HC Deb 16 May 1972 vol 837 cc222-4
10. Mr. Deakins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Parliament will be consulted before the European Economic Community fixes agricultural prices in 1973.

Mr. Prior

A considerable period normally elapses between the publication of the Commission's proposals for agricultural prices and the final decisions by Ministers. There should, therefore, be ample time for Parliament to make its views known.

Mr. Deakins

Does the Minister acknowledge that Parliament ought to have the right to some form of consultation in this intervening period, to speak up on behalf of consumers and farmers, as we are to enter—if we do enter—an economy of high producer prices without giving producers the assured prices which they have had up to now?

Mr. Prior

I do not necessarily agree with the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I certainly expect that Parliament would have ample opportunity to make its views known to Ministers before any decision was reached. In fact, it may well be that there is a better opportunity under the new system than there is under our own system.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that, when agricultural prices in the Community are altered, he will as speedily as possible give the House revised estimates of the net balance of payments cost to this country, with reference to the figures which were set out in the White Paper and which should be revised?

Mr. Prior

I will consider that. The next changes to be made will be made after we have become a member, and I see no difficulty at that time in giving the sort of details for which my hon. Friend asks.

Mr. Shore

We are glad to know that the House would be consulted about proposed prices. After consultation had taken place, would the determination of prices by the Council be come to by a unanimous agreement of the Council members or by a majority vote?

Mr. Prior

So far, as the right hon. Gentleman ought to know by now, all these decisions involving the Council of Ministers dealing with agricultural prices have been by a unanimous vote. What happens is that there may well be differences in the original approach of each individual country, but at the end of the day they come to an agreement; and that seems to me to be a sensible way of continuing.

17. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, on entry to the European Economic Community, it has been agreed that Liverpool will take the place of Duisburg as the area of greatest cereal deficiency.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

This would be a matter for the enlarged Community and I know of no Community proposal for such a change.

Mr. Farr

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that there is a good deal of concern in the country because people want to know where an important decision of this nature is to be made? Will it be made in Liverpool, or in Duisburg, or elsewhere?

Mr. Stodart

This country wants very much to maintain the expected flow of trade in grain. We are thinking, therefore, in terms of between 10 and 20 intervention centres altogether. I do not wish to say where the largest deficit area would be, although I would go so far as to say that North-West England has as large a deficit as any other area.

Mr. Deakins

Will not the Minister press strongly for some revision of the decision to have Duisburg as a centre of greatest deficiency, for the transport costs involved from Britain to Duisburg will take a lot of the gilt off the ginger bread of the high cereal prices to which our producers are looking forward?

Mr. Stodart

I will take note of that. What we should recognise is that high intervention prices would not necessarily suit our livestock industry, which predominates in our agriculture.

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