HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 c379
8. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the customary period of notice before changes in the European Economic Community intervention and trade prices for agriculture take effect.

Mr. MacGregor

Any changes in European Community common prices for agricultural products generally do not take effect until the start of the marketing year for each product. There is no customary period of notice for market management measures for which the Commission takes responsibility.

Mr. Miller

Is my hon. Friend aware that at a recent meeting of the beef management committee the export refund for beef trade to third countries was fixed at such late notice that traders were unable to take advantage of the customary procedure for advance fixing?

Mr. MacGregor

There are two points here. I am aware of them. The first is that the rates for export refunds were changed. My hon. Friend will recognise that, because of the budgetary and cash problems of the Community, it was necessary to take that step. I understand that it is not normal to give advance notice for that. It is rather like giving advance notice for changes in VAT in Britain. The second point is that the Commission exercises emergency and retroactive powers to decide that all applications for pre-fixing between a given period should be rejected. Perhaps that is what my hon. Friend has in mind. The Commission felt that it had good reasons for doing so in this case. I hope that that retroactive action on pre-fixing will not be necessary in future.