HC Deb 12 April 1973 vol 854 cc1500-2
Q3. Mr. Ewing

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to pay an official visit to Brussels.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Ewing

Will the Prime Minister not reconsider that decision? Is he aware that the Commission in Brussels has already stated in print to the Council of Ministers that it will propose an 8 percent. increase in beef prices for the years 1974 and 1975? Even if the Prime Minister's Government did not have the courage to veto the present price increases, will he assure the House that his Government will veto those proposals? In view of the way in which the Prime Minister has misled the British housewife, is he really surprised that our housewives simply do not love him any more?

The Prime Minister

The Commission and the Council of Ministers of Agriculture are dealing with the present year's increases. That is what is being discussed in Brussels at the moment. I know nothing of proposals beyond those which have been put forward by the Commission at the moment.

Mr. Burden

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the present representatives of this Government in Brussels have done a great deal to ease the terms of the common agricultural policy? Is he not aware also that when the Leader of the Opposition was negotiating to go into the Common Market he said that that policy was one which had to be accepted and that it was not negotiable?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is quite correct. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has just returned from the most recent round of discussions about the pricing policy for the CAP. One of the items which the Commission has put forward deals with proposals to reduce the intervention prices for butter and therefore to prevent a similar situation arising to the one which it has just disposed of.

Mr. Peter Shore

Whether or not the Prime Minister goes to Brussels, will he at least make sure that his Government do not agree to any general price increases this year under the CAP and that in future British representatives on management committees know how to vote and know how to use their vote in the interests of the British people?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made our position clear in the present discussions. As for the right hon. Gentleman's last point, we had absolutely nothing to do with the accumulation of the butter. That occurred before we became a member of the EEC. Therefore, it was right that we should not take part in the voting in the committee. But as regards future prices, my right hon. Friend has been dealing with exactly that problem.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Whether or not the right hon. Gentleman goes to Brussels, if we have no responsibility and if the reason for our abstention was that the butter was accumulated before 1st January, will the Prime Minister explain why we have to pay for it?

The Prime Minister

We shall have to pay only a very small part, precisely because of the good terms negotiated by this Government in Brussels.

Mr. Wilson

If the right hon. Gentleman considers £12 million such a small amount, does he realise that he withdrew all school milk for a much smaller figure?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said yesterday, it is not yet possible to calculate the precise amount. But as we are limited to just over 8 per cent., it is a small proportion of the total amount.