03 July 1998
CAP ‘a booze and fags protection racket’

By Brian Brady, Parliamentary Staff, PA News

THE European Unions Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is “a protection racket for booze and fags” a Tory told the Commons yesterday (Thursday).

Leading Euro-sceptic John Wilkinson (Ruislip Northwood) condemned CAP and urged the Government to push for reform..

He claimed the CAP provided subsidy of almost Ecu2 billion – about £1.3 bn – for European wine and tobacco industries.

Debate over the issue has been intensified during recent months, with German complaints over the size of that countrys contribution to the policy.

During a fierce attack on Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham at question time, Mr Wilkinson said: “Neither German electioneering nor your empty rhetoric have done anything to modify the burgeoning growth of the CAP.

“How is it that you can countenance a billion Ecus in subsidy for tobacco growing and how can you possibly approve Ecu857 million, a 70% increase in subsidy, for wine production up to 2003?

“Isnt the CAP a protection racket for booze and fags?”

Dr Cunningham said he shared Mr Wilkinsons concerns over the cost of the policy, and that Britain was already pressing for change: “The best way to keep members contributions to affordable levels is to ensure firm control of the Unions spending.

“That necessitates policy reform.

“We therefore hope Germany will join us in pressing for fundamental reform of the CAP, which will bring savings in the long term.”

Dr Cunningham added: “I dont share your attitude about the way we might be able to persuade our colleagues in Europe to change that policy.

“I share the view about the tobacco regime, but Britain is in a minority of five members states that dont grow tobacco. Ten do.

“We can only change these things by sensible, reasonable negotiation, not by the kind of language you are using.”

Dr Cunningham told Labours Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) there was “an important need to reform CAP as part of the EUs enlargement process.

“It is untenable to suppose that the policy as presently constituted and financed could be acceptable with a significant increase in the members of the EU.”