§ Mr. Peter Rees
No, Sir. It would be quite impossible to make any meaningful assessment of this kind.
§ Mr. Park
Is the Minister aware that the common agricultural policy now costs Britain over £2 billion annually, this sum coming from United Kingdom taxes and going straight into the EC budget? To rub salt into the wound, British consumers have to pay considerably more for their food than current world prices would justify.
§ Mr. Nelson
Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that, over the past year or so, there has been a significant shift within the common agricultural policy in the funding of surplus production from products such as wheat and milk towards Mediterranean-type products such as wine and olive oil? Will that not be of major significance in the extent to which we benefit in future from the budget contribution that we make to the CAP? Does it not presage the case for an early review of the mechanism?
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend makes a good point. As I have said, these are matters for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have no doubt that they will take full account of these matters when considering our policy towards the European budget.
§ Mr. Woolmer
Bearing in mind the substantial cost of the common agricultural policy to our taxpayers and consumers, why are the Government supporting the EC in its threat of a major agriculture surplus trade war in the negotiaions with the United States? How can that possibly be in the interests of the British consumer or taxpayer?
§ Mr. Rees
An agriculture surplus trade war would be of no benefit to the United Kingdom, the rest of the European Community or the United States. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the United States, perhaps in different ways, supports its agriculture to much the same degree as the EC supports its agriculture, and that the Community is the best export market for United States agricultural products.