HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc1548-9
16. Mr. Ralph Howell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the forecast reduction in the combined cost of EEC membership and support for agriculture, fisheries, food and forestry for 1979–80 compared with 1974–75 at 1979 survey figures.

Mr. Peter Walker

£536 million, according to the latest White Paper on public expenditure. But this reduction is more than accounted for by the fall of £1,007 million in expenditure on food subsidies.

Mr. Howell

While supporting the Government in their attempts to achieve better terms for our membership of the EEC, will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he believes that sufficient credit has been given to the saving that has accrued to the taxpayer following our membership?

Mr. Walker

I read with interest the letter that my hon. Friend wrote to The Times. Although his letter showed that there had been a fall of £536 million in the costs, if the eradication of the food subsidy programme under the previous Administration is eliminated, a rise of £471 million is shown, which is a substantial sum.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is it not a fact that food subsidies meant that the housewife was able to buy food more cheaply? Is the Minister aware that because, under the present arrangements, we are contributing £1.3 billion to the EEC, the housewife is paying more for food? She is also paying taxes. Is it not a fact that the food purchased through intervention is of an inferior quality to that which the housewife can buy in the supermarket?

Mr. Walker

There is no doubt that we are paying an unfair proportion of the cost. That is why the Government are endeavouring to bring about a major renegotiation of the budget.