HC Deb 17 January 1980 vol 976 cc1855-8
9. Mr. Marland

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when next he will attend a meeting of the Council of Agricultural Ministers of the European Economic Community.

17. Mr. Spence

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

18. Mr. Latham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to attend a meeting of the European Economic Community Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Mr. Peter Walker

At the next Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting, to be held next Monday.

Mr. Marland

When my right hon. Friend meets the Council of Ministers, will he tell it that he will not accept the EEC's discriminatory proposals on the co-responsibility levy on milk? Will he also assure us that he will not accept the proposal of the EEC for a new super-levy on all United Kingdom milk production?

Mr. Walker

I gather from recent talks with the Commissioner that the original proposals are being altered and we look forward to examining new proosals. Like last year, there is no way that we accept any co-responsibility levy that discriminates against British dairy producers.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call first those whose questions are being answered.

Mr. Spence

When the Minister meets the Commissioner, in addition to the vigorous protest that he will make as regards sugar beet—which is important in my constituency—will he also add equally vigorous protestations lest anything should be done through EEC regulations to affect the potato growers who are also important in my constituency?

Mr. Walker

There are no proposals on potatoes before the Council for the coming week, but we shall look to the interests of potato growers in this country when they occur. In the meantime, we shall maintain the position.

Mr. Latham

Has there been a discernible improvement in the position since my right hon. Friend last answered questions on the import of sheepmeat to France? If not, what is he doing about it?

Mr. Walker

No. There has been a deterioration. Last week the French Government decided, for the first time since the original Court decision, to put an import levy of 43p per kilo on British lamb, which was totally against the Court's decision. As a result, the Commission took France to court last Monday, and I shall be doing all that I can to see that the case is taken as speedily as possible. The Commission expressed its hope to me that France was moving towards a position where she would comply with the European Court's decision, but the actions of 10 days ago are in absolutely the opposite direction.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Minister assure the House that, when he sees Commissioner Gundelach next week, he will be fully briefed about the fishing industry, which I take it will be on the agenda? Has he seen the fishermen's associations about the serious position that is rapidly developing in the North Sea?

Mr. Walker

I am seeing the fishermen's associations next Wednesday and I saw other groups connected with the fishing industry last night. It is an Agriculture Council meeting next week and fishing will not be discussed, but there is a Fisheries Council meeting at the end of January. I am pursuing a policy that before every meeting of the Fisheries Council, I meet with the industry as a whole.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Does the Minister accept that, as long as we maintain the position that everyone else's sugar regime for beet and proposals for a co-responsibility levy are wrong, the chances of the British taxpayers' burden being alleviated through the CAP are strictly limited?

Mr. Walker

If I may say so, the CAP in a number of areas discriminates heavily against Britain. To say that solutions to the CAP problem can be achieved through measures that discriminate still further against Britain would be a mistake, and it is not a policy that I will pursue.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Will the Minister say whether at Monday's meeting there will be further discussion of the request by the French wine industry to discharge the excess product of fermentation alcohol into the ethyl alcohol market? Fermentation alcohol is an agricultural product and therefore subsidised, and such procedure will distort the ethyl alcohol market. Ethyl alcohol is an industrial product and is not subsidised. Does the Minister accept that, if the French wine industry gets away with that trick, job prospects in the field of ethyl alcohol in this country will be adversely affected?

Mr. Walker

As far as I know, the ethyl alcohol regime is not on the agenda for next Monday's Council meeting. When it is discussed, I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's point in mind.

Mr. Hicks

Will my right hon. Friend be submitting proposals to the Commissioner about the designation of marginal land in the United Kingdom under the provisions of the less favoured areas directive?

Mr. Walker

No, but I shall be making a statement shortly about the designation of marginal land.

Mr. Jay

As long as the French impose a levy on British lamb, why should we not impose a levy on French motor cars?

Mr. Walker

That is an attractive idea, but in a Community where eight countries and the Commission are condemning France for her illegal action, it is correct to endeavour to persuade the French Government to comply with the law. If the Community is run on the basis that one illegal act results in a whole range of illegal acts throughout the Community, it will spell the end of the Community—which I know that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome.