HC Deb 15 February 1973 vol 850 cc1427-8
2. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what changes in the common agricultural policy he will be proposing to the Council of Ministers of the EEC.

Mr. Godber

We accepted the CAP in our application for membership of the Community and we adopted it on 1st February subject to the transitional arrangements provided in the Treaty of Accession. We intend to play our full part in the future development of the CAP to meet the needs and circumstances of the enlarged Community.

Mr. Marten

Does my right hon. Friend recall that during the Common Market debates we were led to believe, rightly or wrongly, that once we were in the Community we would do our best to change a totally absurd policy—and everybody would agree with that? Will he consult the Leader of the House so that we can have a debate on the follies of the common agricultural policy and so that Parliament can instruct the Minister on what to say when he goes to Brussels to reform the CAP?

Mr. Godber

I will inform my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of my hon. Friend's desire for a debate, but I have made clear in public speeches outside the House our desire to see the CAP develop in a way which would be better, we believe, from the point of view of consumers and producers alike. We believe we can help to provide a system whereby the CAP in some degree changes its basis, but we accepted the CAP, we acknowledged that we were joining a club, and we have to abide by its rules. We do not wish to change the rules, but we want to see the Community develop in a way which will help all sections.

Mr. Hooson

In the light of the Minister's reply, does he not believe it important that this country should advocate a system of subsidies within the Common Market to benefit the consumers and to protect farmers within the CAP generally?

Mr. Godber

I do not know about a system of subsidies but a system of production grants, such as we have had in this country in the past, might be adopted by the Common Market countries. There are proposals for consideration in Brussels next week which could lead in this direction. I think that people in the Community are already thinking on these lines. I have indicated in other speeches the way in which the Government believe they should move forward.

Mr. John Hall

Is it possible to operate the CAP effectively while this country operates a floating currency rate?

Mr. Godber

We agreed, at the January meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, the basis for the floating of the pound. The changed circumstances, with the change in the dollar, may call for some revision, but we allowed for changes by introducing what is called a monetary compensatory amount to impose on top of the existing system. I agree that so long as any currencies float it makes it more complicated to work out relationships.

Mr. Shore

Clearly we wish to change the rules of the CAP. Not only is it in our own vital national interest to change those rules; it is also a matter of the utmost importance for the whole international community. Will not the Minister reconsider the matter and urge his colleagues—if he cannot do so himself—to put this item on the agenda of the Council of Ministers and make sure that it forms part of the international discussions on trade which are to take place on a world-wide basis later this year?

Mr. Godber

I do not think it is a matter of changing the rules. It involves a change of direction, and I have indicated the sort of way we think things should develop. In regard to the wider issues, involving international discussions, these are very much in our minds and in the minds of our Common Market colleagues in seeking to obtain satisfactory results from the international discussions with third countries during the course of this year.