Prime Minister if he discussed EEC matters during his recent visit to President Carter.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made to the House on 15th March.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

There may have been more to it than that. Did the President of the United States express any interest in the British political scene—for example, the nature of the Liberal Party and its ideas on the EEC, or was that whole subject too squalid for the President, with his religious upbringing, to deal with? So far as the President may have discussed the EEC with the right hon. Gentleman, did he think that it would be possible for the Prime Minister to introduce with sufficient courage a Bill on direct elections at the earliest possible opportunity, on which the Prime Minister might just be able to secure a majority of more than 24?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Yes, the President evinced a lively interest in the British political scene. He was extremely well informed about it, and I did my best to add to his knowledge. The Bill on direct elections will be introduced in due course, as I announced yesterday.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Southampton, Test

Has my right hon. Friend seen reports that the Tory Group in the European Assembly has recommended a 25 per cent. devaluation of the green pound, which would add 8 per cent. to food prices? Does he not agree that that would be very damaging to our interests? Does it not confirm that the Conservative Party is now clearly the party of Common Market-imposed high and rising food prices?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

It is, of course, true that a substantial devaluation of the green pound would add heavily to our price increases in this country. I am not aware of the figures that my hon. Friend gave, but certainly there has been an official statement that the Conservative Party spokesman is in favour of a substantial devaluation of the green pound. That is bound to put up prices: it cannot be denied that it will do so. That is why we have so far resisted giving away the green pound. I would only want to see a devaluation there if we got value for money in another direction.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party

On any future visit to the United States, will the right hon. Gentleman make any attempt to explain how it is that, in the Conservative Party's view, any talks between them and ourselves with a view to sustaining a Conservative Government so as to provide a stable programme is the height of patriotism while similar talks to support a Labour Government in a stable programme are a "squalid deal"?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

We know that patriotism always exudes from the Conservative Party when it is in office but sometimes fades rather when its members go abroad when in Opposition.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

When the Prime Minister is considering the subject of the green pound, will he bear in mind the necessity for a successful British agriculture, which rests very much on some devaluation of the green pound?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The question of a devaluation of the green pound should not become a matter of theology: it is a question of practicality. The Government would not want to see a situation in which there was total inflexibility on this matter if we got something worth while elsewhere. The whole of the CAP is based on certain national interests. I think that our national interests have been very much pushed into second place since we are such a large consuming, and not so much of a producing, country. We want to see a very healthy agriculture, and will do so, but I want to see us get value somewhere else if there is to be any change in the value of the green pound.

Photo of Mr Ian Wrigglesworth Mr Ian Wrigglesworth , Teesside Thornaby

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that a Conservative Member in the European Parliament yesterday attacked the Commission for stopping or attempting to stop the sale of cheap butter to Russia? Does he not agree that to take that attitude is to go against the interests of both the consumer and the taxpayer in this country?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The agricultural policy of the Community was devised before Britain became a member and is not in Britain's interests as it stands. We have, by our entry, thrown a considerable influence on the side of European consumers as a whole, and we shall continue to do so.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

Did the right hon. Gentleman let President Carter into the secret that he has never shared with the House of Commons—namely, if he will not devalue the green pound, how he will put into agriculture the capital it needs to carry out the Government's own policy, as declared in "Food From Our Own Resources"?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me what the original Question was about, because it enables me to say that I did not discuss the green pound with President Carter. However, since the House is interested in the matter today, I assure the hon. Member that the success of British agriculture is very important and that the resources which are being put into it and have been put into it are sufficient to encourage growth—and that growth is coming. But what Conservative Members who support the CAP should ask themselves is whether they want to support a policy based on a social phenomenon in some of the Continental European countries but which does not meet the needs of the market or of the consumers in this country.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the resources available to go into British agriculture are sufficient to increase food production, why is the present food production from British agriculture lower than it was even in 1970?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman visits the countryside, but when he does he will find that the production of milk, on certain farms at least, suffered heavily last year from a drought, which might also have escaped his notice.