HC Deb 10 June 1982 vol 25 cc382-4
11. Mr. Latham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, at the next meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers of the European Community, he will table a further strong protest regarding the recent abandonment of the Luxembourg compromise and seek a clear assurance that the recent incident will not be repeated.

15. Mr. Allan Roberts

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek to convene a meeting of European Economic Community Agriculture Ministers in order to reverse the decision on the farm price review.

18. Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will raise the subject of the farm price review at the next meeting of European Economic Community Agriculture Ministers.

Mr. Peter Walker

The Government regret the way in which the Community's customary procedures were set aside at the Agriculture Council on 18 May. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has made that clear to our partners. Foreign Ministers will return to the subject of the Luxembourg compromise on 20 June, when the Government hope that a clear understanding will be reached for the future.

Mr. Latham

Can it be made clear, and without too much diplomatic finesse, both on 20 June by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and on 14 June by my right hon. Friend the Minister, that we will never put up with this type of behaviour again, and that it crucially affects the basis upon which the British people voted "Yes" in the referendum?

Mr. Walker


Mr. Allan Roberts

What will the Government do if the Minister does not obtain satisfaction on 20 June? Does he agree that the issue is one of sovereignity, in which foreign powers are attacking the British consumer?

Mr. Walker

No. I never operate on the basis of making suppositions about what we shall do if we do not succeed. I am sure that we shall succeed.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is the Minister aware that some Opposition Members feel more sorrow than anger about the incident, not least because the additional cost that his proposed package will allegedly impose on the CAP could put the future of European planning in jeopardy? I appeal to the Minister to do everything in his power to bring a constructive end to this unhappy episode.

Mr. Walker

Yes, we shall certainly do that.

Mr. Donald Stewart

In view of the long struggle to arrive at a common fisheries policy, does the Minister agree that if the Government continue negotiations on fisheries without the Luxembourg compromise being on the table the chances of achieving any deal in favour of or even fair to our fishermen are almost non-existent?

Mr. Walker

I agree that for a common fisheries policy, or, indeed, any other policy, it is right to have the principle of unanimity. The last time that we failed to secure a fisheries agreement was due to the use of the Luxembourg compromise by another country. But for that, we might have agreed a policy that our fishing industry required and wanted. Irrespective of that experience, however, it is absolutely right to have the principle of unanimity.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

In view of the great concern in the fishing industry at the implications of this breach of the Luxembourg compromise, will the Minister now do what we have long been asking him to do and set out in a statement what Britain regards as its legal rights to exclude Common Market fishing vessels from British waters after 31 December?

Mr. Walker

As my hon. Friend well knows, no Government have worked more closely with the fishing industry than we have in the past three years. Only this morning I had further deliberations with the industry. We are working together on negotiations on the common fisheries policy and will continue to do so.

Mr. Beith

Whatever the dispute over farm prices, several other countries believe that the Luxembourg compromise is still in operation and would be prepared to operate it. Does that not apply to the fishing industry, or is the Minister now in a more optimistic frame of mind about the fishing issue after his discussions with the French?

Mr. Walker

I am not in a particularly optimistic frame of mind about the fishing negotiations, because there are many factors involved, concerning not just France, but Denmark and other countries. Having experienced several sets of fishing negotiations, I remain, until agreement is reached, neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It is true, of course, that within minutes of violating the Luxembourg compromise a number of member countries such as France and Italy swore their future allegiance to the compromise.

Mr. Buchan

Will the Minister accept his guilt in this matter? Does he agree that his foolishness and ineptitude in having already accepted most of the inordinately high prices led the other countries to assume that they could go ahead? The real question, however, is what he intends to do about it. Does he accept that the House is entitled to know this in advance of the meeting, because the House agreed to enter the Common Market on the basis of the false promises and the false premise? We therefore wish to know in advance what the Minister intends to do. If he cannot get agreement, is he prepared to withdraw the section of the European budget that is applied to create these high food prices?

Mr. Walker

The answer to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "No". On the first part, I make no apology for those parts of an agreement in which I secured double the butter subsidy achieved by the Labour Government and massively improved the beef premium scheme that they had achieved.

Mr. John Evans

What about the higher prices?

Mr. Walker

I shall come to them. I also massively improved the school milk subsidy achieved by the Labour Government. Finally, the total effect on prices in a full year is that which was achieved by the Labour Government every three weeks.