HC Deb 25 March 1993 vol 221 cc1227-9
8. Mr. McFall

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the latest estimate in pound sterling of total expenditure throughout the EC under the CAP for 1993.

Mr. Gummer

A total of £28,000 million to about 8 million farmers, who provide the food for more than 320 million people.

Mr. McFall

When will the Government take an initiative to reduce the spiralling costs of the CAP, which already are unacceptable? Does he agree with Michael Jacquot, the EC controller, that they will remain within the 1994 budget guidelines only by creative accounting? Do not the MacSharry proposals only increase the costs of this policy to the EC taxpayer?

Mr. Gummer

That is why we got rid of the MacSharry proposals and replaced them with our own. That is what the CAP reform achieved. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that we are seeking to reduce, and have reduced, the resource costs of the CAP. I hope that he will accept that the nation that battles most to keep the CAP within budget is the United Kingdom. I hope that he will ask his hon. Friends to accept that, if we manage to do so, they cannot continue to demand more and more for different groups of farmers while complaining about the bill.

Mr. Oppenheim

As Opposition Members have clearly come to the sophisticated and intelligent conclusion that trade barriers and subsidies for agriculture harm taxpayers and consumers, why have they not reached the same conclusion for coal? As they are such keen advocates—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is moving away from the CAP. Can he keep his question to the CAP?

Mr. Oppenheim

As they are such keen advocates of industrial policy and intervention, which is exactly what the common agricultural policy is, why do not they praise the results of the policy—immense damage to third-world sugar producers, huge burdens on taxpayers and consumers and unsustainable surpluses?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to fight the Labour party with the enthusiasm that is so characteristic of him, but he would not find it so easy to do so if the farmers of Amber Valley and of surrounding areas were not given reasonable support to look after the land and produce the food that we need. I hope that he will support the way in which the Government have fought to ensure that developing countries, particularly those to which we owe so much in the West Indies, have a continued market for their bananas.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

We all welcome the Fontainebleau rebate, but has not its existence prevented British Ministers from demanding a fundamental review of CAP finances? Are not we, in effect, compromised?

Mr. Gummer

No, certainly not. The hon. Gentleman has not grasped the fact that British Ministers have won their battles in the European Community and that the CAP reform is designed on what Britain wanted. There was no single major element of our negotiating list that we failed to secure in those negotiations. The hon. Gentleman would do well to follow that example, but he will not have the opportunity of doing so.

Mr. John Greenway

When my right hon. Friend meets the new French Minister for Agriculture, who will be appointed soon following the annihilation of the socialists in France, will he remind him that the common agricultural policy reforms ensured a level field for producers and that there will be no going back on those reforms and the need for a GATT settlement?

Mr. Gummer

I look forward to meeting my new French counterpart when he or she is appointed and to discussing with that person the need for Britain and France to ensure that the European Community provides a proper basis for competitive farming, from which both British and French farmers will benefit. I join in my hon. Friend's pleasure at seeing sister parties winning the elections in France and proving again that socialism is dead.