HC Deb 02 December 1982 vol 33 cc380-1
2. Mr. Dykes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has had any recent discussions with his European Economic Community counterparts on the prospects of reinforcing the threshold quota system for the main common agricultural policy products.

Mr. Peter Walker

No, Sir. The application of the guarantee threshold arrangements next year will be a matter for discussion in the context of the 1983 agricultural price fixing.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend feel confident that we can build on what is decided and create a system of almost automatic price reductions for items that are in chronic and recurring surplus? Is this not a means of reassuring those whose opinion, but for this issue, would not necessarily be anti-EEC?

Mr. Walker

Yes. There are areas where the main element, based on calculations of current income yields from production and improvements in productivity in Europe, should be price stability. That is why the Government have consistently pursued policies that have produced far more stable prices in Europe and Britain than those that prevailed under our predecessors. We shall continue that process in the forthcoming price-fixing.

Mr. Hudson Davies

Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will emphasise the need for a reduction in the quota intervention price rather than an increase in the co-responsibility levy, which would be less favourable to the British producer?

Mr. Walker

Yes. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. It makes more sense to keep the price low and to encourage consumption than to put up the price and have a co-responsibility levy, which discourages consumption.

Mr. Deakins

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to strengthen the protective mechanisms of the CAP in regard to threshold prices in the forthcoming price negotiations? Is he aware that these mechanisms almost disrupted and sabotaged the recent GATT negotiations?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman refers to the damage caused to the GATT negotiations. The United States provides substantial public funds for agricultural production. The system of most of the Western world, based on the desire to ensure stability of food supplies, is an important factor. I prefer to live in Western Europe with its system of stability and adequacy of food supplies than in Eastern Europe with its inadequacy of food supplies.

Mr. John Wells

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the recent high barley crop has caused the Community to limit the import from third countries of all high-starch products? Is he aware that this has the unfortunate side effect of limiting imports of yams from the West Indies, which will have an adverse effect in the new year, if licences are revoked, on the trade that supplies ethnic minorities in this country?

Mr. Walker

I shall investigate the matter. Yams are subject to the import quota arrangements introduced earlier this year for manioc. Imports within the quota attract a 6 per cent. ad valorem duty. Once the quota is exhausted, all products are liable to the full barley levy. I shall look into any problems that my hon. Friend brings to my attention.