HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1425-7
3. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the proposed common sheepmeat policy.

Mr. Peter Walker

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State told the House yesterday, no progress was made at the Council in Luxembourg on Tuesday. I have rejected French suggestions for renegotiating the Community's GATT obligations to New Zealand and other third countries and for intervention measures. I have repeatedly made it clear that any common measures must fully recognise the needs of United Kingdom producers and consumers and the rights of our New Zealand suppliers.

Mr. Maclennan

In his statement yesterday the Minister of State indicated that Commissioner Gundelach was seeking early French compliance with the ruling of the Court. In the light of the statements that Commissioner Gundelach has made today—that he is seeking early compliance—will the right hon. Gentleman say what compensation he will seek for our lamb exporters, who have lost much money as a result of the illegality which began on 1 January 1978, and which was exacerbated by the subsequent ruling of the Court?

Mr. Walker

I thank the hon. Gentleman for condemning the illegality. I greatly regret that 37 of his colleagues have congratulated France on pursuing its illegal acts. The latest information that I have is that the Commissioner is seeing the French today and tomorrow morning. I understand that if the French are not complying with article 30 of the treaty he will be taking legal action tomorrow.

Mr. Wigley

In his statement yesterday the Minister of State referred to action being taken and recommended that action should be taken by the Commission against the French Government. What action have the Government in mind, and what action has been recommended by the British Government?

Mr. Walker

The Commission will decide tomorrow what legal action to take in the light of whatever assurance it receives from the French Government. In the interests of the Community, I hope that before tomorrow the French Government will decide to comply with the law and will obey the law. If they do not, it will be for the Commission to decide the form of its legal action. I shall be consulting the Commission next week on the speed with which action will take place and on how effective it will be.

Mr. Peter Mills

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is an utter disgrace that some Labour Members are seeking to disregard the law, and that their action is far worse than he described? Does he agree that if we want sheepmeat it is necessary for sheepmeat producers to recover their costs in the same way as producers of whisky, television sets, motor cars and everything else?

Mr. Walker

The motion that has been tabled by certain Labour Members will give great encouragement to the French Government. It is a motion that is very much against our national interests.