HC Deb 11 December 1975 vol 902 cc643-4
15. Mrs. Millie Miller

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the present level of skimmed milk stocks in the European Economic Community.

Mr. Peart

The total amount of skimmed milk powder held in storage by EEC intervention agencies on 27th November was 1,083,000 metric tonnes.

Mrs. Miller

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the distaste with which the housewife of this country hears about the over-production of food and of its ultimate storage at heavy cost to the taxpayer? Is he aware that in the Common Market countries every cow is being sub- sidised at the rate of £ 40 per head? Does he realise that this is a situation that in the end will cause the complete collapse of the common agricultural policy and with it our dairy farmers, who are unable to compete with the inefficient dairy farmers in Europe?

Mr. Peart

I have always accepted that surpluses of that kind are wasteful. That is why we are trying, through the stocktaking exercise, to readjust the Community's policy. This problem does not exist only in Europe. Many other parts of the world, such as the United States of America and Australia, have the problem of surpluses of skimmed milk. I am aware of the problem.

Mr. Marten

One of the Commission's proposals to get rid of the surplus of dairy products is a two-tier price system for this country's milk. Will the Minister assure us that he will oppose that and virtually veto it if the Commission should persist?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman is aware that I appeared before the Scrutiny Committee the other day and discussed part of this matter with his colleagues and himself. I shall note the point. It will inevitably come up in Brussels. On the main issue, I believe that these surpluses should be dealt with quickly. It may well be that they will have to be disposed of in food aid elsewhere. However, above all I stress that the United Kingdom is a very efficient dairy producing area.