HC Deb 11 January 1977 vol 923 cc1253-5
Q5. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the visit of the French Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

The French Prime Minister is paying a private visit to the United Kingdom today. He will call on me later this afternoon, and also on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Marten

Will the Prime Minister give the French Prime Minister a copy of yesterday's Hansard, so that he can read the criticisms made in this House about the common agricultural policy? Does he agree that the CAP, which has to put up the price of butter from 45p a pound to 72p a pound this year, and an intervention board that buys in skimmed milk at over £500 per ton and sells it back to the farmers at £100 a ton, can only be regarded as crazy, that the CAP should be totally scrapped, and that a national agricultural policy should be substituted for it? Otherwise the poor will suffer, because of the price of food.

The Prime Minister

I think that the Prime Minister of France is very well aware of our attitude to the common agricultural policy. It is a matter of great significance and importance to France, because of the great numbers of people employed on the land there who depend upon this policy.

Mrs. Castle

Others depend on eating.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), not for the first time, has given vent to a considerable truism. It is a matter of negotiating our way through this problem. The French Government are in no doubt that we shall continue to return to it on the occasion of price reviews and on all other occasions.

Mr. Lee

Are we prepared to use the veto? Is not the situation that the longer we are in the Common Market the more we are integrated into this absurd agricultural policy? Can we not make it absolutely clear to our partners in this organisation that the CAP is totally intolerable and that in the end it will certainly have to be destroyed, even if we stay in the Market?

The Prime Minister

We must be careful. We are benefiting from certain aspects of the policy to the tune of about £500 million a year—[Interruption.] It is a very considerable figure, anyway. We must take all these factors into account. I agree with my hon. Friend if his view is that the so-called common agricultural policy is not based on the best use of resources in the Community or, indeed, in some of the member States. We should address ourselves to that aspect and try to get an efficient agricultural policy. If there are social reasons why it is not possible for individual members of the Community entirely to disregard assistance, I suggest that it would be better if it were borne on national funds or on some other funds.

Mr. Tebbit

As the French Prime Minister is a stranger to British politics, will the right hon. Gentleman explain to him how it is that in a country which has a doctrine of collective responsibility the Prime Minister can stand at that Dispatch Box and say that it is nothing to do with him when one of his Cabinet Ministers states that he belongs to a Marxist coalition party, and that it is a very good thing? Surely the Prime Minister ought to explain that to one of our partners.

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