§ 3. Mr. Spearing
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the powers he will possess if the United Kingdom becomes a member of the European Economic Community unilaterally to reduce the import levy on imported foods or prohibit export of home-produced food from Great Britain.
§ Mr. Spearing
Will the Minister confirm that we shall have no unilateral powers whatever in respect of either the matters contained in my Question or any others? Will he further confirm that any changes of policy must be unanimous with all Community members and that we shall have only a small voice in these matters?
§ Mr. Prior
That supplementary question shows how little the hon. Gentleman understands about the way the Com- 222 munity works. It is true that we shall no longer be able to take unilateral action on a national basis, but we shall be able to play a full part in reaching decisions, which is something we have not been able to do in the last year or two and something which as regards beef is happening to us now outside the Community
§ Mr. Peart
In saying that my hon. Friend is not aware of these matters, is not the Minister being somewhat arrogant? Has he not proved my hon. Friend's point by his own answer? Will he spend a little more time dealing with the dangers of the common agricultural policy to British agriculture and the consumer?
§ 14. Mr. Hicks
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will outline the preparatory work and market research being undertaken both by his Ministry and other organisations in respect of the potential market for exports from the United Kingdom of agricultural and horticultural products in both the existing and applicant countries of the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Mills)
Assessment of market prospects is primarily a matter for individual industries and firms although my Ministry and our representatives in the United Kingdom delegation in Brussels and the other capitals are ready to provide all available information and advice. Work to assemble information on various aspects of agriculture and food production, consumption and trade in the Six and acceding countries is being undertaken by the National Economic Development Council and other official bodies and of course by commercial and industrial organizations.
§ Mr. Hicks
In thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to take note of the urgent need to ensure that this information relating to potential export markets is relayed back to the individual producer and individual 223 marketing organisation throughout the United Kingdom so that they in turn can make an objective assessment of the situation which they will face when we are in the EEC?
§ 17. Mr. Deakins
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further revised estimate of the effect on food prices of entry into the European Economic Community in view of the current level of beef prices.
§ 40. Mr. James Lamond
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a revised estimate has now been made of the rise in the cost of food consequent upon British entry into the European Economic Community.
§ Mr. Deakins
Does not the trend in beef prices in Britain in the past year show what is to be expected in the Common Market, as high-cost agricultural production means higher prices in the shops and reduced consumption by ordinary people?
§ Mr. Lamond
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government have attempted to reassure pensioners by telling them that they will be protected from the increase in food prices when we join the Common Market? Today the right hon. Gentleman has repeated the Government estimate that prices will increase by only 2 per cent. If this is translated into money terms, which pensioners are interested in, and if allowance is made for the fact, which has also been pointed out today, that pen- 224 sioners do not spend all their income on food, it means that the Government are prepared to try to reassure pensioners that an increase in their pensions of about 10p will fully protect them against price increases arising from entry into the Common Market. I do not think that pensioners will for a moment accept that.
§ Mr. Prior
Pensioners are not being asked to accept the assurance that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. The official estimate of the difference between our prices and Community prices, or of adopting Community prices, is not intended as a forecast of what will happen to food prices over the next few years. It is intended merely to show the difference which will apply each year between our prices and Community prices.
Whatever the actual increase in the price of food or in the cost of living year by year or year to year, this is the figure that will be reviewed each year in old-age pensions.
§ Mr. Buchan
Why does the right hon. Gentleman deny his own policy? His own policy was to try to achieve high prices. He will recall that he told us that the British people had been molly-coddled for too long on cheap food and that prices had to rise. This was his "prior" policy. What is his policy now?