HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1659-61
15. Mr. Moate

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next expects to meet other EEC Ministers of Agriculture.

32. Mr. Crawford

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next intends to meet his EEC colleagues.

Mr. Peart

At the next meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 21st–22nd June.

Mr. Moate

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the commitment to New Zealand on dairy imports was a fundamental part of the Government's renegotiation? Will he confirm that he regards the agreement as being absolutely binding on both Britain and its Community partners, and that at the next meeting there will be no going back on commitments already given?

Mr. Peart

I can assure the hon. Member that, as I have frequently said in the Community, we believe that what was agreed at the Dublin summit in relation to New Zealand's access to the market here was a solemn pledge given by the whole Community—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) should not make remarks from a seated position. He should get up and ask me questions directly. I can assure the House that we shall fight hard for New Zealand.

Mr. Corbett

In view of my right hon. Friend's commitment to the Government's policy to seek fundamental changes in the CAP, will he consider, next time he meets the Agriculture Ministers, trying to persuade them to chuck the whole thing in and call a moratorium until they can devise a more sensible policy which is fair to producers and consumers?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend, who carefully watches the agricultural scene, must recognise that his suggestion is completely unrealistic. We are committed to and are determined to improve the CAP as part of the ongoing business in the Community. I want liberalisation of trade and access for New Zealand. I got a variable premium system for the beef industry which was like our own deficiency payments system, and I have pressed hard to dispose of surplus production into the developing countries for food aid. We have done that and the British presence has been felt.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the CAP is to succeed in the next five or 10 years we must abolish the green pound?

Mr. Peart

Inevitably there must be a major adjustment here, but we cannot do it immediately because it would harm our consumers.

Miss Boothroyd

Is my right hon. Friend aware that consumers make up 100 per cent. of the Community and that they have no voice to speak directly for them in Brussels? Will he press for a commissioner of consumer affairs to be appointed to look after their interests and to redress the imbalance within the CAP?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that. I am the Minister for Agriculture and Food, and I continually press the consumer position.

Mr. Jopling

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the most important things he can do when he next meets the Community Ministers of Agriculture is to impress upon them that it is absolutely vital for the benefit both of producers and of consumers in this country that our existing marketing boards should be allowed to continue working in the way they are at the moment?

Mr. Peart

I stated the other day at the Dairy Federation conference my views on the Milk Marketing Board, which is an example of a very successful organisation. I have stated precisely what the Government intend to do.

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