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European Community (Agriculture Ministers' Meeting)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 25th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley 3:32 pm, 25th February 1981

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some useful progress seems to have been made at this last Council meeting, although that progress may be dependent upon Italian agreement? We welcome the New Zealand butter deal, but we are still concerned about the annual reductions. There seems to be a steady and constant pressure to squeeze out New Zealand imports from the Common Market. We hope that the Minister will continue to stand by our Commonwealth friends.

We welcome the package of the EEC and United Kingdom financial assistance to farmers in Northern Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland. It appears that of the £60 million Her Majesty's Government will probably pay about £36 million. That represents a useful boost for areas where it is badly needed.

As the right hon. Gentleman secured the quota for the United Kingdom beet producers, and noting that there has been a reduction of 182,000 tonnes, can he say whether there will be a reduction in the quotas of the other Common Market surplus beet producers? If not, is it not likely that there will be another sugar mountain in the future, with all the problems that that will create for the ACP cane producers.

On the question of State aid in France, even if France is found guilty, what can the Commission do about it? What sanctions can it apply to France, in view of the way in which that country has helped its own farming industry?

On the Commission's proposed package, which includes some useful reforms, what is the Minister's attitude on controlling surpluses by further coresponsibility levies? How does he think that the super levy on milk will be applied, and how will it affect the British dairy industry?

On the matter of MCAs—monetary compensatory amounts—there is a need to recognise the growing difficulties in the British farming industry, but is the Minister aware that with a positive MCA of over 18 per cent. the British consumer is continuing to suffer? Indeed, he is now the Community's notorious biggest food taxpayer, and British housewives and consumers are now actually boosting the CAP budget. In these negotiations the Minister must be prepared to accept some revaluation of the green pound.

Finally, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the proposed increases for the total package are still too generous? Above all, he must oppose the increases of those products that are in structural surplus.