HC Deb 04 June 1998 vol 313 cc488-9
3. Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green)

If he will make a statement on the Agenda 2000 proposals on reforming the common agricultural policy. [42722]

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Dr. John Cunningham)

The Commission's proposals broadly reflect the direction of reform that the Government have advocated, but, in some respects, they are insufficiently radical or discriminate against United Kingdom interests, and, therefore, need changing accordingly.

Dr. Vis

I thank my right hon. Friend for that rather optimistic answer. It is my understanding that the Agriculture Council is rather protectionist. Why has he been relatively successful and why has such progress been made? Is it to do with the Government's more thoughtful attitude to the single currency, as compared with that of the Conservative party?

Dr. Cunningham

My hon. Friend is right. We were able to secure unanimous agreement to interim conclusions on the consideration of Agenda 2000 at the Agriculture Council in May. Those conclusions will go to the Cardiff European summit later this month and be considered by the Heads of Government. The conclusions contain almost all the major points of emphasis from the United Kingdom point of view. My hon. Friend mentioned the Conservative party's position on the single currency: as it meanders aimlessly further to the right and further into a hopelessly anti-European stance, that party abandons not only the interests of the United Kingdom in general but of farmers in particular.

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)

If, as part of reform of the common agricultural policy, the Government return to some efficiency payment system, will they ensure that they do so on a national basis so that we support British farmers and not farmers in foreign countries?

Dr. Cunningham

If the hon. Gentleman is really asking whether we will oppose proposals that may take financial support from British farmers and reallocate them to the benefit of farmers in other European member states, the answer is yes, we oppose any such proposal.