§ 36. Mr. Ridley
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many members of his staff are employed in studying the development of agricultural policy in the Common Market countries.
None of my right hon. Friend's staff is engaged solely on this, but officers whose duties include overseas trade are expected as a matter of course to keep abreast of developments in all countries with whom we have trade relations.
§ Mr. Ridley
Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to an article in today's Farming Express, which says that Britain is to join the Common Market and that the Conservative Chief Whip has given Tory Members for agricultural constituencies a confidential briefing on this subject? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] As my hon. Friends and I—representing agricultural constituencies—have not received such a briefing, will my hon. Friend assure us that his own staff is looking into this matter very carefully and is trying to formulate proposals to bring British agriculture to the stage where it might be possible to join the Common Market?
The Farming Express is not the mouthpiece of Government policy. I can assure my hon. Friend that in the Agriculture Department there is an adequate staff, and two External Relations Divisions keep in touch with all such developments as my hon. Friend has in mind.
§ Mr. Grimond
If the Farming Express is not, can the hon. Gentleman tell us what is the mouthpiece of Government policy on the Common Market? We 1593 have had the most contradictory leakages. For instance, there were the wonderful words of the Prime Minister that we should not rush into this matter.