HC Deb 06 March 1986 vol 93 cc428-9
2. Mr. Marlow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by what date he anticipates that the reforms he seeks in the common agricultural policy will be implemented.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jopling)

We have made progress in agreeing the financial guideline, milk quotas and measures for the wine sector. We must make further progress this year, particularly with cereals and beef, in limiting the production of surplus commodities and the burden that they place on the budget.

Mr. Marlow

A generation ago Professor Mansholt promised reforms of the common agricultural policy, yet this year we seem to have the highest prices, the highest subsidies and the lowest farm profits since the war. What will the Government do about that? Last year, for example, we gave away the 1 per cent. VAT limit, on the basis that the financial mechanism would work. If the financial mechanism does not work — many of us believe that it will not and said so at the time, when we also said that the dollar might go down—will my right hon. Friend put radical alternatives before the House, including the repatriation of our own agricultural produce?

Mr. Jopling

My hon. Friend is a well known merchant of gloom and doom on these matters. I remind him that since the United Kingdom joined the Community productivity per person in agriculture has risen by more than 70 per cent., that the volume of output has risen by more than 18 per cent., that the volume of our exports of agricultural products, food and drink has risen by mom than 25 per cent., and that we now produce 80 per cent. of our needs in temperate foodstuffs compared with 60 per cent. in 1973.

Mr. Freud

At the annual general meeting of the National Farmers Union the Minister told the farmers that he would not agree to anything that would discriminate against the British farmer. Did he say that to stop the farmers lynching him, or did he mean it? If he meant it, will he repeat it now at the Dispatch Box?

Mr. Jopling

I have said many times that there are elements in the current price proposals which discriminate seriously against Britain's interests. I told the Council of Ministers in Brussels only last week that some of them were unacceptable.

Mr. Forth

What is the estimated impact of the movement of the exchange rate with the dollar? Does my right hon. Friend expect a supplementary budget in the EEC this year? Does he believe that the chronic surpluses in the CAP are a root cause of the problems? If so, what will he do about them?

Mr. Jopling

The Commission and the Council are committed to the financial guidelines. It will be an important objective to ensure that it is held to in the coming negotiations on the CAP.

Mr. John

In the Financial Times this morning we read that the extra agricultural budget is likly to be not £450 million, but £1 billion. Is that what the Minister calls financial discipline?

Mr. Jopling

In the negotiations that lie ahead of us we have to seek further savings so that we can live within our financial guideline.