HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc378-9
7. Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his response to the European Economic Community Commission proposals for a revaluation of the green pound.

10. Mr. Colvin

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the Government's policy regarding the green pound; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jopling

The Government no not consider the Commission's proposal to revalue the green pound to be justified.

Mr. Hicks

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this proposal by the Commission would put our farmers at a marked financial disadvantage compared with their European counterparts? Will he therefore give a categorical assurance that this option is totally ruled out as a negotiating position?

Mr. Jopling

I have made it clear in the past that the Commission's proposal to the Council of Ministers is not acceptable and that we intend to resist it.

Mr. Colvin

I am sure that the House will welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. In view of the sharp fall in farm incomes in 1983, will he also reject any other proposals which are likely to damage the competitiveness of British agriculture? Will he take this opportunity to deny reports in the press that No. 10 Downing street considers farmers to be a privileged sector of the economy, and confirm once and for all that if only the rest of British industry had done half as well as British agriculture we should have no economic problems in Britain?

Mr. Jopling

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the opportunity that he affords me with that question. I am glad to hear what he said about the success story of British agriculture. I can give him the assurance for which he asks. I utterly reject the notion that the Government are somehow mounting a campaign to undermine the capacity and confidence of the agriculture industry.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Will the Minister accept that he is also the Minister of Food? Does he accept the figure given by his erstwhile colleague, Mr. Tugendhat, that food prices have been some 5 per cent. higher than they need have been because of monetary compensatory amounts? Does he agree that the present effect of MCAs is to divide corn and horn and create difficulties and disparities within the agriculture industry?

Mr. Jopling

I reject Mr. Tugendhat's figure for food prices. I believe that it is wrong. I reject also the suggestion about the green pound being used as a food tax. I remind the hon. Gentleman that only last spring we had a negative MCA and that if we had aligned the green and market rates for sterling then we would have had to increase food prices rather than being able to reduce them.