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5.15 pm

In conclusion, part of that process will also come from the financial changes that will be made following the adoption of the Lisbon treaty, when we see the abolition of the distinction between compulsory and non-compulsory expenditure in the European budget. This will mean that when the European Parliament—with its members fighting for their priorities within a capped budget, as they will be—will be standing agricultural

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expenditure up to examination through comparison with their more favoured projects on environmental, social, regional, and common and foreign security policy. The European Parliament will be fighting for those areas. With the abolition of the distinction between compulsory and non-compulsory expenditure, I hope that we can look forward to the European Parliament becoming a bastion in the fight for the continuation of change in the common agricultural policy.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, when I have spoken in earlier debates on the Bill, I have asked your Lordships to consider that, from time to time, we need to reform ourselves in how we practise and accomplish our mission of legislative scrutiny. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for whom I have enormous respect and who I know is deeply interested in agriculture and the common agricultural policy, will forgive me if I make a second sally into that field.

I am at a loss to understand why we are debating this issue on this occasion. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has acknowledged and my noble friend Lord Tomlinson has pronounced, we have a debate on the common agricultural policy tomorrow led by my noble friend Lord Sewel, which will give noble Lords ample opportunity to express views. The consensual way in which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, presented his amendment suggests that common ground could well arise from the debate on the report of the European Union Select Committee: a proper enterprise.

However, unless I do not understand some of the subtle practices of your Lordships’ House, or how our rules govern debate, I am of the opinion that this matter is adjacent to what we are discussing today; it is not focused or relevant. Further, when from time to time I hear voices saying, as did the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in moving Amendment No. 1, that we give too little time to some of the most important issues coming before us today, for us to use up time on debates on issues that might otherwise find a place on the agenda, tomorrow afternoon in this case, curtails time in which we should be applying our minds, thoughts, voices and questions to the proper scrutiny of what is before us. I am at a loss to know why this amendment was allowed. I wonder whether others are.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, if the noble Lord reflects for a moment, we are discussing this now because we are discussing an amendment to a very important Bill. The common agricultural policy will increasingly be of interest not just to farmers but to the population as a whole. As the price of food goes up and food becomes in short supply, the policy of the European Union will be very important to everybody in this country. What they want is not just reports that circulate within Parliament and which get very little publicity, but rather they want their Parliament to discuss what our Government are achieving in Europe by way of reforming a policy which needs a lot of reform, as everybody in the House accepts. Therefore, it is absolutely right that we should discuss this and I am very surprised that the noble Lord, whom I greatly admire, does not understand that. I know that the EU Committee report on the CAP will be debated tomorrow

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and that will be very interesting—I have not seen it yet, but I am sure that it will be very interesting—but that has nothing to do with what we are discussing now, which is an amendment to the Bill.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, the point I go back to is that there are many other paths by which all of us collectively can express our worries about the common agricultural policy and its reform, as is exemplified by the fact that a report on the policy will be debated tomorrow. Three days have been set aside to discuss the Bill on Report and we are absorbing time which might better be used to examine the matter which is under scrutiny as we shall never have another opportunity so to examine the Bill.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I support the amendment. My noble friend Lady Carnegy is absolutely right to say that this is a perfectly proper amendment to discuss now. Of course, we debate Select Committee reports and I have done so on many occasions. However, without being negative about those debates, they do not have the same force as debates on this Bill, which will pass into law. Our debates on reports on the common agricultural policy are just that, debates, and have had very little effect on reforming that policy.

As one of the two Back-Benchers about whom the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, spoke in such generous terms, I remind him that the reforms, such as they are, took place well before we gave away part of our rebate. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, was right to ask what we got back. There was supposed to be a reform but it turned out to be what is now called a health check.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Willoughby de Broke: It is called a health check; it is not a reform. The aim of the health check was simply to see whether we are still paying as much money as we were previously. We are, so that health check is fine. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that the common agricultural policy has given consumers reasonably priced food. I am afraid I have to take issue with him on that as it is simply not the case. The common agricultural policy, even reformed, still consumes some 45 per cent of the total EU budget, so it is worth discussing that. That means that UK taxpayers are paying more than they need to for their food because they are paying for the common agricultural policy through higher taxes and they are paying higher prices in the shops because of the common agricultural policy’s protectionist policy against imports from third world or developing countries, which is an outrage.

The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, is right to say that we need more reform and I agree with him, but perhaps he will recognise—I hope that the Minister will recognise this when he replies—that the Government’s position was enunciated by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, only last month just before we had our Committee stage debates. The Chancellor said in terms that he would like to see the end of all common agricultural policy subsidies and the end of all protectionist tariffs against products and commodities from developing countries. That is good and I am sure that the noble

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Lord, Lord Tomlinson, agrees with those laudable sentiments, all of which have been supported on all sides of the House over many years. However, let us have a reality check. What has actually happened? What did the big players say about that? The German agriculture minister, Herr Seehofer, said that what the Chancellor was suggesting was absolute, complete rubbish. The French agriculture minister, Michel Barnier, far from agreeing with those sensible proposals from our Government, said no, the CAP is a good model. He went further and said that it should be exported worldwide. I wonder whether the Minister agrees with that. It really is odd that we say that we are leading reform. I have not yet read the report of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, but I am sure that it makes all the right noises, as EU Select Committees always do. However, it does not seem to be getting the attention that it deserves in the corridors of power in Brussels.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. As chairman of the Select Committee that approved the report that will be debated tomorrow, I hesitate to intervene. However, I say the following about the practice that we follow with Select Committee reports. The Government respond to these reports, and this report is about how the CAP should be reformed. If noble Lords are interested to know what the Government’s views are, and want the answers to questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby, it might be convenient for them to listen to the Government’s response tomorrow, and to listen to the Minister winding up at the end of the debate, when many of these questions will be answered.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I was not casting aspersions on the process. I am speaking to the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. It is perfectly right that I should do so.

I want to raise one further matter before I close in order to inform the House and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, who is chairman of the sub-committee on agriculture. I hope that he has seized on the recent proposal from the Commission for new pesticide regulation, which is supported by the Parliament and currently in progress in Brussels. The Pesticides Safety Directorate, which regulates the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in this country, has reported that the proposal is extremely damaging for agriculture, not just in this country, but throughout the European Union. The directorate says:

This is a serious matter. The proposal could damage UK and European agriculture. It is losing touch with reality to consider this type of proposal at a time when the EU itself recognises that there is a world food shortage and may be reconsidering its biofuel targets. These crazed proposals are coming out of the Commission and Parliament and, if they are approved by qualified majority voting, we will not be able to do anything about it. We will be hamstringing agriculture in this country, our capacity to feed ourselves, and the capacity for Europe to feed itself and other countries. I will

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return to pesticide regulation later. I hope that the Minister will say something about it tonight, because it demonstrates how impotent we are in the face of proposals from Brussels.

I finish with two questions. The first is simple. Does the Minister agree that British agriculture, British taxpayers and British consumers would be better off if we were out of the common agricultural policy? That is a question he can say “yes” to very quietly and no one need notice it. Secondly, when are we going to do something about it?

5.30 pm

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I am going to resist the temptation to give a preview of the debate that we are going to have tomorrow. I am gratified by the degree of interest, particularly on the Benches opposite, in the reform of the common agricultural policy. It is not so far reflected in the names signed up to speak tomorrow, but I am sure that will be corrected in the very near future, and I look forward to a large attendance at tomorrow’s debate.

The debate and the amendment are not on the reform of the common agricultural policy. This should be a debate on how the treaty impacts on the future of the common agricultural policy. In all fairness—many Members of your Lordships’ House know where I stand on the common agricultural policy—no one would say that either the common agricultural policy or the common fisheries policy are models of perfection. The gods did not come down and create these two wonderful policies for us; they were put together by fallible human beings, I am afraid. The fallibility has perhaps become more obvious over time. Let us recognise in passing that the common agricultural policy of today is very different from that of five, 10 or 15 years ago; it is very different indeed.

The idea that we are talking about some sort of health check is a distortion. Significant reforms are already in place, and I shall just mention two of them. First, there has been the decoupling of payments so, largely, across most agricultural regimes, you no longer have production-related payments, so you do not get the incentive to overproduce and produce in a way that the market is incapable of properly responding to. Secondly—

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I apologise, because I really do not like intervening. The decoupling took place five years ago in 2003; it has absolutely nothing to do with the recent health check.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, my position is that there have been significant reforms in the common agricultural policy over the past five or 10 years. Decoupling is one, and the second is the scaling back of export subsidies and the distortion that export subsidies cause. The health check is about looking forward. If the noble Lord turns up tomorrow, he will be able to hear the extent to which we think that the proposals of the Commission and the views of Her Majesty’s Government are adequate in terms of addressing the future direction of the common agricultural policy. That is a debate for tomorrow, not for today.

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That is why, in all honesty, this is a phoney amendment. It is quite right that the House should debate how the treaty impacts on agriculture and agricultural policy, and if Members of your Lordships’ House wish to do that, they should focus on the two areas that significantly change as a result of the treaty. They are the move to qualified majority voting on agricultural policy and the move to co-decision on agricultural policy. My belief, and the belief of the EU Committee as a whole, is that both of those developments are entirely favourable to the pursuit of greater reform of the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. In the extent that the Lisbon treaty impacts on those two policy areas, the impact is wholly beneficial.

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I hope I will not bore your Lordships by approaching this from another point of view. I declare an interest as I have for many years been a peasant farmer in France with a numéro SIREN/SIRET. I work in conjunction with other properties in the production of wine and right across the board.

One of our heroes is my noble friend Lady Thatcher. She stood up for something when the Common Market agriculture policy was effectively an indirect subsidy of unrelated activities. Now we must accept that the whole objective of agriculture in France is to produce good quality food at reasonable prices. The expansion of the EU immediately brings in Bulgarian tomatoes. When I was advising the Bulgarian Government on tomatoes and quotas many years ago, I could not believe that Bulgarian tomatoes were among the best in Europe. I did not realise until I spent time in Eastern Europe the remarkable agricultural production that will come from there.

I must acknowledge that I have received subsidies from the Common Market agriculture policy—although trading at a loss. One of those has been for an electric fence to keep the wild boars out. Yet there were too few wild boars, so the peasants decided they would mix them with ordinary boars. Of course, a wild boar produces only three marcassins a year and a domestic one can produce 23. So now we have a surplus of wild boar which are playing havoc with vines and others, destroying large chunks of agriculture—though hunting is important in France and Spain.

When the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, speaks about qualified majority voting and joint decisions, there is not a peasant farmer in Europe who wants to see that.

Lord Sewel: Exactly.

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, that is wonderful. He wants to be able to make his own decisions. The noble Lord has not decided whether I am supporting this amendment. I want to explain what is actually happening, if I can get the noble Lord’s attention rather than his laughter—I hope laughter will follow in a moment. Within these countries changes have already taken place. On Saturday morning I will sit with Monsieur Simon and Monsieur Costra and will present the report that the noble Lord will be debating tomorrow. Yet they are interested in treaties, not in reports of your Lordships’ House.

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The report of your Lordships’ House that dealt with wine said that grapes should not be used to produce alcohol for cars. It was well received. Already, after President Sarkozy’s comments in London, moves are taking place to reduce the subsidy for the production of grapes that do not go into wine. As that report points out, more wine is now imported by the EU than exported. That is from far distant countries where they receive support for production and are allowed not to follow any rules. Even appellation contrôlée is changing now.

Where I come from, our first wine was shipped to the United Kingdom in the second century BC. Your Lordships will know that that was a quality time. Olive trees and olive oil fetch a high premium but even within those markets changes are being made that have nothing to do with the Common Market agriculture policy. They come from a move towards quality and away from mass production. The knowledge and understanding is that other countries that may have greater rainfall and better production will produce better products.

The world is not looking at what the debate is tomorrow but at what we are going to say about this treaty before us today. The agricultural costs and expenditure are among the most important of all. As your Lordships will know, in France and Italy—I can speak only for France, Italy and Spain and to a certain extent for Portugal—the rural economies are a vital part of life. Some 35 per cent of people live in rural areas there and only 8 per cent in the United Kingdom. They say to me, “You benefited extraordinarily well out of the Common Market policy because all the money that came to you went straight on to the farmers’ bottom line as profit and all your agricultural land has soared in value: why?”. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers pointed out, farming is no longer farming.

We have to look at where the production goes, to refer to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose. Where do shellfish harvested within the 12-mile limit go? They practically all leave the United Kingdom. The coquilles Saint-Jacques from the west coast of Scotland are the best in the world and command a premium price. They are biked or flown down, end up in Boulogne and overnight are transported even into the midst of Switzerland. We also have to look at fishing and at the high price of fish at the moment. The market for lobsters from Cornwall is the continent of Europe and there is now an international market in agricultural produce. We have to look at the subsidy for mass production, which I believe is going. Another very simple example is that the Spanish want to pull up their olive trees and grow more fruit trees in order to supply fruit to the United Kingdom. Vast Spanish lorries are loaded with oranges and they come here to sell us a product that we do not produce. On the other hand, the French want to buy the olive trees from Spain so that they can sell them to the rich British who buy houses in France. So a deal is being done and olive trees are moving like a commodity as gardening is becoming important.

I support the amendment because it is an amendment to a treaty. I shall support the debate tomorrow. Everything that comes from your Lordships' House goes out from here and is read. Your Lordships might like to see

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those who have spoken today on television tomorrow night on the BBC world channel, which may repeat it three or four times and it is then syndicated. It has shattered me how interested people are, not in the other place, but in what we say here and in our reasoned arguments. My noble friend who moved the amendment has done the right thing because we should concentrate on the treaty, not on other reports. I support the amendment and I urge your Lordships to do so because it sends the right signal.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, it is clear that all sides of the House do not think that the common agricultural policy is very good. However, there have been major changes, as the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, said. I remember the Agenda 2000 debates in the late 1990s, which came through with major changes over the past five years, but they do not go far enough. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that we should never have had a common agricultural policy. Let us get real about this. In Europe—before we joined the European Community—as in the United Kingdom, all states subsidised agriculture at different levels. So in a single market, in a common market, those who subsidised their farming industries more, such as France, would have completely taken over and destroyed the industries of those who subsidised less, particularly the United Kingdom. That is why there had to be a common agricultural policy rather than just a single market that affects most other production and goods. I guess that many of us would hope that, at the end of the day, we could move to a point where that single market takes over from a separate common agricultural policy. Reform certainly needs to happen apace and needs to go further.

On the common fisheries policy, where there are no subsidies outside international fishing agreements, from which the UK does not benefit, we have a very bad regime which clearly has not worked well for all fishing stocks, not just our own. The question is how do we change that and is that a part of this Bill today? It could be a part of the Bill. Is the answer to have more reports, more talking, and to ask for debates that we can have any way? I do not believe that to be the case. That is a completely inadequate response to what we want. I know the fishing industry in the south-west quite well. If we said that because of the Lisbon treaty we would have more reports to Parliament from the Government, I think the fishing industry would be pretty disappointed and unimpressed by that outcome.

The strength of the Lisbon treaty has already been mentioned. As regards budgets, we have discretionary expenditure taking the role of the whole of the budget, with compulsory expenditure disappearing completely. We also have co-decision. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned in his speech that power should revert to Parliament. I believe that that is true at European level too. We should have more power in the European Parliament regarding agriculture and fisheries. Why do we discriminate in areas that the European Parliament should be able to make budgetary and legislative decisions on? That clearly does not make sense. That move in this treaty is an extremely good one.

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