HC Deb 16 December 1974 vol 883 cc1107-8
17. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what is now the total annual cost of subsidies to milk.

Mr. Maclennan

About £323 million in the current financial year.

Mr. Ridley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is 5 per cent. of the Government's deficit? Does he not agree that if the Government were serious in wanting to make some impact on inflation the best way to do it would be to cut out milk subsidies altogether, and quickly?

Mr. Maclennan

I must again remind the hon. Gentleman, who was a member of the Conservative administration and should be aware of this, that his own Government subsidised milk to the tune of £100 million per annum. It is an important element in the diet particularly of the less well off, and it is necessary in the inflationary situation in which we are living to seek to protect those members of our society.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Is my hon. Friend aware that those of us on this side of the House who take a serious interest in the well-being of our constituents can think of a hundred items on which we would cut a subsidy before we would cut a subsidy on milk?

Mr. Maclennan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure he is right.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Surely it must be wrong that the price of milk should be less than the price of a bottle of bitter lemon and about one-quarter of the price of a pint of beer. Surely something is wrong with the hon. Gentleman's mathematics and proportions. Is it not about time that the real price was paid for a pint of milk? Is it not time that the subsidy ended?

Mr. Maclennan

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the nutritional value of bitter lemon or beer is greater than that of milk? Surely he must recognise that milk is an important item in the diet of the less well off, the young and the elderly, and as such it is a most appropriate candidate for subsidy.

Mr. Woodall

Does not my hon. Friend agree that we should increase the subsidy on milk in order to restore the milk which was pinched from the kids by the last Conservative administration?

Mr. Maclennan

We shall have to consider the level of subsidy for milk in the new year in the light of any decision that may be taken about increasing producers' prices.

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