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The other good move in both these policies in terms of the Lisbon treaty is that the legislative process of the Council of Ministers is also opened up so we have

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more accountability in that legislative forum as well as in Parliament. Those are the big moves forward and are the areas where the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy will in practice change. Will they change by having more reports than we already have to this House and the other place? I am all for parliamentary accountability, but I believe that this House is strong enough to ensure that already. If we have a problem in that, what we need is to rebalance the power of the legislature and the Executive in this country, and that may be a stronger way forward for European accountability and our own Ministers. What are not needed are this amendment, more discussion and more paperwork.

5.45 pm

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I have put my name to this amendment, and I shall speak to it briefly. In doing so, I shall probe the Minister on our exchange in Committee on 12 May, reported at col. 883 of Hansard. In that debate, I asked the Government whether they had made any calculation about the suffering in the developing world that has been caused by the common agricultural policy over the years. I think I pointed out that if we are to believe the Trade Justice Movement, CAFOD and Oxfam, we are looking at large numbers of people, mostly children, who have died because they cannot sell their products in their local markets, which are flooded with cheap European produce. Have the Government made any estimate of the extent of the environmental and human disaster that the common agricultural policy causes in the developing world?

Secondly, in Committee, I estimated—and I do not think the Government disagreed—that the additional cost of food to the British people is something like £1,000 a year. May we have the latest estimate of that in view of the increase in prices, particularly of milk, sugar and bread, which hit the poorest in our country hardest? Are the Government still comfortable with their estimate of £1,000 a year per family? I am taking this line because I believe that if we could reveal the true environmental catastrophe caused by these two policies, pressure for reform would grow and might become irresistible.

Turning to the common fisheries policy—this is a new question that I did not put in Committee, but we have plenty of time as there is Third Reading to come—what proportion of the fish that swam in European community waters when we joined in 1972 belonged to the United Kingdom? The Eurosceptic movement in this country uses the figure of 70 per cent, I believe with good reason, but what percentage did we have before we joined in 1972 and what percentage of the permitted catch are we now allowed to land? As an obvious corollary to those questions, how many UK fishermen were employed in 1972 before we joined the CFP and how many are employed today? To rub in the scale of the waste of the common fisheries policy, do the Government agree with the figure put forward by the Fisheries Commissioner Mr Borg, who estimates that 880,000 tonnes of dead fish are thrown back into the sea every year? If they agree that figure, they must agree that that amounts to 20,000 40-tonne lorries, full

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of dead fish that are thrown back into the sea every year. Or will the Government move towards the WWF figure of 2 million tonnes of dead fish that are thrown back every year that makes a nice, round figure of 50,000 articulated lorries? Can the Government confirm the scale of this disaster? Have they estimated the damage that this may be doing to the seabed? Has anyone looked at that?

In conclusion, I take up the words of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, the chairman of your Lordships’ esteemed European Union Select Committee, and also to some extent the words of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, suggests that if we want to know the Government’s position, we should come along tomorrow and listen. The Government will spell out their position and no doubt will want more reform. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked how we change this. I take the Minister back to our debate on 12 May, at col. 889 of Hansard, when I pressed him—somewhat persistently, but we were in Committee—on who exactly is responsible in Brussels for the continuation of this disaster.

Which countries will not change these policies? I now seek clarification from the Minister, because he would not tell me then which countries were guilty—other noble Lords implied that they were led by France—but he did tell us which countries we have vaguely on side in the reform of either the CAP or the CAP and the CFP. They are Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Malta. One does not have to be a great mathematician to see that that comes to eight countries. If you add us, that makes nine. That means that only one-third of the countries of the European Union are in favour of the reform of the CAP, or is it the CAP and the CFP? In Committee, did the Minister say that those countries were on our side for reform of both these policies or is it just one of them?

My conclusion is obvious. My reply to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, is: what is the point of coming along tomorrow and listening to the Government’s position on the common agricultural policy or the reform of both policies? If we are only one of nine out of 27, it does not matter what the Government’s position is. As usual, all this is decided in Brussels. The only solution is and will remain—at least until 2013, when the French have blocked the policies as they are and beyond—that we get out of the European Union. The only way in which we will reform these policies is via the door. I support the amendment.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am certainly not going to take sides as to whether this debate should have taken place today or should take place tomorrow. I shall say only that those who insist, as the amendment does, that there should be some kind of extra report to Parliament might like to bear in mind that we are having a full debate today and a full debate tomorrow in one of the Houses of Parliament. We welcome—I hope that I am not giving too much away—the report on the future of the common agricultural policy by a sub-committee of the European Union Committee, about which we have heard so much in this debate and

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which is chaired by my noble friend Lord Sewel. As the Government have already indicated, we share the key planks of the committee’s conclusions on the direction of future policy, because frankly it resonates very closely with the Government’s own vision for the CAP, which was published in 2005. I do not intend to go on at length about our vision for the CAP, because that is something best covered tomorrow, but the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who moved the amendment, is entitled to an answer to some of the points he made during this debate. I hope that noble Lords will bear with me.

The vision for EU agriculture envisages an industry that is fundamentally sustainable and integral to the European economy. It has to be internationally competitive, without reliance on subsidy or protection. It should be rewarded by the markets for its outputs—not least, for safe and good quality food—and by the taxpayer only for producing benefits for society that the market itself cannot deliver. It needs, obviously, to be both environmentally sensitive, maintaining and enhancing the landscape and wildlife while tackling pollution, and socially responsive to the needs of rural communities—we heard about those from the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon—while producing high levels of animal health and welfare. Yet it must not, lastly, distort international trade and the world economy.

We are looking, then, at a farming industry which, by 2020, is: profitable in the marketplace, while it continues to produce the majority of the food we consume; making a positive net environmental contribution, particularly regarding climate change, yet wider than that; and managing the landscape and the natural assets underlying it. Further reform of the CAP is a key element in achieving both what we want in this country and our European vision for agriculture. Despite recent improvements, it is our view that the policy still distorts global markets, weighs farmers down with regulation and acts as a disincentive for them to improve their competitiveness.

As a result, we call for an end to market support and direct payment elements of the common agricultural policy by 2015-20 because they damage developing countries—the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, just asked me a question about that. Those elements are also expensive and wasteful, delivering poor value for money, and restrict the ability of EU farmers to respond to market signals and become truly competitive. We believe that farmers can do just that, certainly in this country. That would represent a further evolution of the common agricultural policy that we now have. Price support would gradually diminish, as would other direct support to farmers, while agricultural markets would progressively open up. There would also be a central role—rather than some peripheral one—for rural development measures, including those targeted on protection and enhancement of the rural environment.

The reform is, of course, being pursued and the health check was referred to. That promises worthwhile adjustments to certain CAP mechanisms but will not, in itself, reduce overall CAP spending. The health check, however, has the potential to deliver beneficial changes which signal the ongoing nature of reform in that direction of market liberalisation and, at the same

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time, in the delivery of public benefits. A review is scheduled of the major CAP reforms of 2003, about which I will have something slightly more controversial, perhaps, to say in a moment or two. The legislative proposals published by the European Commission on 20 May, since our Committee debates, launches six months of negotiations with the intention of concluding the deal by the end of this calendar year.

Our ambitions for this health check—a process, remember, which is starting and not yet finished—are first, to remove the production-linked farm payments that remained after those important 2003 reforms and to avoid the reintroduction of new distortions; secondly, to further shift the balance away from farm subsidies toward measures that protect and enhance our environment; thirdly, to simplify the bureaucracy associated with the CAP, including particularly the single payment scheme; fourthly, to simplify the system of cross-compliance; and, lastly, setting a clear timetable for phasing out price support and market controls.

We also want to phase out the milk quota system, which provides a smooth transition for dairy farmers and gives them the certainty that they need to plan their business and we want to put measures in place to capture the key environmental benefits provided by set aside. Many noble Lords will have read the comments of the agricultural commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel who was clear that the health check proposals,

The Government will launch a full 12-week public consultation on the health check within the next couple of weeks. The health check proposals will be subject to the usual domestic parliamentary scrutiny procedures. An Explanatory Memorandum and impact assessment are being prepared. I am advised that they will be laid before both Houses within two weeks. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords—if they need reminding, because it has been advertised enough—about tomorrow’s debate, which needs more speakers.

In the longer-term, the EU budget will look at all EU spending post-2013 and is likely to result in a high-level Commission White Paper in 2009 before the Commission change-over, which will inform the negotiations for the next financial perspective which should begin in 2010-11. Due to its size the CAP will rightly be perhaps the key focus for the budget review.

Perhaps I may gently chide the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. He is such a charming speaker and so popular in the House that one can occasionally excuse him for indulging in a bit of party politics. The fact that he mentioned the word “consensus” on a number of occasions does not mean that he was not making what I thought were some rather unwarranted attacks on the Government and their reform agenda. He asked whether the Government are serious about CAP reform and about our forcing the pace of change. I gently remind him that when his party was in power the CAP was rampant; precious little reform took place. The enthusiasm that there appeared to be from the then Government for CAP reform was rather like their lack of enthusiasm for the national minimum wage.

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Politically, one can understand precisely why that was the position, but it was not in the national interest. If the Conservatives are now absolutely on board for CAP reform and they mean it, they should welcome, as I hope that they do, the very major reform that this Government largely negotiated in 2003, which is the basis of any further reform that may occur. Those 2003 reforms moved this issue on, which is an achievement of this Government.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not quite understand how it is that the Government champion the common agricultural policy and at the same time champion its reform. If it needs reforming, why is it so good in the first place?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not think that anything I have said can really be considered to be championing the common agricultural policy. We think that it needs fundamental reform. I strongly recommend the noble Earl and other noble Lords to read the letter written by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 13 May to his colleagues in Europe to see his proposals. Of course, we accept the need for a common agricultural framework. I also think that the Official Opposition accept the need for that. But the fact is that the common agricultural policy needs enormous and fundamental reform, which is the expression that the Chancellor used in that important letter.

The Government are committed to CAP reform.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the Minister mentioned the very good letter sent by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Commission regarding reform of the CAP. From reports I have heard, it was not very well received. Perhaps he can bring us up to date today on what has happened to that letter and what response, if any, has been received.

Lord Bach: My Lords, we have heard one or two comments about that letter, but they will not stop the Government attempting to reform fundamentally the common agricultural policy, because that is the right policy for this country and for Europe.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I am trying to recollect the timing on all these things. As far as I remember, there was a fairly massive reform under McSharry. If that was not during the time of the Conservative Government, I should like to know when it was.

Lord Bach: My Lords, let me be fair: McSharry was the high point of the Conservative Government’s reforms. But if, after 18 years, McSharry was the high point of the reform, that does not say much for the desire for reform.

Let me turn to the common fisheries policy.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene and I am most obliged to the noble Lord for

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giving away, but I asked whether there had been a reply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s letter and I should like to know.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I have already considered that. There have been various comments made by various people both at home and abroad to the Chancellor’s letter. I do not have them all here today. I have to move on.

The common fisheries policy was debated at length in Committee and I am grateful to noble Lords who have raised it today. We want to see the principles governing the future management of EU fisheries, a more stable regulatory framework and a more regional approach to decision-making. In Committee, the noble Duke praised the work and the setting up of those regional area committees, and better stakeholder involvement. No one would say that the common fisheries policy is working as we want it to. There were reforms in 2002. We strongly believe that if it were to be scrapped it would need to be replaced by something similar. But a lot of work needs to go on and a lot of reform needs to take place. We are grateful for the contribution made by the noble Earl in this debate. He referred particularly to discards, which we debated last time and no doubt we will debate many times. We are determined to make sure that the discard numbers come down, although it will be a difficult and complicated thing to do.

Reform is the order of the day for the common fisheries policy. It is being pursued in that field and in the common agricultural policy. The Government are keeping Parliament updated principally through the provision of Explanatory Memoranda on legislative proposals, but also via regular debates in the House on fisheries issues and ministerial Statements on the prospects for and outcome of agriculture and fisheries councils. Ministers have given evidence before parliamentary committees on some of the more detailed aspects of the reform programme. My noble friend Lord Sewel’s European Committee is conducting an inquiry into common fisheries policy reform and, as I understand it, intends to produce a report before the summer. That will be an important report, which will offer a further opportunity for a debate on the Floor of this House.

On the basis of these existing opportunities that apply in both Houses of Parliament, there is no need for a further report. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, knows that very well and that this proposal for a further report is merely a peg on which to hang this debate.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, on Report I believe that I am able to press the noble Lord on unanswered questions. I know that we are in a hurry, so I will note that seven of my questions were not answered; but there is one that he should answer. If we are looking for reform and if in Committee he said that only seven other countries support us in the reform of the common fisheries and common agricultural policies, can he tell us how many countries support us and, therefore, how possible is reform within the European Union?

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Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not want to be rude to the noble Lord, but it is an absurd question. It depends on what you are talking about and which measures you mean. The noble Lord has asked some sensible questions today; I will write him a letter, which he will receive before Third Reading.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, until the last few phrases of the Minister’s summing up, I felt that I was going to be in a position to welcome his contribution to this debate. Indeed, I particularly acknowledge that the whole House is grateful for the way in which he has declared the Government’s commitment to, in his phrase, “enormous and fundamental reform” of the common agricultural policy. That has been the driver behind many of the contributions to this debate. Frankly, there have been moments when I have felt like a hapless shepherd in “One Man and his Dog”, watching the sheep scampering all over the place and trying to get them into the shedding ring, or whatever it was called in those days. I will call it the “Contents Lobby” for today. That is a measure of the power of this subject matter and the enormous interest in this aspect of government policy and this area of our nation’s politics. I make no apology for occasionally reverting to being a party politician. I, after all, represent the Opposition, not the Government.

I have been seeking, as I hope noble Lords will understand, consensus on this issue. The consensus that exists in this debate, I believe, is that if we are going to harness the power of Parliament in order to make sure that reform continues apace, the Government—whatever Government are in office, because Governments come and go—should have the power of Parliament, and be accountable to Parliament, in driving home change and reform in this area. That is what this amendment is about. In many ways, all the precursors to tomorrow’s activity were relevant only in so far as they provided the evidence of a need for change and the reason why we need, within Parliament, a mechanism for change. That is the purpose of this amendment. From what people have said during this debate, I believe that there is consensus that the role of Parliament in these matters can and should be important. That is why, I am afraid, I cannot accept that Parliament has no formal role. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

6.13 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 147; Not-Contents, 195.

Division No. 2


Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]
Arran, E.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Ballyedmond, L.
Blackwell, L.
Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.
Bridgeman, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnett, L.
Byford, B.
Cameron of Dillington, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carrington, L.
Cathcart, E.

4 Jun 2008 : Column 197

Cavendish of Furness, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crathorne, L.
De Mauley, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Eccles, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
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