HC Deb 08 February 1979 vol 962 cc540-1
7. Mr. Corbett

asked the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had concerning the common agricultural policy.

Mr. John Silkin

The most recent were at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in Brussels earlier this week.

Mr. Corbett

Does the Minister accept that the common agricultural policy is like a bank which never closes and which only pays out money?

Mr. Skinner

Then why does my hon. Friend support it?

Mr. Corbett

Will my right hon. Friend draw the specific attention of his colleagues to the fact that the way this crazy policy operates at present means that consumers pay higher prices than they need to andthen, as taxpayers, they are caned for a second instalment on intervention?

Mr. Silkin

My hon. Friend might have added a third element—that the majority payment into this non-closing bank happens to be British.

Mr. Wm. Ross

As the CAP has such a tremendous influence on the pattern of food production in this country, will the Minister tell us when he will produce an updated version of "Food from Our Own Resources"? When he produces that version, will he tell the United Kingdom farmers what the Government expect of them in the future?

Mr. Silkin

There is a later question on the Order Paper on exactly this subject. I hope that hon. Members who have asked me this question will not regard it as a discourtesy if I answer it now. The answer is that copies will be available today in the Vote Office after 3.30 pm.

Mr. Madden

As the French and Germans are top of the first division in defending their own national interests, will my right hon. Friend understand that his vigorous defence of British interests commands widespread support throughout the country? As the charge for our membership of the Common Market now represents £20 a head for every British man, woman and child, will he continue that vigorous defence and ensure that there is no increase in the price of British food as a result of our membership?

Mr. Silkin

We have to see where the problem lies. It is in the accumulation of high-priced surpluses in Europe—not in this country. It is my intention that we shall continue year after year to see that the prices do not rise until the surpluses have been eliminated. That is the best help that we can give to British housewives, and indeed to those of other EEC countries.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, apart from keeping prices down as far as possible, we need a switch from guarantees to guidance? Does he agree that structural plans must be revised and that it is about time we had a rural fund to deal with the rural areas not only in this country but also in Europe? This would help people get out of production in cases where there are surpluses.

Mr. Silkin

The object of the hon. Gentleman's question is right. I am not sure that it would be altogether right to switch it from one payment by the Community as a whole to another. It seems to me that these should be national payments. When I look at where the main problem lies, and the country where it lies, it seems to me that that country can well afford to pay for it.