HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1428-30
8. Mr. Farr

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

14. Mr. Latham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when next he expects to attend a meeting of the EEC Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Mr. Peter Walker

On 12–13 November.

Mr. Farr

Will my right hon. Friend put into operation the machinery that exists whereby in certain circumstances he may call for a special meeting of the EEC Council of Agriculture Ministers? Many of my colleagues feel that it is not good enough to wait until the next scheduled meeting to discuss the action taken by the French and any retaliatory action that Britain should take. Will he press for the implementation of this special meeting immediately?

Mr. Walker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There were two special meetings of the Council last week. I shall have to consider the decisions of the Commission on Friday and the actions of the French Government. I can assure my hon. Friend that the action that can be taken will be taken by the Commission. I shall be in close contact with it between now and 12 November.

Mr. Latham

Is it not regrettable that my right hon. Friend will not meet the Common Market with a united House of Commons behind him, and that there are 37 Labour Members who support the French?

Mr. Walker

That is extremely regrettable.

Mr. Spearing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House is not surprised that two of his hon. Friends have not been present to ask questions on the dairy industry? When he next meets the Ministers of Agriculture of the EEC, will he negotiate with them the health restrictions that now apply to milk, which his hon. Friend indicated yesterday he will lift or harmonise? If that occurs will not French milk enter Britain and prejudice our dairy industry?

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend assures me that he has no intention of lifting regulations as described by the hon. Gentleman. As far as I know, that is not a topic on the agenda for 12 November.

Mr. Wm. Ross

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the other EEC Agriculture Ministers, will he make it clear to them that he intends to take such measures as may be necessary to ensure that present milk production levels in the United Kingdom—in all parts of the Kingdom—continue at the present level of profitability, even though that will entail the continuation of schemes such as the one that aids milk producers in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Walker

As a country that has to import about a third of its dairy products, it is greatly in our national interest to retain the present level of production and the prosperity of the dairy industry.

Mr. Bowden

When my right hon. Friend next meets his colleagues will he stress to them that the inshore fishermen of Britain see their livelihood being steadily destroyed because no action has been taken to protect them for 10 years? Will he try to ensure that help will come to them in the near future?

Mr. Walker

The representatives of the inshore fishermen were with us at the recent meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers and they were totally in agreement with the attitude that was taken at the meeting.