§ 1. Liz Blackman (Erewash)
If he will make a statement on the time scale for reform of the common agricultural policy. 
§ 8. Mr. Ian Pearson (Dudley, South)
What progress has been made on reform of the common agricultural policy. 
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Nick Brown)
The Agenda 2000 package was published on 16 July 1997 and the proposals were adopted by the Commission on 18 March this year. Negotiations with member states on the CAP reform proposals are currently taking place with the aim of concluding negotiations by March 1999, in accordance with the timetable laid down at the Cardiff European Council.
§ Liz Blackman
Reform of the CAP is necessarily a slow business, but farmers need a great deal more support. In advance of CAP reform, is my right hon. Friend in a position to announce further measures now to support British farmers?
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are three things that I have to do: I have to respond to the present crisis; I have to carry the farming industry through the Agenda 2000 proposals; and then I have to engage in the broader reform agenda to make sure that there is a secure future for British agriculture. The Government have already been able to announce some measures in response to the current difficulties in the industry. I have some more measures to announce that will be a charge to the public purse. I shall be seeking to make a statement in the House on Monday or Tuesday next week.
§ Mr. Pearson
With the euro starting on 1 January 1999, does my right hon. Friend agree that one thing that can be done to help our hard-pressed farmers and others in the food industry in the run-up to CAP reform is to give them the option of receiving their payments in euros? What plans does he have to allow that to happen?
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question, because I am pleased to be able 462 to announce, on behalf of the Agriculture Departments, that by autumn 2000 we shall be able to make available an option allowing payment in euros of CAP market support payments, such as export refunds and intervention payments. That will make CAP payments in euros available to a wide range of traders and to the food industry. We will be giving further thought to the possibility of extending that option to CAP direct payments to farmers. Clearly, the choice will be made by farmers; it will not be made by the Government. We hope to be able to offer the choice.
§ Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)
What are the priorities of the Government's reform package? What will the Government do if they do not get their way?
§ Mr. Brown
Clearly, the negotiations have to be conducted with others, but my priority is to reshape the CAP so that it is less reliant on price supports and able to deal with the challenges marching towards it of an increasingly liberalised market. It is the Government's view that the current structures cannot endure in their present form.
§ Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)
Does my right hon. Friend share my concerns about possible dilution of the reform proposals during the negotiation process? Will he assure the House that Britain will provide a real lead in Europe in pushing ahead with reform of the CAP so that we achieve a positive framework for farming and see an end to some of the financial pressures on consumers that have resulted from the CAP?
§ Mr. Brown
If the United Kingdom's reform package is adopted, there will be real savings to consumers. The UK is now able in the Council of Ministers to engage with others in driving CAP reform through. We have allies, for example, on our proposals for dairy quotas—something that the previous Government might have found it a lot harder to have.
§ Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)
I warmly welcome the Minister's promise to make a statement to the House on the package that he intends to introduce to ensure the long-term future of the CAP and to deal with the immediate problems of the industry. Will he tell the House the precise representations that he received from farmers' leaders at his meetings yesterday, at which the Prime Minister was present? Will the Minister be able to introduce a package of proposals that will affect the crisis that is hitting our farmers in the current year, not just next year?
§ Mr. Brown
The measures that I hope to be able to announce in the House on Monday or Tuesday next week are specifically targeted at the current difficulties in the industry. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that the announcement is to be made in the House; it is of such significance that, in my view, it has to be made in the House.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
The Minister will remember the comments made by the recently departed Secretary of State for Wales, that, in view of the crisis facing the livestock industry, there is a need for an exceptional response to exceptional circumstances. 463 Given that the Government made £85 million available last year and that, since then, the crisis has worsened and broadened into the sheep sector, will he give an assurance that the money made available now will be in excess of that?