asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of total European Economic Community spending on all activities, including agriculture, related to the disposal, destruction and storage of surplus food and wine in the most recent annual period for which figures are available; and what was the cash sum involved, expressed in £ sterling.
Expenditure by the European Community on export refunds, internal disposal subsidies and public intervention storage for commodities in structural surplus — cereals, sugar, wine and milk products—amounted to approximately £4,750 million in 1983. That represented about 33 per cent. of total Community expenditure.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a performance in a private industry would probably lead to the imprisonment of the directors? Does he further agree that so long as the Community spends such vast sums within this total on subsidising the Soviet and east European war machine there is no reason to increase own resources?
I had hoped that my hon. Friend would applaud what happened this year regarding the price settlement, in which we took steps to reduce surpluses. We extended the guarantee thresholds and introduced quotas for milk production. That settlement is important in the long term, not just for this year, and I hope that my hon. Friend will give it credit.
Does the Minister accept that the general agreement of this Government, or any other Government, to reduce expenditure on a wasteful facility such as storage would receive support from all hon. Members? Does he think that on 14 June the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) will vote Conservative?
As an ex-Chief Whip I can say that I was totally satisfied with my hon. Friend. If the hon. Gentleman is worried about the rate of growth of common agricultural policy spending, I remind him that between 1973 and 1979 it rose by over 19 per cent. a year, whereas between 1979 and 1984 the average increase was only about 10 per cent.