HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc696-7W
Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement reporting the business transacted at the EEC Agricultural Council held on 19th December 1978.

Mr. John Silkin

I represented the the United Kingdom at this meeting together with my hon. Friends the Parliamentary Secretary in my Department and the Under-Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection.

The main topic was the application of the new European monetary system to the common agricultural policy. The Commission has made proposals for basing common prices and the future calculation of monetary compensatory amounts on the new European currency unit. These proposals provided, as decided by the European Council, that the changeover should not in itself lead to changes in prices in national currencies, or in the levels and distribution of MCAs, and therefore in the levels, at market exchange rates, of common prices. The Council was unable to agree on these proposals, however, owing to the insistence of France on linking them with measures to prevent the development, on a lasting basis, of new or increased MCAs.

The Council agreed that the existing arrangement under which United Kingdom MCAs are paid in the exporting country should be extended for a further year.

The Council decided to maintain this year's allocation of the tariff quotas for frozen beef and veal in 1979, and to increase to 60,000 tonnes the estimate of imports in 1979 of beef for manufacturing under the balance sheet arrangements.

The Council discussed a Commission proposal for an increase in the sluice gate price for pig carcases on 1st February. I made it clear that the United Kingdom could not accept this proposal until coefficients used for calculating MCAs on cuts of pig carcases and pigmeat products had been satisfactorily revised. The

Stock at 31st December 1978 (tonnes) Percentage increase or decrease in quantity during last 12 months Increase or decrease in value over last 12 moths
Beef 15,815* +20 per cent. +£7,446,768
Butter 28,335 +344 per cent. +£33,934,609
Skimmed milk powder 59,032 -18 per cent. -£3,522,507
Barley 20,921 All barley acquired within last 12 months +£1,690,000

*This figure includes 704 tonnes of boneless beef still held by the Intervention Board but for which contracts for sale have been completed.

In addition, it is understood that on 31st December 1978 about 2,920 tonnes of intervention beef was stored in the United Kingdom by the Republic of Ireland and that during the previous 12 months these stocks decreased in quantity by 85 per cent. and by value £30,065,678.