HL Deb 01 February 1962 vol 236 cc1122-4

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any further statement to make on the agreement on a common agricultural policy between Common Market countries.]


My Lords, the meeting of Ministers on February 22 is one of the normal meetings in our negotiations to see whether satisfactory arrangements can be made to meet our special interests. It will continue the negotiations and will also begin to discuss the agricultural aspects. This will be the first such discussion, because we agreed not to deal with agriculture in the negotiations until the members of the E.E.C. had reached agreement on their common agricultural policy. But it must not be imagined that these discussions are to be conducted on the basis of hastily formed assessments of how far the new agricultural policy agreements of the E.E.C. members would be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government. The Lord Privy Seal devoted a fifth of his statement of October 10 to United Kingdom agriculture, in addition to dealing at some length with Commonwealth agricultural produce. This statement sets out our objectives in the negotiations, and, in developing our case, full account will be taken of the views of the various bodies concerned.


My Lords, I still do not know whether the contents of the settlement on agriculture already made between the Six have yet been communicated to the two great constituent parties, the National Farmers' Union and the National Agricultural Workers' Union. I do not think the Foreign Secretary was quite clear as to whether that was the case, or whether the terms of the settlement were in fact available in a suitable condition. Has he made any further inquiries about that?


Yes, my Lords. We have not as yet got the accurate translations of these documents; therefore, anything that has been published is provisional. We hope to get the translations very soon; and, immediately we get them, the French translation will be available in Parliament—we will see to that—and also the English translation as soon as it can be made. Then, of course, it will be available to all the other bodies concerned.


Should I be right in interpreting the Foreign Secretary's first Answer as meaning that agriculture will not be discussed on this basis with the Common Market representatives until both these constituent bodies have seen the text in full and have been able to consult with the Government about it?


My Lords, I think that that is going a long way beyond what I said, or even what I hinted. We have, of course, some knowledge of what the agricultural arrangements of the Six are, but the actual, complete and accurate text is not yet available. There are many aspects of agriculture to be discussed, including both the aspect as regards this country and the aspect as regards the Commonwealth. What I said in my original Answer was that at this meeting on February 22 some of these agricultural aspects will be discussed, and there will be the beginning of a discussion on the proposal.


My Lords, will the Foreign Secretary please remember that this matter is so vital—and there have been enough statements made by the Government themselves to show how vital the matter is—that if we can get these statements published at the earliest possible moment, not only will the constituent bodies who will be affected in their own spheres be in a better position, but Parliament also might be in a position to look at the matter and be able to advise the Government on it? I think it would be a very sad thing if anything like even a half commitment were made by the Government on this vital question until Parliament and the constituent bodies have been consulted.


My Lords, I must say that I am in accord with the noble Viscount. We want to have these translations made as quickly as possible, but the great thing is that they should be accurate when we have them, because it is a tremendously technical business. Therefore we will, as soon as we possibly can, lay the authentic documents before Parliament, and then, as I say, they will be available to all these parties who are interested. The Minister of Agriculture in the past months—and, of course, he will go on doing this—has been in constant contact with different bodies who are interested in agriculture in this country.