HC Deb 10 June 1982 vol 25 cc375-6
1. Mr. Jim Marshall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures he intends to introduce to protect the interests of both consumers and farmers in the light of the European Economic Community Council of Ministers' decision to accept majority voting on the farm prices review.

14. Mr. Marlow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on agricultural prices.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Walker)

I refer the hon. Member and my hon. Friend to the statement which I made on 19 May.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister agree that the acceptance of majority voting on the farm price review creates the great danger that in future years the British housewife will have to pay, through increased prices, for the voracious financial appetite of Continental farmers, particularly French farmers? Therefore, will the Minister accept that there may be a need for Britain to withdraw from the common agricultural policy?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. I do not accept that there is a need to withdraw from the common agricultural policy. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be discussing future procedures at the meeting later this month, and I hope that a satisfactory solution to the problem will be found.

Mr. Marlow

Does my right hon. Friend agree—I think that he might this time—that the effect of increasing common agricultural policy prices above that which we agreed, taken in isolation from the budget, has two effects? The first is to increase our net contribution, and the second is to increase the price to the British consumer of the £1,000 million net of European food that we import. They vote and we pay. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is entirely unacceptable?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. What is wholly unacceptable is the exaggerated figure of £1,000 million. The figures produced by one consumer organisation have been shown to be blatantly inaccurate. For example, the figures included tropical food products which do not come into the CAP.

Mr. Buchan

Has the Minister seen the text of the letter sent by Agricultural Commissioner Paul Dalsager to Commissioner Gaston Thorn, in which he points out that they have seriously underestimated the full cost of the agreement—he estimates by about 700 million or 800 million units of account. Does the Minister agree that this will therefore cost the British taxpayer and consumer another £400 million?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. I have not seen the text of such a letter and there has been no confirmation from the Commission that such a letter has been sent.

Mr. Farr

Does my right hon. Friend accept that whatever the financial mechanics of the recent result, it has been desperately unfair to Britain and to British consumers? Will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to ensure that an amendment is written into the Treaty of Rome, by addendum or in some other way, to ensure that it does not happen again?

Mr. Walker

Yes, it is important that the principle of unanimity continues in Common Market agreements in areas where national interests are at stake. That point has been made clear by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Although we have lost out in the only area where there has been majority voting to date, are there any issues or areas in which we could benefit by majority voting? Has the Minister given any consideration to promoting those issues?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. In terms of the principle of majority voting, one accepts, or does not accept, the principle that a country has the right to declare that a national interest is at stake. One does not calculate whether on some issues it would be an advantage and on others a disadvantage. It is an important principle, which has to be adhered to in the Community.

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