HC Deb 11 May 1971 vol 817 cc178-83
2. Mr. W. H. K. Baker

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many officials of the Fisheries Department of his Department are permanently stationed in Brussels during the negotiations currently proceeding for Great Britain to attempt to join the European Economic Community.

Mr. Prior

My Department is represented at Deputy Secretary level, with supporting staff, on the official negotiating delegation which divides its time between London and Brussels. Officials of my Fisheries Department are brought in whenever the need arises.

Mr. Baker

Is not that a rather surprising answer? In view of the anxiety felt in the fishing industry, would not my right hon. Friend better be advised to have a permanent official there to see what effect the minimum price scheme, for example, is having on the fishing trade in the Common Market?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir, I do not think so, because we can keep in much better touch with the industry here, which is the important thing, and Brussels is not very far away. But it is important that in our negotiations we should have at least one full-time member of the negotiating team who is a member of my Ministry, and that is what we have.

Mr. James Johnson

As a Member for a fishing port, will the right hon. Gentleman say what is his sticking point in the negotiations? Is he prepared to tell the House that he believes that Article 2, with reservations about the size of vessel, the times of the year for fishing, size of gear and so on, is a sufficient safeguard for our inshore fishing fleet?

Mr. Prior

The House would not expect me to disclose our negotiating position at this stage, but certainly conservation measures alone, which I think are adumbrated in Article 2, would not be sufficient.

8. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether member States of the European Economic Community individually retain extensive powers to implement conservation measures as part of their individual fishery systems, and how these will apply to Great Britain if Great Britain joins the Community.

Mr. Prior

Member States of the European Economic Community retain freedom to introduce conservation measures to protect fish stocks within their fisheries limits provided that they do not discriminate between members on grounds of nationality. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, Her Majesty's Government has reserved its position on the common fisheries policy.

Sir F. Bennett

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a great deal of the anxiety about the possible repercussions for the British fishing industry concerns over-fishing? Is he saying today, as I hope he is, that control of this aspect of this difficult problem will be maintained fully in British hands?

Mr. Prior

I am well aware of the problems, particularly in my hon. Friend's area. His local fishermen were able to put them to me at first hand when I went down to Torbay. What I said earlier in reply to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) shows that I consider that Article 2 alone would not be sufficient protection for us.

Mr. Milne

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider it strange that the Community should delay application of a fisheries policy until the major fishing nations of Britain, Norway and Denmark have applied to join? Would not it have been much better for the negotiations if they had awaited the applications and discussed fisheries policy with those countries at the time?

Mr. Prior

I think it is clear that what may or may not have been a suitable policy for six countries is not a suitable policy for 10. This number includes the countries the hon. Gentleman has named which are major fish-producing countries. Therefore, I think the answer is, yes.

Sir R. Russell

What does my right hon. Friend mean by saying that the Government have reserved their position?

Mr. Prior

I mean what is usually meant by that rather ambiguous expression.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Does the Minister realise that many of us who are in favour of going into the Common Market, with certain reservations, are dissatisfied with the attitude which is being taken by the Minister and his right hon. Friend? May we be assured that there is some safeguard for our fishing industry if we go into the Common Market? Does he not realise that the answers which he has given, and indeed the answers given by the Government, give the impression that they are so keen to get in that they do not care a damn about the fishermen of this country?

Mr. Prior

No. That is not a fair reflection of the view of the House. The House knows generally that the Government are well aware of the problems of the inshore fishing industry and some of the other problems of the deep-sea fishing industry. We have made it plain on many occasions that the present common fisheries policy is not acceptable to us.

10. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who will have responsibility for fixing quality standards in Great Britain for milk and milk products if Great Britain joins the European Economic Community.

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

The Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community has power to prescribe minimum standards for milk and milk products. It has not yet done so generally, though draft legislation is under consideration. If the United Kingdom were a member of the European Economic Community we should have to comply with any standards so prescribed.

Mr. Godman Irvine

In view of the interest shown in Europe in the excellent work done by the Milk Marketing Board in this country, will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to explain to the Europeans the advantages of this type of organisation?

Mr. Stodart

Yes, Sir.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Could my hon. Friend say whether, if these measures are taken by the Council of Ministers, they would be by way of regulations under Article 189 of the Treaty of Rome and thereby be directly enforceable in this country without the intervention of Parliament?

Mr. Stodart

My information is that there is no reason why we should not require higher standards for our own products in the United Kingdom if we want to do so.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

That was not my question.

Mr. William Price

No, but that was the answer!

11. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received from the National Farmers' Union about the progress of negotiations for British entry into the European Economic Community.

13. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on his further discussions with the National Farmers' Union about the system of agricultural support in the Common Market in the event of Great Britain joining.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

My right hon. Friend has kept in close touch with the President of the National Farmers' Union and there have been regular meetings between my Department's officials and representatives of the Union on a variety of matters arising out of the negotiations on British entry into the European Economic Community.

Mr. Marten

Does my hon. Friend recall that during the last Price Review in March in the Common Market one farmer was shot in the back, one policeman was stabbed in the throat and 140 went to hospital? Could be explain why Price Reviews happen like that in the Common Market when here they are quite peaceful?

Mr. Stodart

There was a time not so long ago in this country when one right hon. Gentleman had to leave by the back stairs.

Mr. Strang

Are the Government determined to make sure that, if we enter the E.E.C., production grants will still be possible for hill farmers?

Mr. Stodart

These are matters for negotiation, but there is nothing in the Treaty of Rome to preclude them.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the little local difficulty to which he referred, and in which I was involved, was caused by a small number of reactionary Tory farmers who were more concerned about the General Election than about the prosperity of agriculture?

Mr. Stodart

My recollection was that there were rather more members of the Special Branch surrounding the right hon. Gentleman than there were angry Tory farmers.

28. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what benefits hill livestock farmers will gain, if the United Kingdom joins the European Economic Community, from the higher prices paid for cattle and sheep in the Community.

Mr. Prior

The amount of benefit would depend on the prices ruling at the time of entry and on the extent to which prices for fatstock are reflected back to prices for stores. But the Community's guide price for fat cattle in 1971–72 is about a quarter more than our guaranteed price, and producer prices for mutton and lamb are also higher in the Community. This is evidence that our hill farmers would benefit from a much stronger market for their stock.

Sir A. Meyer

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this favourable factor, together with such other assistance as he is able to obtain, will ensure that farmers do not suffer adversely as a result of our entry into the E.E.C.?

Mr. Prior

The problems of hill farmers, particularly the problem relating to the hill cow and hill sheep subsidies, are still matters which we have to discuss in the negotiations at Brussels before the House can come to a decision. I am well aware of these problems, and we will do our best to help hill farmers.

Mr. Mackie

If we do not get a satisfactory arrangement on direct subsidies, such as the hill cow subsidy and so on, will the Minister consider raising the end price sufficiently to give a hill cow subsidy of£22 to£23?

Mr. Prior

There are many ways in which we can help hill farmers besides the direct subsidy on hill cows or hill sheep.

Mr. Marten

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the National Federation of Young Farmers has rejected any proposition to enter the Common Market?

Mr. Prior

No, I am not. I very much doubt whether it is representative of young farmers as a whole.