HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1424-5
2. Mr. Leighton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he has made in negotiating a fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy of the EEC.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Walker)

The freeze in the milk support prices for 1979–80 and the very low increase for other products was a start. I will be seeking further improvements.

Mr. Leighton

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that when he returned in June and increased food prices by 1½ per cent, except for milk, he told us that because of the butter subsidy we were better off. Has he seen Treasury memorandum 8008, which suggests that our increased payment into the budget will be about £150 million? Does he agree that the guarantee section of the CAP this year is estimated to rise by 10 per cent, and that we shall have to pay our share of that burden?

Mr. Walker

The recent price fixing was the first agreement since we entered the Community in which Britain was a net beneficiary to the extent of £30 million. The increases to which the hon. Gentleman refers relate to decisions taken within the CAP previously. For example, a decision was taken by the previous Government for a £1,300 million structural payment to Italy, Ireland and other countries, which we are paying for partly this year and partly in the years to come.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

If, despite the united efforts of the European Democratic Group in the European Parliament, the European Parliament were to include in the budget for 1980 a highly discriminatory co-responsibility milk levy, may we rely on my right hon. Friend to veto that once again, as he has done on a previous occasion?

Mr. Walker

I should oppose any discriminatory co-responsibility levy. As we reach the ceiling for expenditure within the CAP, I think that there will be a tendency for countries to suggest that we have general levies to avoid facing that ceiling. At the Council of Ministers meeting on Tuesday I made it clear that the British Government would not support the use of any such levies.

Mr. Torney

Yesterday I was accused of spreading speculative scare stories. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that thousands of workers in milk distribution are already scared that, because of the import of French milk, their livelihoods are in danger and that they will be thrown on the dole? What action does the Minister propose to ensure that these jobs will be protected and that the daily delivery milk system is protected against the import of French milk?

Mr. Walker

I agree that it is vital to retain the doorstep delivery system. The present health regulations prevent French milk from coming to Britain.

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