HC Deb 19 October 1971 vol 823 cc526-33
4. Dr. Gilbert

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what meetings his officials have had with the Brewers' Society to discuss what effects the introduction of the European Economic Community draft regulations on hops would have on British beer.

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

No formal meeting has been necessary, but there has been contact on a number of occasions between staff of my Department and of the Brewers' Society about the Community's proposals for hops.

Dr. Gilbert

In these meetings, have the representatives of the Brewers' Society at any time withdrawn from their previous statement of December last year that the Community's proposals, if introduced, and if we go into the Common Market, will mean the end of British beer as we know it?

Mr. Stodart

No, Sir. The brewing industry sees no difficulties facing it with regard to the regulations, either approved or in draft. It is perfectly capable of using a female hop, if that is necessary, to make British beer.

Sir J. Rodgers

Is not the key word in the Question of the hon. Member for Dudley (Dr. Gilbert) the word "draft", and will my hon. Friend confirm that these are merely draft regulations which are capable of amendment?

Mr. Stodart

If any regulation on the seed content were passed before we acceded to the Treaty, our position would be reserved.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Whatever the position about the female hop, can the hon. Gentleman say what consultations he has had with the British Hops Board, which has carried out first-class work on this subject? What are the views of that body?

Mr. Stodart

It, too, is interested in trying to develop the female hop—[HON. MEMBERS: "Seedless"]. Very well. The seedless hop. With great respect, I think that that is naturally a female hop. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, we put a few male plants among our vines. I am certain that the E.E.C. will appreciate this healthy attitude to sex.

5. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on the effect of joining the European Economic Community on the pattern of farm production in Great Britain.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

I have nothing to add to the assessment which my right hon. Friend gave in the debate on 23rd July.—[Vol. 821. c. 1853–5.]

Mr. Spearing

I am very disappointed with that reply. Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, in a letter to me of 16th September, his right hon. Friend told me that the full impact of the Common Agricultural Policy could not be forecast with any degree of accuracy but that any technical disadvantage to British agriculture would be offset by income to the farmers themselves? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the arbitrary imposition of European price structures on British agriculture could have an effect upon standards of husbandry? Does not the hon. Gentleman think that that deserves a better statement from the Government?

Mr. Stodart

It is impossible to be precise about the future pattern of agriculture, even of an individual farm, be cause prices, costs and demands all change. I think that my right hon. Friend gave an admirable assessment in the debate, which was both detailed and full. Further than that, he could not be expected to go.

7. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the effect on the fishing industry of the latest negotiations with the European Economic Community.

10. Mr. Strang

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on the progress made in the negotiations to secure a modification of the European Economic Community Common Fisheries Policy.

12. Mr. Brewis

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the further negotiations for a common European fisheries policy.

13. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he has made in his negotaitions upon fisheries policy with the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

15. Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress made in his negotiations on the subject of a revised Common European fisheries policy.

22. Mr. Warren

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of his negotiations with the European Economic Community countries to protect the fishing rights of Great Britain's inshore fishermen.

Mr. Prior

As the House is aware, the European Economic Community agreed that changes will be required to the present common fisheries policy, particularly in regard to access to waters. They have now acknowledged to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that a new policy must establish a satisfactory new overall balance of advantage that takes account of the legitimate interests of all member States, new and old, and I share his confidence that this will lead to terms sails factory to our industry.

Mr. Wall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter is of great importance to certain hon. Members in deciding which way to vote next week? Will the Government do everything possible to maintain existing British limits and, in any event, not sign any agreement which accords Britain narrower limits than those accorded to other applicants?

Sir G. Nabarro

Especially Norway.

Mr. Prior

On the first part of my hon. Friend's questiton, the answer is "Yes". I will try to expand on my answer in the debate later this week, if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Strang

In view of the fact that the Community has rejected both proposals that the British Government put forward for modifying its policy, what chance is there that it will modify it satisfactorily following a vote in favour of entry? Is not it the case that the Government are asking this House to vote for a common fisheries policy which has not yet been decided but which is as much a condition of entry as are all the other common policies?

Mr. Prior

We have always taken the view that it was better to get the right answer than to take a quick decision and to get the wrong one. From what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has reported back to this House and from the reports of the latest meetings which have been going on between the Six and the other applicants, it is clear that, given patience, we shall get the right answer.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware that a team of back benchers, including myself, from this side of the House was at the E.E.C. headquarters last week discussing this very matter? I came away with the impression that we would maintain the status quo for the next five years. Certainly Norway has been assured that she will have her 12 miles. All that we ask today is that our Minister also gets for us what we understand Norway will be receiving—that is, 12 miles.

Mr. Prior

We have always accepted from the start of the negotiations on fish that the proposals which we put forward originally would have to be acceptable to all the applicant and the member countries. That position applies to day. If the hon. Gentleman is right about Norway getting 12 miles, that puts us in a very strong position.

Mr. Hicks

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the more remote parts of the country, such as Cornwall, with limited alternative employment opportunities, any decline in the inshore fishing industry would have adverse social as well as economic results? Is he also aware that we must ensure that we maintain the status quo in the absence of any acceptable new policy?

Mr. Prior

Certainly I am aware of the great importance of this matter to many constituencies of hon. Members on both sides of the House, not least to the South-West. We put forward the status quo as a temporary measure, but we are aiming to get a fully agreed settlement as soon as we can because the status quo in itself does not give the assurance which we require for a long time ahead.

Mr. Warren

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the status quo alone is not enough? Will he assure us that the agreement which will be reached will recognise that we must also have proper policing over the sizes and weights of Continental meshes and trawls used in our areas?

Mr. Prior

There is no problem over the size of net or any of the other conservation methods within our 12-mile area. That is sacrosanct to us. We, and no one else, have to decide that

I think that I answered the status quo point in answer to a supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks). My right hon. Friend has said that we shall not sign a treaty of accession which would commit us to the present common fisheries policy, that we shall not accept any arrangement which does not satisfactorily protect our legitimate interests, and that we shall not reach agreement with the Community without knowing the terms to be offered to the other applicant countries.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The Minister has made a very important statement on behalf of the Government and it is important that he should confirm it. Is he saying that if Norway secures a 12-mile limit as a fixed term, Her Majesty's Government will not be satisfied with anything less? I should be grateful if the Minister would make it clear that that is the case.

Mr. Prior

Following what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) said about what Norway was hoping to obtain, I said that naturally we should expect to obtain the same terms as Norway. Certainly the terms have to be known not just for Britain when she joins but for the other three applicant countries and, for that matter, the Six member nations as well, so that we can then see that the terms are fair and equitable between the Ten.

Mr. Hughes

That is more vague than the Minister's previous reply. In any event, will he reassure the House by telling us quite clearly that the Government will not be satisfied with less than six miles as a permanent term, because any alternative would be extremely damaging to the British fishing industry?

Mr. Prior

I can certainly give that guarantee. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, but it would be far better, rather than to engage in long questions and answers across the Floor of the House now, to wait until the debate on Thursday when I will try to amplify the remarks which I have made.

Dame Irene Ward

As the whole situation appears to be extremely confused, will my right hon. Friend, when and if he makes his statement on Thursday, tell us how far we shall be able to get on fishing questions before we take our famous vote on 28th October? This is tremendously important. My constituents are quite happy about everything except fish, and I want to satisfy them, because it is not only the fishermen themselves but also all the people who support our fishing industry on the North-East coast who require proper affirmation.

Mr. Prior

I do not underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue one little bit, and I know that it is felt in all parts of the House. I will do my best on Thursday to give an answer which I think will satisfy my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite.

8. Mr. McNamara

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with representatives of the fishing industry following the meeting with representatives of the Six in September.

Mr. Prior

My officials have continued to keep in close touch with the representatives of both inshore and deep sea fishermen. I am of course ready to see representatives whenever they request a meeting.

24. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what limitations would membership of the European Economic Community impose upon the planting of vineyards and the making of wine in Great Britain.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

None, Sir.

Mr. Hill

Will my hon. Friend accept that that reply will be a welcome reassurance to the small but growing number of producers in this country who are planting vineyards?

Mr. Stodart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that statement, and I am happy at the prospect that I shall continue to be able to enjoy British sherry when I partake of my hon. Friend's hospitality.

29 and 36. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) by what percentage he now estimates the annual requirement for domestic sugar production will increase during the transitional period, if the United Kingdom becomes a member of the European Economic Community;

(2) by what percentage he now estimates the acreage necessary for domestic sugar beet production will increase for each year during the transitional period, if the United Kingdom becomes a member of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

Sugar consumption in the United Kingdom is at best static; and, because of our commitment to take the full current quotas under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement until the end of 1974, there will be no scope for increased beet production before then. Thereafter we expect to share in the opportunities for expansion which the enlarged Community will then offer.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that the industry is anxious that as much advance warning as possible should be given of our increased production requirements, in order to ensure that production facilities are made available in good time?

Mr. Stodart

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Deakins

What opportunities will there be for expansion in domestic sugar production after 1974, if we are to maintain our commitment to the Commonwealth sugar producers that we shall take much the same quantities?

Mr. Stodart

There is, as I think the House knows, no undertaking with regard to Australia, in respect of which there will be a gap of 335,000 tons to fill, and which will be phased out.

Sir J. Gilmour

In the event of the success of the negotiations at present going on about the factory in Scotland, will a quota for growing sugar beet in Scotland be available?

Mr. Stodart

The acreage quota is, of course, a matter for the Annual Price Review, but the Government would certainly not have assisted in getting discussions going between the British Sugar Corporation and the consortium if acreage were going to be a problem.