HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1652-3
7. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current EEC subsidy on food imports as a percentage of their real cost.

Mr. Peart

The United Kingdom monetary compensatory amount resulting from the difference between the market rate and the representative rate for the £ sterling is now 20.9 per cent. of the Community support price in the United Kingdom for the products affected, except for common wheat, for which it is 28.4 per cent. of the support price.

Sir A. Meyer

Do not those figures indicate that the common agricultural policy is being used by the Government to conceal real increases in the cost of living? Does not the inexorable fall in the value of the pound suggest that the Government are relying ever more on the patience of our European partners to conceal their failure to grapple with inflation?

Mr. Peart

Yes, I am well aware of the problem referred to by the hon. Gentleman. It is true that our partners in the Community are affected. That is why we are all anxious to make sterling strong. As I said, I keep this under review.

Mr. Jay

Is not the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) right, and are not these devices only temporarily disguising from our people the enormous and rising cost to us of the common agricultural policy?

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend knows that the consumers of this country have benefited considerably. The figures show that we receive more from the Community for the benefit of the consumer than we put in.

Mr. Pym

Is the Minister aware that the value of the EEC subsidy referred to in his reply is equivalent to between 4 per cent. and 5 per cent. on the Retail Price Index? That is a considerable subsidy, much higher than it has ever been. For how long does the Minister think it will be possible for the consumer to enjoy such an enormous EEC subsidy?

Mr. Peart

This is a matter which I shall inevitably have to discuss with the Council of Ministers. I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman said. There is no question about it.

Mr. Spearing

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the subsidies described are on prices which are very high? Is not the position comparable with that of a housewife who has perforce to shop in a supermarket which charges very high prices but in return she gets Green Shield stamps?

Mr. Peart

I hope my hon. Friend appreciates that continuity of supply for the British consumer has been helped considerably by our membership of the Community. In many countries, for example the Soviet Union, production has failed.

Mr. Marten

Does the Minister agree that there is something slightly dishonourable in claiming credit for the difference of 5 per cent. in the Retail Price index because of the level of the green pound? It is a curious argument to claim that the devaluation of sterling benefits the Common Market.

Mr. Peart

I am not using that argument. The hon. Gentleman is getting curiouser and curiouser. He continually attacks the CAP without acknowledging all the gains that we have made.

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