HC Deb 17 July 1980 vol 988 cc1744-6
12. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he is having with the European Economic Community in an effort to reduce the present food stockpiles.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Structural surpluses can be reduced only by bringing production into better balance with demand. The reductions in farm support prices in real terms will help to achieve this.

Mr. Cox

Whilst I note that reply, is not the Minister aware of the anger of British people when they hear about the surpluses and the way in which they are disposed of? Is it not time we told the Community that we have had enough of this nonsense, which is what it is? Will the hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that some of the commodities that are in surplus—cereals and skimmed milk—could be better used to feed the hungry people of the world than lying in storage, as they do for many years? Will he use his best endeavours to bring that about?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

First, it is important to get the surpluses into perspective. The hon. Gentleman mentioned cereals. The cereals currently in store in intervention in the Community amount to only 10 days' supply. Secondly, we share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the way in which the surpluses are disposed of. That is precisely why we have taken such a firm line in Europe in relation to exports to Eastern Europe.

Mr. Stanbrook

What are the Government doing to transfer some of the surplus food to the starving people of East Africa, who might die without it?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Under the world food programme and other aid programmes, £30 million to £40 million a year is already being spent by the Community to do that. My hon. Friend must remember that we must do it in a way that does not disrupt normal trade or hinder development of agriculture in the countries concerned.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is the Minister aware that it was said on the radio today that the people now in Moscow, attending the Games, are living like proverbial lords off the fat of the land, supplied at the British taxpayer's expense through the Common Market subsidies? Is that part of the Government's policy?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Our position on exports to Eastern Europe has been made absolutely plain. There is a later question on the Order Paper about the subject.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

As the United Kingdom makes no overall net contribution to the surplus of dairy products and milk within the EEC, how does my hon. Friend think the co-responsibility levy will affect British dairy farmers? Does he think that it could well result in our having to import more dairy products?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My right hon. Friend has already answered my hon. Friend's question on the co-responsibility levy. I hope that my hon. Friend notices that in the course of the past 12 months the Government have removed the unfairness of the subsidies through MCAs on exports from Europe of milk products to Britain. Therefore, for the first time for many years, the British dairy farmer can compete on equal terms with his counterpart in Europe.