§ 7. Mr. Peter Mills
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many dairy farmers in the West Country went out of business in 1964.
§ 18. Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many farmers have closed their dairies during the last year; and what steps he proposes to take to safeguard the milk supply and provide an adequate return for dairy farmers.
§ Mr. Peart
The number of registered milk producers in England and Wales declined by 5,118 in 1964. Of this total 998 were in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.
The level of milk production and the return to milk producers will be taken into account at the forthcoming Annual Review but I cannot anticipate the outcome.
§ Mr. Mills
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that during the past 10 years dairy farmers' incomes have dropped by at least 20 per cent. and, indeed, at the moment it is true to say that 150 dairy farmers are going out of business each week? Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that nothing less than 4d. a gallon will be necessary to rectify this position? Before he forestalls me by saying that I should direct my remarks to my own party, may I say that my criticism is directed just as much to my party as to the present Government.
§ Mr. Digby
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has announced some 1054 figures which have shown a fairly sharp decrease? Is he further aware that when farmers go out of milk production and close their dairies they are usually very reluctant to undertake milk production again? That is certainly true in Dorset. Will he face up to the problem and bear in mind that the decline is proceeding rather quickly?
§ Mr. Hayman
Will my right hon. Friend do his best to remedy the defects of the Tory Administration during the past 13 years as soon as he can?
§ Mr. Soames
As the right hon. Gentleman has given us the figures for dairy farmers who went out of business, would he also give us his figure for the number of cows in the national dairy herd during the same period?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has perceived the extremely high proportion of dairy farmers who go out of business in the for south-western counties? Will he bear in mind that this unfortunate situation is creating a tremendous pressure on the farmers in these special areas, where milk is the main product and where farms are, in the main, unsuitable for any other form of production?