HC Deb 20 October 1994 vol 248 cc417-8
10. Mr. Pike

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with his European counterparts about the potential implications for the common agricultural policy of the enlargement of the EU.

Mr. Waldegrave

EFTAn enlargement is unlikely to have major implications for the common agricultural policy. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear to the House, however, fundamental changes to the CAP will be needed before the eastern European countries can join the European Union.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept the concerns of the NFU and many others that accession of eastern European and central European countries to the European Union will not enable the present common agricultural policy to survive? Does he believe that the policy review committee that he announced at the Tory party conference last week will be able to get a deal accepted by Europe which will give a fair deal to consumers and producers in the years ahead?

Mr. Waldegrave

That must be the objective, and there are beginning to be some signs of thinking in the European Commission which runs in the way that the House would like. For example, shortly, a report known as the Munk report will be published. If the Financial Times preview of that is correct, the report goes very much in the sort of direction that the hon. Gentleman and I would both like. However, we should not overestimate the difficulties on the way. We have a huge task in persuading the majority of other countries in the present Community of the need for radical reform. That is why it is unwise for Labour Members to talk so much in terms of consensus in the European Union; sometimes, we need to disagree and change attitudes. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The House must settle down. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members may say "Hear, hear" but I wish that conversations were less noisy.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Can my right hon. Friend, to whom I extend a welcome to his new responsibilities, give us an assurance that the extension of the European Community will have no impact on milk quotas? He is aware that this country is not self-sufficient in liquid milk. Will he therefore ensure that we do not surrender any of our quota and that we continue to press for the cross-border transfer of quotas which would assist this country?

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not think EFTAn accession will have much effect on that, but my hon. Friend makes a sensible and important point. The way forward must be to seek quotas that are tradeable across national boundaries. There is a long way to go to persuade some of our colleagues in Europe of the necessity of that, because some of them do not have tradeable quotas within their own countries, but that is my objective. Most hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in this matter will probably want to support me on that.