HC Deb 03 February 1965 vol 705 cc1066-8
19. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to safeguard the supply of Channel Islands milk, in view of the fact that the recent price increase is inadequate.

28. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a further statement on his policy for the price of Channel Islands milk.

11. Mr. Bessell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the representations made to him by producers of Channel Islands milk, he will now announce measures to encourage and increase production.

Mr. Hoy

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) on 17th December. The Order promised in that reply has now been made. My right hon. Friend remains convinced that the provision made in the Order is sufficient to meet the case.

Mr. Digby

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread dissatisfaction that this announcement, after a long delay, was made in a Written Answer only? Is it not the case that this higher payment will apply in only two months before next October? That is totally inadequate for the producers of Channel Islands milk.

Mr. Hoy

There may have been a long delay but that was not due to this Government. The hon. Gentleman must remember that even now Channel Islands milk is costing the consumer about 1½d. a pint more than ordinary milk. That is 17½ per cent. dearer and it is to that that we have added the present sum which we hope will be sufficient to encourage production in winter, when milk is short.

Mr. Ridley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the previous Government had decided to go back to a free market for Channel Islands milk and that the delay is the fault of the present Government? Why has the Ministry changed its decision? Why is the hon. Gentleman so absorbed in control by State price setting? Would it not be better to return to a free market?

Mr. Hoy

The previous Government had long enough to consider this. If they had come to a decision they were free to implement it but did not do so. In the new circumstances we felt that what we were giving, through increased prices to the producer, was both fair to the producer and to the consumer who has to pay for it.

Mr. Soames

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that our decision in the last Government was reached during the Summer Recess and that I thought it more civil to Parliament that, before I made such a considerable alteration in the structure of milk supply, I should place the matter before the House? We announced our decision to do this subject to Parliamentary approval and it was my intention to lay an Order before the House. There is no question of delay by the previous Administration.

What is more important is that this issue is purely of supply and demand of one article. How can the hon. Gentleman know whether this is the right price which will get the right supply for the demand? Why not free milk and give satisfaction to all concerned?

Mr. Hoy

How does the right hon. Gentleman know? How did he make his decision? We found many decisions about increasing prices which were postponed by the previous Government until after the General Election.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The hon. Gentleman says that the Channel Islands milk producer gets 1½d. a pint more than the producer of ordinary milk, who is in any case very much underpaid. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the differential between the two is right but that neither price is high enough?

Mr. Hoy

If the producer of ordinary milk is underpaid—I do not venture an opinion—that is the result of the policy of the previous Government.