HC Deb 21 January 1981 vol 997 cc256-7
30. Mr. Marlow

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress he expects to make in the next six months in achieving fundamental and substantial reforms in the European Economic Community.

Sir Ian Gilmour

Under the agreement reached on 30 May 1980 the Commission is due to submit the results of its examination of Community policies, aimed at preventing the recurrence of unacceptable situations, by the end of June 1981, and the Council of Ministers will no doubt have a preliminary discussion on this shortly after it is submitted. Meanwhile, we are having informal contacts with the Commission and with our Community partners.

Mr. Marlow

Since the British housewife is forced to pay about £ 1,500 million each year over and above the cost of supporting our own agriculture, and since, according to The Times, New Zealand could increase its agricultural production and produce goods at prices that would be half of those ruling under the CAP, without a single penny of capital expenditure, will my right hon. Friend take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that Britain can go back to a system whereby we can get food at world market prices, to the considerable benefit of the poor, the elderly and the disadvantaged in the country?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not accept my hon. Friend's figures. As he realises, he is asking us to leave the Community. It is much better to say so than to put forward a demand that cannot conceivably be granted.

Mr. Denzil Davies

When the Government consider these matters, will they look at the absurd arrangement whereby agricultural prices are fixed in green currencies and not in real money? Does the Foreign Office realise that the British consumer is paying not only an import tax on food imported from outside the EEC, such as New Zealand butter, but a 13½per cent. tax on food imported from the EEC? When will the Government revalue the green pound?

Sir Ian Gilmour

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the absurd system. While he was at the Treasury he did nothing to change it. Under his Government the green pound went down to 45 per cent. less than its value, with great damage to our farmers. At the moment the positive MCAs that we have add about 2.25 per cent. to the food index and less than 0.5 per cent. to the whole retail price index.

Mr. Dorrell

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this country had a trade surplus with Europe last year and that, whatever negotiations he undertakes to reform the shortcomings of the Community, he will not endanger the substantial benefits that this country gains from membership of the Community?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is also the case, as I have several times emphasised to the House, that our performance in manufacturing, which has not been good all over the world, has been relatively better in our trade with the EEC than it has with the rest of the world.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

As the Government are alleged to be united in making cuts in Government expenditure, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what has been the extent of the cut in our EEC expenditure to date, and what cut he envisages in the future? Will he accept that this is a cut that the House and the country would like to see? People want that expenditure to be cut drastically.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman has been over the past nine months, but it was announced on 30 May that we had succeeded in cutting our contribution both this year and next by two-thirds respectively about £700 million and £800 million.