HC Deb 06 May 1982 vol 23 cc272-3
9. Mr. Latham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the latest position regarding the European Economic Community farm price negotiations.

Mr. Peter Walker

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills).

Mr. Latham

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, while European unity and solidarity are essential at this grave time, a farm price settlement must, in the end, be achieved on its agricultural and food merits and that this should be firmly understood?

Mr. Walker


Sir Anthony Meyer

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the British agriculture industry will be required to pay a high price to strengthen the Government's general bargaining stance at a time when there are fairly strong political advantages in reaching an early conclusion on these matters?

Mr. Walker

Yes. It must, however, be correct to have a farm price settlement, which is a substantial part of the European budget, on the basis of knowing who will make the contributions to the European budget.

Mr. Buchan

Will the right hon. Gentleman take on board the point that the agriculture budget should be decided on the merits of the agricultural requirements, not on any other arguments? We are pleased about the decision that has been taken on the co-responsibility levy. It is an improvement. Will the right hon. Gentleman say more about what he meant when talking about a wine agreement? Are we still in the nonsensical position of trying to create a wine lake to produce commercial alcohol at five times the price of industrial alcohol? Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the budget is likely to be made known? Will he resist attempts to push the initial 9 per cent. increase up to 11 per cent.? That will be of no value to us, and it is of no value to the consumer. Will he follow the French lead in developing national aids to produce the shift in balance that all now believe should take place?

Mr. Walker

I believe that the settlement should be made upon its merits. Wine is an important aspect. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that substantial improvements were made to the wine proposals. They will be far more cost-effective and sensible than the original proposals. A tribute should be paid to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State who, in my absence through having to attend Cabinet meetings on the Falkland Islands, conducted the negotiations and had considerable success. There is a wide range of variation in prices for various commodities. The hon. Gentleman will be relieved to know that the proposals in their present form, as made by the Presidency, would have an impact of only 1¼ per cent. on food prices and of a quarter of 1 per cent. on the retail price index.