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Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, everyone will sympathise with my noble friend. For that reason, we must look at streamlining the procedures and also take seriously the issue of subsidiarity which can make a great contribution towards the direction in which my noble friend wishes us to go.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I did not mean size to count! The Minister must be aware that his statement that in a few days we hope to be able to come to an agreement and announce the action that we shall take on beef will strike despair into many hearts in this country. We have already had the Government announcing a serious danger which might arise and then a wait while disaster struck all over Europe until the committee reported. Now, apparently, we must wait until agreement is reached in Europe. Is the noble Viscount aware that intervention will be absolutely necessary? All over Britain, particularly in Scotland, fat cattle ready for market are piling up. However big the recovery is, it will not be sufficient to take the cattle off the market. Therefore, we must have intervention buying. It must come anyhow. If it is announced now at least we can start to employ slaughtermen and ancillary trades who are at present being put out of work.
Will the noble Viscount agree that a policy of selective slaughter, advocated by most people in this country who have thought about it, would speed the process which is already going on to reduce by at least half every year and eventually eliminate the big epidemic of BSE in this country? An announcement, without waiting to see what cash we shall receive, would contribute a great deal to the rest of the country having confidence in the Government.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I have already mentioned the importance of intervention, so I am happy to agree that it will play an important part in the resolution of the crisis. Intervention exists, and there is the possibility of widening the intervention categories.
The noble Lord was extremely clear. I agree that it is important now to restore confidence in the consumption of beef. In Turin, my right honourable friend and his colleagues agreed that it is not only a matter for this country. I understand that the scare is beginning to have an effect on continental European beef markets as well as ours. The problem must be tackled on a European basis. That is why the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was right when she emphasised that it was essential for Europe to move fast. That is what I hope my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture will have begun to secure today. The noble Lord is right; today will not be too soon.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that I agree with the Prime Minister that British beef is safe? It is probably safer than most of the beef now being imported. On the other hand, presumably the Government should ask themselves why, in that case, they plan to burn it. After all, it is someone's fault that that may happen; it could be the fault of the Opposition, the Cross Benches, I do not know. But apparently that is what will happen.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, the question of economic and monetary union is not on the agenda of the IGC. Nevertheless, the presidency conclusions from which the noble Lord quotes make clear at the top of page 3:
Viscount Cranborne: With regard to beef, it is important that your Lordships should be given the opportunity to express--the nods of approval, particularly from my noble friend Lord Ferrers, underline the importance that your Lordships attach to this matter--the fact that British beef is safe. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, emphasised that fact. My right honourable friend made it clear at Turin that the over-hasty European reaction in imposing a ban, which was not supported by scientific evidence, as was admitted, had merely succeeded in deepening the crisis. I wish that more people would follow the excellent example not only of the customers of Sainsbury's over the weekend but also of your Lordships' House. I am reliably informed by my noble friend Lord Lindsay that one evening last week when, as a result of undertaking his ministerial duties, he came into the Barry Room rather late and quite rightly demanded beef, he was told that unfortunately it had run out.
The abrogation of the Rome Treaty was mentioned a moment ago by my noble friend. Can the noble Viscount confirm that that was never on the table or discussed at the conference? Can he also confirm that if that were to happen, the whole substructure of the jurisprudence of the Court would collapse and one would have to create some new fundamental treaty? Does he agree that the problems that this country faces are not with the decisions of the Court on the Rome Treaty as such but on the implementing regulations and, therefore, there
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I can reassure my noble friend. There is no question of abrogating the Rome Treaty. It is perfectly clear that, if certain measures are agreed as a result of negotiations during the course of the IGC, treaty amendment may be necessary. But that is rather different from wholesale abrogation.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I gathered the impression that the Statement made in another place is somewhat softer and limper than the conclusions reached in the Government's White Paper. But I prefer to leave an assessment in greater detail for the debate which is to take place on the 15th of this month. It will also be necessary to assess the Statement in conjunction with the conclusions of the Italian presidency on 29th March. Those conclusions, for some reason, were not available until comparatively recently to me as a Member of your Lordships' House. However, they were available to the Conservative Party house magazine--the Daily Telegraph--in time for a detailed editorial to appear on the conclusions reached by the presidency. Incidentally, it was able to quote copiously from them. For the avoidance of doubt, I checked the quotations in the editorial in today's Daily Telegraph with the statements made by the presidency. They coincide. I do not like an embargo being imposed upon us that is not imposed upon other people in relation to these matters. After all, we have a fairly considerable interest in them. I should be glad if the noble Viscount would cause investigations to be made.
There are just three matters of comparatively topical interest on which I should like to touch. From the Statement made in another place, I am not at all sure about the financial impact on the United Kingdom of any arrangements under consideration for aid to be given by the European Community to the United Kingdom. I noticed the observations made by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place. The right honourable Member for Kingston-Upon-Thames indicated that we should, after all, only be getting back some of our own money. I draw attention to the fact that at the moment we contribute some £2½ billion net to the Community. Although any contribution from our own money would be extremely welcome, we should not welcome the occasion, proposed by the European Parliament itself, to revise or abolish the existing arrangements relating to the United Kingdom's rebate.
Other matters dealt with in the Statement relate to the beef issue upon which I am no expert other than as a very avid consumer of the product. What bothers me a little--my understanding of the position may be wrong--is that the European Community arrogated to itself the right to instruct us not to send our beef to countries outside the European Union; in other words, there was an embargo against our exporting to anyone at all, let alone to the European Community. I should be glad to be corrected on that point. If it were true that the Community sought to ban British exports from here to,
Finally, in the communique there is inserted--according to the Daily Telegraph--at the express behest of the French Government, the suggestion that the IGC could also address the question of the compatibility between competition and the principles of universal access to essential services in the citizens' interest. I shall be glad if the noble Viscount can elucidate exactly what is meant by that suggestion in the presidency conclusions because many might think that it is in contradiction of Articles 85 and 86 of the Treaty of Rome.