HC Deb 02 March 1966 vol 725 cc1270-1
6. Mr. Godber

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he has now taken with regard to the complaint by the south-eastern dairy farmers which was the subject of a recent court ruling concerning his actions in the matter.

7. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the finding of the court that he had misdirected himself when he refused to refer a complaint on behalf of 4,800 south-east dairy farmers to a committee of investigation.

Mr. Peart

I am considering whether to appeal against the order recently given by the Divisional Court, and I hope shortly to announce the action I propose to take.

Mr. Godber

In view of the fact that the Minister is considering this I presume that he will say that it is sub judice, but is he aware that many farmers think that this is not the only matter on which he has misdirected himself? Will he say whether he has taken advice not only from his own legal advisers but also from the Law Officers of the Crown in this matter?

Mr. Peart

I am surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman make his first remark, because my predecessor, in reply to an Oral Question on 6th July, 1964, stated that when approached for advice by the south-eastern milk producers on the question of a price differential he had replied that the question of the determination of a regional price differential was properly a matter for the Milk Marketing Board. I do not want to get into an argument about the merits of the case. This is now a legal matter. I am considering whether to appeal, and when I have made that decision I shall certainly answer questions on the matter.

Mr. Morrison

In the event of an appeal being unsuccessful, who would carry the cost?

Mr. Peart

We must wait in order to see whether an appeal is made. It depends on my decision.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Can the Minister say what the position will be if he goes ahead with an appeal and gets into difficulties, and is not longer a Minister?

Mr. Peart

I am so confident that I will be that I had not thought about that.