HC Deb 24 January 1991 vol 184 c450
11. Mr. Wilshire

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to seek to persuade other EC Agriculture Ministers to reduce the costs and eliminate the surpluses of the common agricultural policy.

Mr. Gummer

I take every opportunity to promote a more rational and market-oriented common agricultural policy, with greater emphasis on the protection and improvement of the environment, as my answer to the previous question shows.

Mr. Wilshire

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the latest proposals put forward would penalise British farmers with average-sized farms? Does he agree that the real purpose of reform of the common agricultural policy should be to reward efficiency and to help farmers compete on the world stage rather than to featherbed pocket-handkerchief homesteads and thus isolate them from market forces in the world outside the Common Market?

Mr. Gummer

I think that my hon. Friend will agree that in no other sphere would the European Community decide to opt out of international competition. It is therefore important to have competitive agriculture. But I suggest that the second aspect is that we need agriculture that can look after the land, so we need a greater emphasis on the environment at the same time.

Mr. Martlew

When discussions take place about reducing food surpluses, European Governments always discuss compensation for farmers. When will discussions take place on compensating employees in the food processing industry who lose their jobs? For example, if export restitutions are done away with, 30,000 employees will lose their jobs and I fear that some of them will be my constituents. Will the Minister introduce a scheme to compensate them?

Mr. Gummer

I think that the Minister ought first to be concerned to ensure that the kind of export restitutions to which the hon. Gentleman refers are not abolished in the haphazard way that some have suggested. That is why we cannot dissociate export restitutions from the rest of the Community system—one of the propositions that the United States has put forward. That is why we and our Common Market colleagues have said that they must be part of the whole system and that the whole system must be reduced in a sensible, measured way. In those circumstances, we can protect jobs in a competitive environment.