HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1437-8
17. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects next to meet Commissioner Gundelach.

Mr. Peter Walker

When I next attend a meeting of the Agriculture Council on 12 and 13 November.

Mr. Stoddart

Yes. When the right hon. Gentleman meets Mr. Gundelach, will he impress upon him that the expensive, disreputable and damaging agricultural policy is not suitable to this country and is bleeding it white? Will he also tell Mr. Gundelach that the Government intend to achieve a fundamental reform of the system, failing which he will recommend Parliament to withdraw?

Mr. Walker

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that I certainly inherited a substantial problem. During the last five years, the agriculture budget went up from £1,900 million to over £7,000 million. I regret that there was so much agreement by the then British Government to a whole range of increases in goods which were in surplus and to a whole range of other schemes for which this country will have to pay. I have made it perfectly clear that, now that we are very close to the ceiling on CAP expenditure, the Government will do nothing to raise that ceiling. What is now needed is a fundamental look at the future of the CAP.

Mr. Latham

If Mr. Gundelach takes the French Government back to the European Court over sheepmeat and they again ignore its dictates, what do we do?

Mr. Walker

First, I think that the Commission and all the member States recognise that, if the French Government continue in this way, they will be threatening the whole future of the Community. As regards other actions that can be undertaken, the Commission has to put forward a range of proposals which I should first have to discuss with the Commission.

Secondly, a whole range of decisions needs to be taken within the CAP which are of considerable importance to the French Government and French farm producers. Obviously if the French Government are acting illegally, there will be a considerable impact on the Council's attitude to those decisions.

Mr. Dalyell

What is happening about the report commissioned by Mr. Gundelach in March 1968 on seal culling in the North Sea?

Mr. Walker

He has not so far disclosed it to me.