HC Deb 27 October 1975 vol 898 cc1003-5
4. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether she has any plans to increase the retail price of milk.

Mr. Maclennan

As announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agri- culture, Fisheries and Food on 15th October, the retail price of milk will be increased by 1½p per pint to 8½p per pint on 2nd November 1975.

Mr. Rost

As farmers are to receive only one-quarter of a penny per unit from this increase, what arrangements is the Minister making to protect the consumer against the inevitable shortages which will result as the dairy herd goes into further decline? Are we to import dried skimmed milk from the Continent to ration out to consumers?

Mr. Maclennan

I am happy to be able to reply that there is no risk of any shortage of liquid milk in the foreseeable future. [Interruption.] Opposition Members do the country no service by suggesting anything to the contrary. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that since the measures announced by my right hon. Friend there have been some encouraging changes in the numbers of calf slaughterings.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend consider asking my right hon. Friend to have talks with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about the new policy of the Common Market, which is to feed liquid milk to cattle and pigs, which to many Socialists is totally abhorrent while three-quarters of the world are dying of starvation?

Mr. Maclennan

That is a question for my right hon. Friend which undoubtedly can be raised at the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that there is no shortage of milk, will he tell the House why, on Friday of this week, a milk factory is to close in my constituency because of shortage of milk, with the result that 71 people will lose their jobs? Is he unaware that because of the shortage of milk no butter has been made in Britain for many months, and every bit of butter we require has been imported, at a cost to the exchanges? How can the hon. Gentleman tell the House that there is no shortage of milk?

Mr. Maclennan

If the hon. Gentleman had only listened he would have realised that I said that there was no shortage, nor any expected shortage, of liquid milk for consumption. That is what the question was about. It is true that there is a decline in milk production and that that is affecting butter manufacture. It is encouraging to notice that there is some increase in the production of cheese in this country.

Mr. Watt

What grounds does the Minister have for believing that there will be no reduction in the supply of milk? Is he aware that every week now farmers are losing confidence, and more and more of them are joining in the flight from milk production?

Mr. Maclennan

I am not altogether surprised to find my former Conservative opponent somewhat confused by the facts. If he had listened to what I said he would know that I made it abundantly clear that there is no shortage of liquid milk for consumption. I have said that there is a decline in production which is affecting butter manufacture.