Common Agricultural Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st October 1999.

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Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Labour, Workington 12:00 am, 21st October 1999

If he will raise with his European counterparts the incidence of fraud in the common agricultural policy. [93386]

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Government take every opportunity to raise this issue with other member states and with the European Commission, in order to build support for measures both to reduce fraud against the CAP budget and to improve the financial management of the budget.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Labour, Workington

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the introduction of the animal traceability scheme through the establishment of the British cattle movement centre in my constituency by this Labour Government, will not only help to resolve at an early stage the crisis of BSE, but will help to secure safeguards against fraud under the European Union beef regime? Can we have an assurance that schemes such as the one operating in Workington will be introduced throughout the European Community?

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I agree with my hon. Friend—Workington is leading the way in Europe. The introduction of traceability is not only an important protection and reassurance to consumers but an important safeguard for the public purse on the beef premium regimes.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde

When the Council of Ministers announced the lifting of the beef ban and the resumption of British beef exports to Europe, many farmers thought that the statement was correct, but they now consider it a fraudulent declaration. It was a hollow statement; it clearly did not open the door to British beef exports, particularly to France. Many farmers will think that the French are now acting fraudulently because they are not adhering to that European agreement. What practical steps will the Minister now take to open the door, beyond simply registering his discontent at Tesco supermarket with an empty trolley? So far, his words about getting beef back into France have been as empty as his trolley.

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

That is an ingenious attempt to link the French failure to lift the ban to the use of the word "fraud" in the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). If the right hon. Gentleman had been a little more assiduous and paying attention, he would have noticed that I intend to answer Question 10, which deals directly with that matter, at the end of Question Time.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

On the question of the fairness of the common agricultural policy, does my right hon. Friend find, as I do, that most farmers are in favour of Britain's entry into the single currency because it will bring stability to the fluctuating payments that they receive under that policy? Arable payments alone amount to an injection of some £55 million into Suffolk's rural economy. Would not a path that led to withdrawal from the European Union defraud our farmers of those valuable payments?

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the importance of the exchange rate in agriculture and, by implication, to the importance of the agrimonetary regime. The Government's approach to the broader question that he raised is the right one, and I shall certainly not add any remarks to what has already been said on that subject.