HC Deb 27 January 1994 vol 236 cc413-4
10. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much the CAP is costing per head of the United Kingdom in 1993–94.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

There is a significant net cost to United Kingdom consumers and to United Kingdom taxpayers from the CAP. For a number of reasons, of which my hon. Friend will be aware, it is not possible to be precise about the figure.

Mr. Evans

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does she realise that my wife Janice tells me that the average family is paying £28 to support the CAP? Does my right hon. Friend also agree with Janice that if the leader of the lot opposite, the wriggler from Monklands, East, and Romeo from Yeovil, the leader of the other lot opposite, ever got their hands—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is moving very far away from his wife at the moment. Will he please stay with Janice?

Mr. Evans

If they ever got their hands on the Brussels cheque book, the £80 a week by which the average family is better off after 14 years of Conservative Government would disappear like rats up a drainpipe.

Mrs. Shephard

I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend not only on his question—whatever that was—but on Janice. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Janice is making a very good recovery from an extremely serious operation and it is good to know that the operation is enabling her to be as right minded as she normally is, and as right minded as my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend is correct to say that Labour's grasp of the fact that public spending plans affect tax is a little tenuous. However, I agree with my hon. Friend—and believe that this was the point that he and Janice were making—that the cost of the CAP is too high. That is why the United Kingdom has consistently pressed for a reduction in that cost and why we will continue to do that.

Dr. Strang

Is it not a disgrace that the intervention board in this country alone will be spending around £2,000 million this year on open-ended market support? Does the right hon. Lady recall her predecessor's statement that he had got rid of the MacSharry proposals and replaced them with the Government's own reforms? Following the admission by the Commissioner yesterday that EU agricultural spending this year will exceed its already enormous budget, will she now accept that the Government have failed to secure an adequate reform of the CAP?

Mrs. Shephard

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's conversion to our cause of prudent public spending, and I hope very much that he manages to find some support within the shadow Cabinet.