HC Deb 08 December 1970 vol 808 cc216-22
1. Mr. Eadie

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to meet the National Farmers' Union to discuss recent developments in the European Economic Community negotiations.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)

The United Kingdom farmers' unions are kept fully informed of the progress and prospects of the negotiations with the European Economic Community. My agricultural colleagues and I have had a joint meeting with the unions and are always ready to discuss problems.

Mr. Eadie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that nothing happening now in the E.E.C. negotiations is inspiring confidence amongst farmers? Is he also aware that in Scotland opposition to our joining the E.E.C. is gaining considerable ground?

Mr. Prior

I think I can say that I am in closer touch with farmers than the hon. Gentleman is, and I believe that a considerable number of farmers are looking forward to the prospects that European entry will bring to them.

Mr. Peter Mills

Does the Minister agree that many sections of British agriculture will find it extremely profitable to go into Europe, and that entry will allow us first and foremost to take a much larger share in home production?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir; I fully support that view. I believe that the interests of British agriculture would be well looked after within the Common Market. I see no reason at all why British farmers should not do extremely well against their European competitors.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the Minister aware of the remarks made by Mr. Inverarity, the Chairman of the Scottish National Farmers' Union, in which he expressed concern about the hill sector in particular? Will the right hon. Gentleman repeat the assurances given by the previous Government that the hill sector and the uplands would be the subject of special negotiations?

Mr. Prior

Yes, certainly. The hill sector and the uplands are the subject of special negotiations, and these negotiations have still to take place. I fully recognise the worries to which the hon. Gentleman and Mr. Inverarity have drawn attention.

4. Mr. Moyle

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the impact of the European Economic Community fisheries policy on the British fishing industry in the event of the United Kingdom's joining the Common Market.

46. Mr. McNamara

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the effect of the European Economic Community fishing policy on the British fishing industry in the event of Great Britain joining the Common Market.

55. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will specify the advantages to the British fishing industry of joining the Common Market.

Mr. Prior

It is too early to make an overall assessment of how the common fisheries policy will affect our fishing industry. Various detailed provisions of that policy have yet to be settled, and much would depend on the terms of entry negotiated.

Mr. Moyle

On the contrary, is not this one of the areas where the price of British entry can be calculated with some precision, since the Common Market has adopted its fisheries policy and has refused to alter it in spite of all the representations of Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Prior

Not necessarily, because this is what the negotiations are about. We are well aware of the problems and the representations made by the inshore fishing industry, and these will be taken into account in the negotiations.

Mr. McNamara

What the Minister said when last we raised the question was that the British Government had reserved their position. Can we know more pre- cisely what is the position we are reserving? Are we reserving our position regarding the inshore fleet, or the prospect of the accession of Norway to the Common Market and its effect on our deep-water fleet?

Mr. Prior

This is a much wider question, but the British Trawlers Federation is not worried about the accession of Norway, and would like very much to have access to Norway's fishing grounds. This shows exactly how complicated the whole common fisheries policy is and how we had better not come to any rash decisions before we have completed the negotiations.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Will the Minister say whether the E.E.C. countries have any inshore waters comparable to our own? Is he aware that because of the shortage of herrings everywhere else in Europe, our herrings find a very profitable export market in E.E.C. at the moment?

Mr. Prior

As far as I know, there would be no comparable inshore waters. Again, this must be a matter for negotiation, and the conservation interests must be properly looked after. I recognise that there is a good export of herrings. I only wish there were more boats available to catch them off the East Coast.

Mr. James Johnson

Is the Minister taking my Question No. 14 with this Question?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Could the Minister say whether on this important subject he is having consultations with the unions representing the fishermen in connection with entry into E.E.C., as he is having with the N.F.U. in connection with agriculture?

Mr. Prior

We have not had consultations with the unions. We have had consultations so far with the British Trawlers Federation and with the sea fisheries committees, which I myself have met, but if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the unions would like consultations in this respect, we will, of course, have consultations with them too.

Mr. Nott

Surely the point is that the Six have gone ahead and settled the major points of their fishing policy at a time when Norway and Great Britain are negotiating for entry. Is the Minister aware of the seriousness of this matter? It may not be an important point in the negotiations generally but is very important when it comes to a vote being taken in this House on the Common Market?

Mr. Prior

Yes, I am well aware of the importance of this issue and of the very strong feelings aroused. I am equally aware that the Six went ahead with the common fisheries policy at a time when Norway and ourselves were seeking to join. I can assure the House and my hon. Friend that we made very strong representations to them at that time and suggested to them that it would be far better if they waited before they took such action until we were members of the Community. They have gone ahead and are now seeing how strong the feeling is.

14. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has had from the fishing industry, in particular the British Trawlerowners Federation, regarding the impact of the European Economic Community fisheries policy upon their future activity, in the event of Her Majesty's Government joining the Common Market.

17. Mr. Sillars

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has had from commercial fishing interests and inshore fishermen about the effects of the new European Economic Community fishing policy on British fishing interests; what replies he has sent; and if he will make a statement.

40. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what communications he has had from the distant water and inshore sections of the fishing industry about the effect of adhering to the European Economic Community fisheries policy; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Prior

I am in close contact with all sectors of the fishing industry in England and Wales. Some have made formal representations; some have not. But all have explained their various concerns, which I have assured them we shall take into account in the entry negotiations.

Mr. Johnson

Will the Minister bear in mind when he answers my question that he is the Member of Parliament for a famous and important fishing port? Since formerly he has acted as an arch-dissembler of information with his answers in this House, why will not he be as blunt and as honest as I know that he can be and fight for our fishing industry, as his counterpart in the Norwegian Government is doing at the moment, with the Common Market?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman need have no fear. I shall fight for the interests of the country as well as those of my constituency and the fishing industry.

Mr. Sillars

Would the Minister agree that it is essential for us to have a final fallback point in the negotiations about access to our waters? Can he say what in his view that final fall-back point should be in relation to the protection afforded to our inshore fishermen by the 12-mile limit?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman has little experience of negotiations if he imagines that I would disclose my fallback position in advance.

Mr. Wall

In spite of the objections from Norway and from this country to which my right hon. Friend has referred, the Six have reached agreement on access to each other's fishing grounds up to the beach, which could spell ruination to the inshore industry. Is he aware that this is one of the issues which may cause Members to vote against the Common Market when the time comes?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir, I am well aware of the feeling of individual Members of Parliament representing fishing constituencies on issues of this nature. That is why I gave what I thought were forthcoming answers to the earlier series of Questions.

Mr. Body

Would my right hon. Friend assure us that he will not overlook the interests of the shellfish industry?

Mr. Prior

That is exactly the same question, and the answer is: yes, we will not overlook them.

22. Mr. Deakins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that the European Economic Community's existing arrangements will be adequate, in the circumstances of an enlarged Community, to ensure stability in the market for pigs and pigmeat; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Prior

This is a matter which has been thoroughly discussed with the Community, which has accepted our views on the importance and characteristics of the bacon market and the need for keeping the situation under careful review, and has recognised the desirability of stability for pigmeat. In the circumstances, therefore, I do not consider further action is required at this stage.

Mr. Deakins

Is the Minister aware that in Western Europe the pig population is expanding and that in the absence of production controls under the common agricultural policy, it is likely that we shall be joining the Common Market at the peak of the pig cycle without any safeguards for our own producers in the sense that flexible market arrangements will have been abolished by that time?

Mr. Prior

The matter is not quite so simple. The common agricultural policy for pig and pigmeat includes intervention arrangements. I think that these will help to create stability. We are not joining the Common Market tomorrow, and there will be a very long transitional period if and when we do.

23. Mr. Deakins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what present functions of the Milk Marketing Board will have to be abolished if the United Kingdom enters the European Economic Community.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Anthony Stodart)

If the United Kingdom were a member of the European Economic Community, support for the milk producer would be given not through a guaranteed price but through the Community's system of intervention and threshold prices. The Milk Marketing Board would, therefore, cease to implement our present guarantee. I should expect the Board's major marketing functions on behalf of its members to continue.

Mr. Deakins

Is it not a fact that the pooling arrangements for transport costs of milk producers in this country will be incompatible with the provisions of the Treaty of Rome relating to free competition, and that the abolition of those pooling arrangements for transport costs will hit at milk production in the remoter areas of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Stodart

I do not think that that necessarily follows. The milk-producing organisations of the Community are at present free to send milk wherever they like to get the best return for members and to pay them as they wish.

Mr. Biffen

If Britain were a member of the Community, would Continental, particularly Dutch, dairy fanners be able to supply the London liquid milk market or would the powers foreseen for the Milk Marketing Board prevent this eventuality?

Mr. Stodart

This is a matter for negotiation.