HC Deb 24 March 1965 vol 709 cc555-7
32. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the recent increase in costs, he is satisfied that the return to the dairy farmer is now adequate; and if he will make a statement.

33. Mr. Dean

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the increasing costs to dairy farmers, he is satisfied that adequate recoupment has been provided for them and if he will make a statement.

61. Mr. Brewis

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that the price of milk adequately reflects recent increases in farmers' costs; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Peart

Yes, Sir. I believe that the award made in the Annual Review provides a fair and adequate return to efficient dairy farmers, after taking into account their increase in costs. As hon. Members will know, by convention the estimated cost increases for individual commodities are not given. Hon. Members will, however, have noted that neither the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board nor the farmers' leaders claim that cost increases have been more than the increase in the guaranteed price.

Mr. Peyton

Is the Minister aware that both the Price Review and his Answer constitute a very severe blow to the hopes and confidence of the dairy farmers? Will he bear in mind that many of these farmers, particularly the small farmers, have no alternative means of livelihood and that now their hopes are at the lowest level they have ever been?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that. The hon. Member knows full well the trends in dairy production— I mentioned this in the White Paper—and the fact that numbers of small farmers have been leaving the industry for ten years. There were no protests from hon. Members opposite during that time. The award which I have given means £11 million more directly to the dairy producers. It means a guaranteed price and a standard quantity more realistic and more generous in relation to awards made previously under successive Tory Administrations.

Mr. Deedes

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how he reconciles what he said last year about the dire consequences to dairy farmers of the price policy then obtaining with the price policy outlined in the White Paper?

Mr. Peart

Last year's Price Review, together with this year's represents a 10 per cent. increase. This is a great improvement over previous years. It shows that we are anxious to see that the efficient dairy farmer is enabled to secure an income.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If it is shown in the next few months that the number of small dairy farmers going out of business increases, and in view of the terrible effect which the Review has had among the small dairy farmers, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to review this matter in a matter of a few months before the winter?

Mr. Peart

Of course not. The hon. Member knows full well that the problem is whether the dairy herd is maintained and milk production goes up. There is already a 45 per cent. reserve, as the hon. Member must know. I think that extravagant talk by irresponsible politicians does no good.

Mr. Ensor

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how many times in the last ten years a Review has been imposed?

Mr. Peart

I would say, in the last eight years, four times. Apart from that in relation to milk, if I could give figures of the amount awarded over a period, last year it was +2.5d., the year previously +½d., in 1962 –0.4d., in 1961 +0.8d., in 1960, again under the Conservatives, —¼d., in 1959 no change, in 1958 –1d. In reply to my hon. Friend, I would say that it is surprising that there was no opposition then from the benches opposite.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Is it not a fact that during those years the prices policy was squeezing out a certain amount of inefficient and surplus production but now the trend is downwards and the national dairy herd is smaller this year than it was last? That is a significant fact.

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept the hon. Member's figures about the trend in the dairy herd. It is not so, from the latest figures.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the Minister say how many dairy farmers have received letters from compassionate landlords saying that as a result of their indignation about the Price Review they will decrease their rents?

Mr. Peart

I shall look into that interesting supplementary.

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