HC Deb 18 January 1972 vol 829 cc192-8
3. Mr. Strang

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further representations he has received regarding the future of the inshore fishing industry within an enlarged European Community; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Prior

I met representatives of the Fisheries Organisation Society, which represents inshore fishing interests in England and Wales, on 21st December, when I answered questions about the position of the industry within the Community and expressed my confidence in its future.

Mr. Strang

But does the right hon. Gentleman recall that before the crucial vote on entry into the Common Market he gave the House a solemn pledge that he would not conclude a fisheries agreement without knowing precisely what terms were to be offered to the other applicants? How does he reconcile that pledge with what has happened? Is he aware that many of the fishermen's leaders, whose initial reaction was favourable, are now very concerned about what the Government have apparently brought back from Brussels?

Mr. Prior

I strongly disagree with what the hon. Gentleman said. It does the inshore industry no good at all for hon. Members to take that sort of attitude, which is totally unfair. Apart from that, we did know the terms which were offered to the other applicants, and it was on that basis that we accepted.

Mr. Brewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable concern in South-West Scotland about the fishing grounds off the Isle of Man and the Cumberland coast? Can he say anything about what limits there will be around the Isle of Man?

Mr. Prior

I cannot say anything about limits around the Isle of Man. In isolated areas, where there may be special problems for certain species and so on, the problems will be far better looked at in terms of conservation. I am having a very careful study made of that point.

Mr. James Johnson

Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up something which puzzled all of us who were in the Chamber during our debates on the E.E.C. fisheries policy, on Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill? Is he aware that in the other place the noble Lady, Baroness Tweedsmuir, made a categorical statement that we should have a veto at the end of the 10-years' transitional period, in answer to questions by my noble Friends, Lord Hoy and Lord Shinwell, whereas in this Chamber the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would not utter a word on that question and would not accept that there was any question of a veto being put in our hands at the end of that period?

Mr. Prior

That is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The position with regard to the Luxembourg Agreement has always been perfectly well known—that the Community as a whole does not take action which it considers will affect the vital interests of any one of the nations concerned.

5. Mr. Luce

asked the Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food whether, if Great Britain joins the Common Market, the Horticultural Improvement Scheme will remain in existence or be replaced by other forms of aid to the horticultural industry.

Mr. Prior

I see no reason why the Horticulture Improvement Scheme should be regarded as incompatible with present E.E.C. rules. The legislation authorising the Scheme expires in 1974 and the nature of assistance to the industry after that would be a matter for consideration whether we joined the E.E.C. or not.

Mr. Luce

Does my right hon. Friend accept that over the past 10 years or so the scheme has done a great deal to help build up a larger and more effective industry? Does not he accept that it would be harmful to the industry to withdraw the scheme, except on the condition that it would be replaced by other equally effective aids and incentives to the industry?

Mr. Prior

The scheme continues until the end of 1974. It has put £80 million of extra capital into the industry, of which about £26 million has been supplied by the Government. The industry, particularly in my hon. Friend's constituency, has reached a high state of efficiency. We wish to maintain it at that level, but I do not want to commit myself at this stage beyond 1974.

Mr. Dalyell

When can market gardeners contemplating their investment plans expect to be told about the post-1974 arrangements?

Mr. Prior

We are in close consultation with the National Farmers Union about the E.E.C. arrangements, and I shall make a statement to the House as soon as possible.

8. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on the effect of the adoption of the European Economic Committee's fisheries policy in the British fishing industry.

2. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in negotiations with the European Economic Community on fishery limits; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Prior

Nothing has taken place in the negotiations to affect their satisfactory outcome for the British fishing industry as reported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 13th December last.—[Vol. 828, c. 51–53.]

Mr. Wall

In view of the valuable protection that is to be given to inshore fishermen, does my right hon. Friend agree that active policing of the new limit is needed? Does he also agree that the fact that Norway has now reached agreement with the E.E.C. will give protection to our distant water vessels in that it makes it far less likely that other nations will follow Iceland's bad example and try to extend their limit to 50 miles?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. and learned Friend will shortly be making a statement on protection, and I think that the outcome will be very satisfactory to the whole House. I confirm what my hon. Friend said on distant water protection. The agreement we have reached is a valuable safeguard. The formal assurance from the Community that the common fisheries policy forbids discrimination in form or in fact against fellow members' vessels outside 12 miles is vital to them.

Mr. Bruce Gardyne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, contrary to the impression created by the Opposition, inshore fishermen in Scotland have accepted the agreement as entirely safeguarding the interests of the industry? Is he also aware that many of us were looking forward to an opportunity to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on this achievement in the debate on the fishing settlement that the Opposition promised to stage? Can my right hon. Friend tell us why the Opposition have decided not to hold this debate?

Mr. Prior

I think for precisely the reasons which my hon. Friend has given.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Will the Minister explain to the House that the achievement of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster means, despite all the previous assurances given, that after 1982 there will be no binding legal agreement at all save and in so far as it is up to the grace, favour and unanimity of the majority of the partners in the E.E.C.?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. and learned Friend has explained that on many occasions, and I am very surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not grasped it.

14. Sir R. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the continuance of the slaughter policy in respect of foot-and-mouth disease and of the ban on the import of vaccinated animals after the end of the five-year period should Great Britain enter the European Economic Community.

19. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what continuing effect the agreement on animal health with the Common Market will have on livestock production.

38. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what his policy is in relation to foot-and-mouth disease from 1978, should the United Kingdom join the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Prior

The agreement preserves our exclusion of livestock vaccinated against foot-and-mouth disease and our quarantine precautions for imports of unvaccinated stock. The Community régime entitle us to take protective measures against the introduction of diseases like swine fever. Our slaughter policy for foot-and-mouth disease was never in question. The enlarged Community must decide the regime to apply after five years, but I am confident that we shall achieve satisfactory solutions then, as we have done now. Thus livestock producers should benefit from progress towards freer trade within the Community while exports to other markets should not be jeopardised.

Sir R. Turton

As the livestock export trade to many overseas countries depends on the continuance of our foot-and-mouth disease policy, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that after the end of the five-year period he will maintain existing restrictions against the import of animals from countries which have less rigorous animal health policies?

Mr. Prior

The problem here is one of vaccinated stock; those are the ones we wish to keep out. We have had a long and hard battle to obtain the agreement that we have obtained with the Community, and I am certain that, once we are a member, we shall be in a strong position to show the Community that our livestock health protection is far better than is theirs.

Mr. Morrison

My right hon. Friend's reply is very satisfactory, but are there any spheres of animal health in which this country is lagging behind the Community and, if so, what action will be necessary by United Kingdom farmers?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir. There are a few differences in interpretation on such matters as brucellosis and tuberculosis, but I do not think there are any spheres in which we are lagging behind. In fact, we have the best health precautions in the world, and we should stick to them.

Mr. Farr

Although I appreciate what my right hon. Friend says, does he not agree that this is an important matter on which we should not give way in any circumstances? Will he assure the House that, after 1974, whatever the E.E.C. may say, we will not permit the import of vaccinated animals?

Mr. Prior

We have five years, so there is no problem until 1978. By 1978 circumstances may have changed, and it would be unwise to go too far ahead and to give too categorical an assurance, but I see no reason why we should not continue this policy.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Will the Minister assure the House that, in addition to control over the importation of live animals, the present restrictions on the importation of carcase meat from E.E.C. countries where there is endemic foot-and-mouth disease will continue after our entry?

Mr. Prior

The arrangements will remain the same for the E.E.C. countries as they are now. We allow dead meat to come in from them and we shall continue to have the same restrictions and the same provisions on access as we have at the moment.

Mr. Hooson

Has the Minister considered the difficulty of distinguishing between animals which have been vaccinated against foot-and-mouth disease and those which have not? Is he satisfied that the regulations of the E.E.C. countries make it possible for his inspectors to distinguish accurately, because that is the real problem?

Mr. Prior

We shall still maintain our quarantine system. We shall have no more difficulty in distinguishing then than we had before going into the Community. The situation remains exactly the same. It is not economic to import ordinary animals which have to go through a quarantine period. That is done only for those special animals required for breeding.

25. Mr. Moate

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now publish revised estimates of the increase in United Kingdom food prices if Great Britain should join the European Economic Community, taking account of higher Community prices and falling world cereal prices.

Mr. Prior

No, Sir.

Mr. Moate

My right hon. Friend was pointing a little earlier, and quite rightly, to a record of more stable prices in the last six months. At the same time the Community is proposing an 8 per cent. increase in food prices. Will this not produce a greater increase for the British housewife to bear, and will my right hon. Friend publish a further estimate if the Community's proposals are adopted?

Mr. Prior

It would not be practicable to publish revised estimates at short intervals to take account of world prices or increases in individual products; but once Community prices have been put up—if they are put up—I will consider what my hon. Friend said and we will publish a fresh estimate.

Mr. Peart

But the Minister must be aware that M. Mansholt has announced an 8 per cent. increase in prices. Will this not inevitably affect the estimates in the White Paper?

Mr. Prior

The right hon. Gentleman must know that this has not yet been confirmed. It would be ridiculous every week to keep publishing fresh estimates. Let us wait to see what happens and then publish the figures.

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