HC Deb 14 June 1979 vol 968 cc606-7
11. Mr. Arnold

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has put to his EEC colleagues with regard to further reforms of the common agricultural policy.

Mr. Peter Walker

The reform of the CAP is an aim which I shall be pursuing in forthcoming negotiations, including those on the level of farm prices for 1979–80.

Mr. Arnold

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to reform the CAP would be to move to a system whereby national Governments supported their farmers to a much greater extent on national budgets? Since this is a very serious problem, could we now return to something akin to the old United Kingdom system of deficiency payments?

Mr. Walker

The principle that those countries which have produced the problems of surpluses should have to meet the consequences is one which we shall be pursuing in our negotiations.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Will the right hon. Gentleman spell out exactly what are the Government's proposals for reforming the CAP? Despite all the election speeches, we have not yet found out.

Mr. Walker

We shall be debating this very topic tomorrow, including the whole attitude of the Government towards the current price negotiations. I do not think that there is any disagreement on the major principle as between the two sides of the House. The view of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) was that the essential thing to try to achieve in these current price negotiations was to support the Commission in the proposals for a price freeze.

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the outstanding characteristics of recent years was the total failure by the Labour Government to achieve any significant reform of the CAP, despite their much-vaunted claims to have done so? Does he accept that he has the good will of the whole House in his determined effort to secure significant reforms during his period of office?

Mr. Walker

It is true that during the period of office of the Labour Government the CAP budget quadrupled—hardly a sign of success. We shall do the best we can.

Mr. Jay

What will the right hon. Gentleman do if the CAP is not reformed?

Mr. Walker

Obviously I shall keep trying.