HC Deb 03 February 1965 vol 705 cc1053-4
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. Peart

I hope the hon. Gentleman said that during the election.

Mr. Mills

I did.

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept responsibility for the previous Administration. Naturally, during the Annual Review all these matters which have been mentioned will be taken into consideration.

Mr. Digby

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has announced some 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. Peart

I am aware of the problem. As I have said, I shall be going to the review talks and this will be one of the matters which we shall consider.

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. Peart

I shall certainly do my best to do that.

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?

Mr. Peart

I have not got those figures with me, but I will certainly get them and supply them to the right hon. Gentleman.

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?

Mr. Peart

I am well aware of the problems of the South-West. This is not peculiar only to the South-West, but I recognise there is a real problem here.

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