§ 8. Mr. Marten
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on renegotiation of the common agricultural policy.
§ 31. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the latest position in relation to the renegotiations with the EEC on the common agricultural policy.
§ 38. Mr. Winterton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on what progress he has made on each of his aims in the Common Market negotiations.
§ Mr. Peart
The changes I wish to see in the operation of the CAP and certain related fields are set out fully in my statement to the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 18th June last year. It would be premature for me now to make any general assessment of what has been achieved, but progress on a number of issues has been made in the course of negotiations about which the House has been regularly informed. In particular we have reached a satisfactory settlement on sugar under Protocol 22, providing long-term guarantees of access on extremely fair terms for the developing countries of the Commonwealth. And, as I explained last Monday, we have secured fundamental changes in the beef régime, which enable this country, or any other member State, to operate deficiency payment arrangements, which will provide a guarantee to producers without taking excessive quantities of meat into intervention cold stores.
§ Mr. Marten
I accept that certain arrangements have been made, but will 1532 the Minister say what major changes in the common agricultural policy have been agreed, so that the CAP ceases to be a threat to world trade in food products, and so that low-cost products from outside Europe can continue to have access to the British food market in accordance with the Labour Party manifesto?
§ Mr. Peart
I made a series of proposals. One which was accepted concerned basing the criteria for prices on efficient farms and the supply and demand situation. That was a step forward in agriculture. Protocol 22 gave a good deal to the developing countries. That agreement compares favourably with the old Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. I have also achieved a new beef régime, which enables a deficiency payments system to operate.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is my right hon. Friend aware that all hon. Members on the Government benches, whether pro- or anti-Market, agree that there must be fundamental changes in the common agricultural policy, and that we are all gratified that he is making considerable progress towards that end? If, in the event, the Government recommend that we stay in the EEC, in view of the considerable progress that has been made, will he join in the recommendation?
§ Mr. Winterton
In renegotiating the terms of the common agricultural policy will the Minister turn his attention to three points—first, that it is unacceptable that the French should unload eggs on the British market, undercutting our egg industry, when they refuse to take our exports; secondly, that the European pig herd is likely to reach a peak later this year and that it is important, therefore, to ensure that our pig herd expands next year; and, thirdly, that most continental milk is produced for manufacture 1533 whereas ours is produced for liquid consumption? Will he ensure that the regulations and directives that come from the European Economic Community have regard to those points?
§ Mr. Peart
A Commission document specifically relating to milk is to be debated tonight. I am well aware of the regulations. I accept that we must watch and scrutinise them very carefully.
I want our pig herd to increase and the farmer to have sensible and reasonable prices.
I am having talks about eggs and hope to speak to the French on the matter.
§ Mr. Torney
I appreciate that my right hon. Friend has been able to twist the arm of the Common Market authorities more than his predecessor was able to do. However, does he agree that as Britain cannot produce the whole of the food that she needs—in fact, only about half—and as the common agricultural policy is designed to protect countries which produce almost all their own food, it is an utter failure for this country, and the sooner he negotiates to abolish and replace it with something better, the better it will be for this country as a whole?
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend knows only too well that the Labour Party's policy and decision were and are to seek the renegotiation of the terms of entry. I have done that honourably. I suspect that some people were hoping that I would fail. I would rather succeed and help our farmers, because in the end we should encourage more production in this country.
§ Mr. Powell
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government's renegotiation objective of obtaining open access to the British market for low-cost producers throughout the world—
§ Mr. Powell
That is as may be—is not restricted to under-developed or Commonwealth countries, but is wholly general?
§ Mr. Peart
My aim throughout the working business of the Community has been to seek to liberalise the CAP. For example, I have defended access for meat 1534 supplies from Botswana and Swaziland. I believe that we should try to get permanent access for New Zealand. I met the New Zealand Prime Minister this week and we discussed what we were going for at the summit. [Interruption.] If it is welcome, why not say so.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
Does my right hon. Friend realise that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends wish to congratulate him on the success of his negotiations so far, which have brought great benefit to our constituents, whether producers or consumers, and to the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Pym
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's belated recognition of the fact that the CAP is flexible. May I ask him, first, whether his target price for beef, of £22 to £23, is realistic in the face of rising costs which producers have to pay and, secondly, whether he will be more specific about eggs? The Minister said that he was going to talk to the French. This has been a critical situation for several weeks. It is extremely urgent. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to make a statement to the House next week, at the latest, so that the position can be rectified?
§ 16. Mr. Hal Miller
asked the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the cost to public funds of the operation of the CAP in 1974; and how this compares with the cost of its full application.
§ Mr. Miller
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an idea of the savings to the public in food costs as a result of the partial operation of the CAP and also, compared with that, the cost of the additional measures that he has had to introduce because the CAP is not yet in full operation?
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman about one aspect of the CAP? Will he inform the House what progress has been made in securing a regulation to govern sheep meat which will ensure that producers of lamb and mutton can at all times sell their produce in France?