HC Deb 02 July 1969 vol 786 cc412-5
14. Mr. Jay

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will publish a further White Paper bringing up to date the estimates of the effect on United Kingdom balance of payments to cost of living of joining the European Economic Community given in paragraphs 73 to 89 of Command Paper No. 3274.

Mr. Hoy

Not at present, but my right hon. Friend will bear my right hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Mr. Jay

As the only change of circumstances since 1967 is that the bill has become much higher, will my right hon. Friend undertake to publish for the benefit of the House and the country the calculations which his Department is now making?

Mr. Hoy

As I said in reply to an earlier Question, and as my right hon. Friend will appreciate, certain changes have to take place as from the beginning of next year. The Community itself has to decide what its policy will be in regard to the Mansholt Plan and other arrangements. My right hon. Friend will understand the difficulty in giving more information until these are settled.

Mr. John Wells

When considering the possibility of entering the E.E.C. from the agricultural point of view, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to match the statement made on agriculture by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) on 10th May, 1967, when he gave a specific pledge about our party's attitude on horticulture?

Mr. Hoy

When this comes to be examined it will have to be taken into account, but we cannot do so until certain action is taken elsewhere.

Mr. Leadbitter

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in Cmnd. Paper 3274, although there is speculation on the analysis of the effects on this country in joining the Common Market, there was nevertheless a calculation that the increase in cost of foodstuffs would be of the order of 10–14 per cent. and that is equivalent to an increase in the cost of living of 2½ to 3½ per cent.? This is a matter of serious concern. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to assure the House that we shall have a White Paper giving further calculations very shortly?

Mr. Hoy

Of course these things have to be taken into account. Food prices affect the whole Community. Until we hear what is to happen in the E.E.C. we prefer not to make a decision at the moment.

Mr. Turton

As The Guardian has estimated this cost on balance of payments at £593 million net and the Financial Times estimated the cost to the consumer at £844 million, surely the right hon. Gentleman has a responsibility to this House and the country to publish accurate figures as quickly as possible?

Mr. Hoy

As I said, we are bound to take these things into consideration, but it would not be wise to do so until the Community has made up its mind. Then, obviously, any Government are bound to take account of what the effect would be in their own domain. This is the assurance I gave the right hon. Gentleman.

34. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what studies his Department is making of the consequences of the British and Commonwealth sugar producers of British entry into the European Economic Community.

Mr. Hoy

The effect on British and Commonwealth sugar producers of United Kingdom accession to the European Economic Community would depend on the circumstances at the time and it is not at present possible to forecast what these might be.

Mr. Hooley

Since, apparently, our application to go into the Common Market is on the table, would it not be wise to examine the situation as of now as it would affect Commonwealth sugar producers? I understand that it would be catastrophic for countries like Mauritius and Fiji, which depend upon the British market.

Mr. Hoy

Yes, indeed. I can comfort my hon. Friend by telling him that we have these commitments to the Commonwealth of which I spoke earlier. We have already told the Six that we have a contractual obligation under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement until 1974. I think that this can be accommodated under the arrangements of the Six. Certainly, we would wish to discuss how the interests of the developing Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement could be safeguarded even in the longer term.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

What has been the advantage to Commonwealth countries, particularly Mauritius, Fiji and the West Indian islands, of the Agreement in the last six years? How much would they lose if we were to join the E.E.C.?

Mr. Hoy

They have had stability and assurance of a market, which has been distinctly beneficial to them. This we would wish to continue.