Orders of the Day — European Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:06 pm on 31st July 1980.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 7:06 pm, 31st July 1980

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) may disagree, but I have met such people in factories and I can assure him that their attitudes are changing. I am sure that even my hon. Friend will accept that there has been a dramatic change in public attitudes.

I do not suggest that it is possible for the policy of the Government or Parliament to change completely, but the enormous burdens that this country has to accept justify our at least thinking "Would it not be in our best interests to have a different relationship other than full membership, which would not involve the CAP and which might give us some freedom in our trading policies?"

It will not help for us to accuse each other of obsession and blindness. There are enormous problems to which no one appears to be proposing solutions. Our country, at a serious time of high unemployment and low activity, is losing a great deal.

Before people say that we should not talk about our membership of the EEC, because it is a closed matter, they should give us some indication of how they propose to solve the problems. One of the big problems is the CAP. The hon. Member for Inverness asked how the Government thought that they would solve that problem. I find on my return to the House that everyone is saying that we need fundamental changes in the CAP. I have even heard my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, saying that. But no one gives the slightest indication, except with a broad brush, about how that change should be achieved.

The basic problems are that production is high and increasing, consumption is static and we have substantial surpluses and high prices. How are those problems to be solved? Will it be by restricting production? The pooor old Commission, which has an impossible job dealing with surpluses, tried to restrict the production of sugar. We know what happened to that. Are we to try constant prices? There is no indication that constant prices reduce production. Indeed, in some cases they increase it. It would also be difficult for the Commission to provide for frozen prices for a considerable period. It is possible that there may be no solution to the problems and that the only real answer will be for each member State to take responsibility for its own agriculture.

After a year away, I believe that there is a real change of attitude in the House of Commons, in British industry and certainly among the population of Great Britain. A crisis lies ahead in the EEC. The Community faces a financial crisis because the cash will run out. I believe that it is time, in the interests of the United Kingdom, that we started to think seriously about what our rightful relationship with the EEC should be. It might perhaps be the one that I would wish. That would mean a relationship involving us in co-operation with Europe where our interests are in common. We should act as separate States in matters such as agriculture, where we can best look after our own problems in our own way.