HC Deb 12 July 1979 vol 970 cc645-7
10. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will meet next Commissioner Gundelach of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Peter Walker

On 23–24 July, when I attend the Agricultural Council.

Mr. Morrison

Will my right hon. Friend take that opportunity to discuss with the Commissioner the whole question of the sheepmeat regime, and in particular the entry into Europe of British-produced lamb and mutton?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. There will probably be on the agenda of the July meeting a discussion about the sheepmeat regime. The principle that I made clear to the Commissioner, and shall make clear to the Council if necessary, is that we shall not put up with any regime that continues the current discrimination against the exports of British sheep.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Minister ask Mr. Gundelach what has become of the survey that he, Mr. Gundelach, set in motion on the culling of grey seals? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to report to the House on the matter before December, when the problem arises again?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Does the Minister agree that unless he can persuade the Commissioner to reform the common agricultural policy within the next two years, it may disintegrate within five?

Mr. Walker

I think that at present the common agricultural policy is under considerable strain. This year there will be throughout Europe a rapid increase in costs, and there will still be vast sur- pluses, which means that the matter must be tackled in a way that causes a great deal of difficulty for many member States. Therefore, it is a testing year for the CAP.

Mr. Dykes

Now that Herr Ertl in Germany and other German politicians seem to be more reasonable on the question of agricultural surpluses, will my right hon. Friend encourage the Commission in its attempts to do something about chronic surpluses, instead of simply waiting for next year's price review, which would be the obvious temptation after the latest package?

Mr. Walker

The Commission has guaranteed that it will be putting forward its proposals for the sugar regime in the early autumn months. That will give us time to tackle that matter. I welcome the tone of the pronouncements from West Germany, and I shall endeavour to follow up these matters in talks that I hope to have with Herr Ertl in the near future.

Mr. Strang

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while it is true that the butter subsidy and the school milk subsidy will offset the effect of this year's settlement on the British contribution for the current year, and while he was right to resist the discriminatory milk levy, the failure to replace that levy with alternative measures and the failure to cut the sugar beet quota can lead only to a further increase in the production of two commodities which are already in massive structural surplus? Does the Minister accept that, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister may achieve in relation to the British contribution in the autumn, there is no substitute for policies that will cut those surpluses in the long term?

Mr. Walker

I share the hon. Gentleman's view about the importance of the cut in the sugar quota. I supported such a cut in this year's price negotiations, but the Commission decided not to press it. Having negotiated there, the hon. Gentleman will know that if the Commission does not put the proposal there is no way in which it can be accepted. We are due to tackle that matter in the early autumn.

We could have been tougher on the question of milk, with a price freeze. All I can say is that those surpluses were building up during the time when the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) had responsibility, and in every price fixing they agreed substantial increases in the price of milk.