HC Deb 21 March 1984 vol 56 c1044
52. Mr. Maxton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is satisfied that the European Economic Community has agreed to reform the common agricultural policy in line with his demands.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Considerable progress was made in the European Council towards establishing a mechanism for the control of Community spending, and particularly agricultural spending. We shall press for inclusion of such a mechanism in the eventual agreement that must emerge from these negotiations.

Mr. Maxton

Does not last week's agreement on dairy products make it quite clear that, with an increase of £500 million in the expenditure on the common agricultural policy and an increase in butter and milk prices, the Government are as far as ever from getting our EEC partners to agree to major reform of the CAP?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It is quite clear that there is still a great deal to be done to achieve the reform of the CAP that will ultimately be necessary. The hon. Member must understand, however, that the operation of the CAP is also of interest and of benefit to the United Kingdom's agriculture industry and that the reforms on which agreement had been reached last week would themselves have involved very substantial changes, to the disadvantage of our community. It must, therefore, be a question of time before all these matters can be put in place.

Sir Anthony Meyer

My right hon. and learned Friend is a calm and sensible fellow. Will he exert his great authority in the Cabinet tomorrow to prevent the adoption of the ultimate folly, which would be for this country to break Community law by withholding our contribution?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There is, in fact, a later question on today's Order Paper which raises that subject.

Mr. Foulkes

Since the aim of the Government is, if not to reform fundamentally the CAP, at least to control its expenditure, when the European Community is approaching bankruptcy because of the spiralling costs of the CAP, is it not stretching our credulity as well as the English language to describe an increased expenditure of £0.5 billion as a success?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It depends by what standards the House is prepared to judge those matters. Of course, any increase is, in principle, to be deplored. That was one of the reasons why we were opposing so many other matters yesterday that would have involved a further increase. That remains our policy.