HC Deb 14 December 1961 vol 651 cc609-10
7. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement concerning the recent breakdown in talks about a new price structure for liquid milk.

15. Mr. Morris

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the failure of the Milk Marketing Board and the unions to agree on a two-tier price solution for the milk industry.

Mr. Soames

I accept the conclusion of the Joint Committee of the Farmers' Unions and Milk Marketing Boards that no alternative to the present pooling system has been evolved which would be acceptable to the industry at the present time. I am sure that the inquiry has been worth while in that it has brought about a fuller appreciation of the problem, and I have welcomed the Chairman's indication that it requires the continuing attention of the industry.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

In view of my right hon. Friend's previous remarks on this subject, has he any further plans for some method of restricting the production of liquid milk in this country?

Mr. Soames

No, Sir. What was said in the White Paper when the last Price Review was published was that if the scheme did not prove feasible, we should have to reconsider the increase given at the last Review.

Mr. Morris

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, according to his Ministry's figures issued the week before last, the average profits of dairy farmers for the last year for which figures are available went down by 19 per cent.? What plans does he now have to regulate liquid milk production in this country and to save the farmers from further under-recoupment from rising production and lower returns? Will he place in the Library, or publish as a White Paper, the report of the deliberations of the committee and the advice and visitations tendered to it?

Mr. Soames

It was for the industry to decide whether it wished to continue—with the clear warning inherent in the White Paper—with the present system, or to have a two-tier price system. This was a private investigation by the industry and it would not be right to publish the deliberations as a White Paper.

Mr. Mackie

Why is the right hon. Gentleman so concerned about an increase in milk production when the subsidy is so small? Ought he not to be more concerned about beef production, for which he is giving away another £35 million?

Mr. Soames

These are entirely different situations, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The sources from which the industries get their returns are totally different.