§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ Whether they will make urgent representations to the President of France with a view to the removal of the French veto on negotiated changes to the common agricultural policy, already approved by a majority of member states, designed to achieve a successful conclusion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations.
My Lords, no such veto has been applied: the Agriculture Council agreed the package of reform measures to the CAP in late May and the regulations giving effect to it are being implemented. So far as the GATT Uruguay Round is concerned, all EC heads of government endorsed the conclusions of the Birmingham Summit in October. Following these, the Commission is,to work within its existing mandate for an early, comprehensive and balanced GATT agreement by the end of the year".There is no question of undoing the reforms of the CAP agreed earlier this year which will be fully taken into account in any GATT settlement.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, is it not the case that the successful conclusion of the present 1345 negotiations concerning the Uruguay Round of GATT is of far greater economic significance to the United Kingdom and indeed to the remainder of the EC than all this miserable talk about the farce of Maastricht? In view of the fact that there is a deathly silence from M. Delors, who is not normally reticent in criticising the governments of member states, will the Prime Minister exert his influence as president of the Community for the current six months in trying to get rid of the deadlock which arises because of the continued insistence by the French on maintaining the CAP intact?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord about the vital importance of concluding the GATT round successfully. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been in regular personal contact with Community heads of government and with the United States President and he has also worked tirelessly within the EC presidency role to achieve a settlement. My right honourable friend Mr. Gummer is at this moment in Chicago to do what he can to bring the two sides together.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, is there any reason to believe that the French will by the end of this year give way sufficiently in respect of the over-support of European agriculture to enable the Uruguay Round to be completed? Is there any reason to believe that?
My Lords, we certainly have cause to hope so in the light of the regular conversations which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has had with the French President.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, does this not mean that it is the French tail wagging the European dog on this issue? I was under the impression—I hope that my noble friend will confirm that I am right—that the European Commission was given a mandate to negotiate. The European Commission wants to negotiate and the French are saying no. This is something up with which we should not put. It seems to be carrying subsidiarity to extreme cases, and illegally so as well.
My Lords, M. Delors, as President of the Commission, must take account of the fact that any GATT deal needs to be acceptable to all member states. Opinions vary as to whether he has been over-cautious in the approach that he has adopted. But the fact of the matter is that the Commission has a clear mandate from all member states to work for an early and balanced settlement.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, my noble friend said that no veto has been applied. What is it that has been applied? The fact is that those concerned have not been able to come to an agreement which is vital to the world. Is not the lesson that we ought to keep in mind that self-interest is still a predominating instinct in all of these people and that it is as well to hear it in mind with future negotiations on other matters?
My Lords, these are very difficult issues indeed. The recent agreement on CAP reform has strengthened the Commission's position in the GATT round negotiations. However, the CAP reform agreement does not address key issues for the GATT round; namely, import access and export subsidies. Work must continue on the round to ensure reductions in agricultural support worldwide.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, can the noble Earl confirm that Mr. Andriessen, who is in charge of the GATT negotiations, has been very critical of M. Delors, the President of the Commission, for taking an unduly pro-French stance in these matters?
My Lords, the noble Lord knows as much as I do, having read the press reports on those matters.
§ Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes
My Lords, does my noble friend not find it ironic that when this country demurs in some small way we are accused of trying to destroy the Community but when one of our partners does something outrageous without sanction or censure that is all right? Does that not illustrate the real difference between first and second class membership of the Community?
My Lords, my noble friend makes an interesting point, but it is not for me, on this day of all days, to rock the boat when the negotiations have reached such a critical stage.
§ Lord Gallacher
My Lords, can the noble Earl tell the House how far apart the parties now are? Is it just oilseeds or are there other issues still to be resolved? Is the fact that his right honourable friend the Minister is in Chicago a good sign or a bad sign? Finally, can he tell us whether all the difficulties between Australia and the United States of America have been resolved? I have in mind the complaint by Australia about America's export enhancement programme for cereals.
My Lords, as to the last question, there has been no resolution of that issue. Three linked issues remain outstanding; namely, oilseeds, the targets for export volumes and rebalancing. The UK believes that some compromise is required on all three issues. Agreement close to the draft prepared by Mr. Dunkel should be possible.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, my noble friend has referred three times to the mandate given to the Commission. Does he accept that a great many of us would be much happier if the Commission, as the body which should be answerable to the member states, had been given a directive which it was bound to obey?
My Lords, I believe the form of words is that the Commission was invited to fulfil that mandate. To all intents and purposes that amounts to an instruction.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, would the Minister care to comment on the speech made this morning by the German Commissioner to the effect that if Maastricht 1347 is ratified completely that would mean the end of the veto? Would that not be a move towards majority voting in the future?
My Lords, I am sorry but I am not aware of that press report. The noble Lord will have to forgive me.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, does my noble friend think that the outcome of the presidential election in the United States will have any effect one1 way or the other on these negotiations?
My Lords, I do not know about one way or the other. My understanding is that Mr. Bush has, so to speak, tried to play this with an entirely straight bat.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, is the Minister aware that his answer to the question asked by his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter concedes that the French position is a stumbling block? May I therefore reiterate the necessity—
Lord Bruce of Donington
May I therefore ask the noble Earl whether he will cause the most urgent representations to be made to his right honourable friend the Prime Minister to use his influence, which is, I gather, formidable, to secure French compliance with something that is in the best interests of the Community as a whole?
My Lords, the efforts made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to date, efforts which, I may say, continue, have been exemplary.