HC Deb 16 March 1978 vol 946 cc634-5

Q4. Mr. Marten asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to pay an official visit to New Zealand.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to visit New Zealand. However, I was pleased to meet the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand during his visit to London last week, when we had most useful discussions.

Mr. Marten

Will the Prime Minister make it absolutely clear to the people of New Zealand that we in this Parliament have no intention of allowing their agricultural products to be squeezed out of this country by the common agricultural policy? Is he aware that the New Zealanders have tried to find new markets for their products because of our membership of the Common Market, but that they have been met head-on by heavily subsidised or dumped Common Market products in competition? Will he give an assurance that the Government will support New Zealand in its crisis?

The Prime Minister

Since the renegotiations and the talks that we had in Dublin at the Heads of Governments meeting in 1975 we secured an extremely valuable agreement on behalf of New Zealand in respect of butter and some other commodities—

Mr. Jay

It was only temporary.

The Prime Minister

Yes, it was temporary. We were unable to get a permanent agreement. Consistently since then my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Foreign Secretary have taken up the cudgels on behalf of New Zealand in these discussions in the Common Market, and we shall continue to do so.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my right hon. Friend be kind enough to try to persuade the other Heads of Governments that the EEC is in grave danger of taking so many protectionist moves against other Governments that it will soon be very difficult for us to trade openly? Is he aware that Australia has already made its position clear? Will he make sure that there are no barriers to agricultural imports coming into the Community?

The Prime Minister

I could not guarantee that that would be accepted with acclamation, because we are facing a situation in which protectionism is growing throughout the world. On balance, I believe that that would be disadvantageous to this country. Therefore, we constantly press for the restriction of protectionist devices, except in certain selective cases where there are structural differences, and that will continue to be our policy.