HC Deb 17 November 1970 vol 806 cc1017-9
9. Mr. Ashton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage reduction he expects in milk production due to the abolition of school milk for children between seven and 11 years of age.

22. Mr. Brown

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the increase in milk prices which will result from the reduction in milk sales following the withdrawal of school and welfare milk; and what effect this will have in terms of increasing unemployment in the field of production and distribution.

37. Mr. McManus

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the effect of the school milk charges introduced by the Government on small milk producers in Northern Ireland; and what steps are envisaged to compensate financial loss by these producers.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The changes announced in the School and Welfare Milk Schemes apply to Great Britain. Whether similar changes should be made in Northern Ireland is being discussed with the Government there.

These changes do not affect producers' prices or the retail price of milk in the current year, and will be only one of a number of factors affecting these prices in future. It is not, therefore, possible to relate these changes to the future level of, or employment in, milk production. Any effect on employment in the field of distribution is likely to be very small.

Mr. Ashton

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that this decision was taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer without any regard to the farming community and without any estimates having been prepared? Are we to expect the small farmer with a small herd to be classed as a "lame duck" from now on, with no markets for his products? May we have a proper answer to this Question and some quickly prepared estimates?

Mr. Stodart

There were consultations. The effects on the production side of the industry should not be exaggerated.

Mr. Bob Brown

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this despicable measure will hit hardest at those, in, for example, the North-East, who are least able to look after themselves, despite the reintroduction of the poor law in the form of the family income supplement? Is he aware that this must have an adverse effect on employment prospects in an already hard hit area such as the North-East?

Mr. Stodart

I do not accept the premise behind the last part of that supplementary question. There will be no foreseeable reduction in the employment in production and only a minimal one, if any, in distribution.

To answer the first part, what is being done in regard to welfare milk includes continuing it free for large families, bringing it to many of those who do not get it now and to the needy, something which the Labour Party never thought of.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would my hon. Friend give advice to all those concerned, including the farming community, that they should encourage a policy of spending less in the boozer and more on the kids?

Hon. Members


Mr. Stodart

I think that my hon. Friend will have successfully caught tomorrow's headlines.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman should have rebutted that intervention from his hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) more forcefully. It is a disgraceful insult to the working-class people of this country that such a remark should go unrebuked.

When the hon. Gentleman says that this will have no real effect on the farming community, is he aware that for many of the smaller dairy farmers in Scotland half of their income may be dependent on the supply of school milk?

Mr. Stodart

I did not say it it would have no real effect. I said that it should not be exaggerated.