Agriculture Spending

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th April 1991.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 12:00 am, 25th April 1991

To ask the Prime Minister if he will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the discussions of the Council of Agriculture Ministers on the level of agriculture spending in 1991.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The Agriculture Council is currently considering proposals to keep spending on the common agricultural policy in 1991 within the agricultural guidelines. I hope that the issue will be resolved before the meeting of the European Council.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Does the Prime Minister accept that, despite the brave battle that is being fought alone by Britain and Holland to maintain the legal limits that his predecessor fought hard to achieve, Brussels will inevitably find some device or accountancy fiddle to break through, as has happened before? As the agricultural policy is causing damage to taxpayers, consumers, the third world and, now, to farmers, and as we are suffering from an uncontrollable protection racket which is riddled with graft, will my right hon. Friend consider suggesting to Brussels that it would strengthen the Economic Community and everyone else if agriculture were repatriated to individual member states?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I confirm to my hon. Friend that we shall continue to insist that the guidelines are respected. I am not sure that it would be in the interests of the United Kingdom to see the break-up and repatriation of the common agricultural policy. The danger I foresee is that separate national agricultural policies would lead to increased protectionism and considerable distortions of trade. I believe that our interest is best served in this area by common policies and by seeking to improve them. In essence, we need to win the match in Brussels, and that we shall seek to do.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

It is outrageous that the British Government are allowing to continue a common agricultural policy that is costing every family in this country £16 a week as part of the policy of the Conservatives, who have handed over in 10 years more than £40 billion to the Common Market. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is time that the food mountains were made available to the starving nations of Africa and to help the Kurds? Instead of that, the CAP ensures that food is bought on the open market. Stocks continue to soar and the Prime Minister is doing nothing about it.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been in the forefront of the battle in the Community to impose guidelines and to prevent unnecessary agricultural production. The answer to his second point about food mountains being used to assist people in need is that I agree that whenever that can be done, it should be done.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

In his consideration of United Kingdom agriculture within the context of the European Community, will my right hon. Friend continue to bear it in mind the remarkable contribution that has been made by agriculture to the rural economy? Will he also bear it in mind that farm incomes are now about half what they were two years ago and that the Samaritans have expressed grave concern about the increase in suicidal thought in the farming industry? Will he bear those points in mind at all stages because we must protect the foundation of our rural economy?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I can assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to bear those matters in mind. He will know that some of the direct assistance that we have been able to give within the common agricultural policy has been aimed at areas like hill farming, where there are particular difficulties.