HC Deb 30 October 1975 vol 898 cc1738-40
6. Mr. Biffen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals have been made to the EEC Council of Ministers and Commission to secure a major reorganisation of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr. Strang

The Commission's stocktaking report provides a valuable basis for the Council to consider further changes in the common agricultural policy to supplement the improvements which have already been made over the last 18 months. As my right hon. Friend indicated to the House in the debate on 17th October, he will be pressing for measures to implement the broad approach he outlined to the Council on 28th-29th April.—[Vol. 897, c. 1719–1822.]

Mr. Biffen

Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that in the reorganisation the principle should be established that those who create surpluses have a major financial responsibility for their disposal? In that context, does he agree that neither the British dairy farmer nor the long-suffering British taxpayer should be disadvantaged by the existence of massive stockpiles of dried milk?

Mr. Strang

Yes, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Government believe that there should be coresponsibility with the producers for surpluses that are created. We must crack down hard on structural surpluses in the Community. At the same time, where we are efficient. it is consistent with the policy to expect us to get a bigger share of the Community market and I am confident that we shall achieve this in dairy products.

Mr. Fernybough

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is a grave affront to many people in Britain that we milk cows to produce butter, to turn into cattle feed, to feed back to the cows, so that they can produce more milk? At a time when on television we see starving millions in the rest of the world, should we be deliberately destroying food?

Last night on television there was a programme showing tens of thousands of tons of apples being destroyed. As many children in this country are not getting the necessary amount of vitamin C, will he accept that any system that destroys edible food that should be married to empty stomachs is indefensible? Will he put an end to it?

Mr. Strung

Yes. I agree with my right hon. Friend. I accept the substance of what he has said about skimmed milk powder, but I must add that there are some instances and some systems of production in which we use skimmed milk powder. That has always been so and I am sure that my hon. Friend will expect that to continue.

My right hon. Friend has mentioned apples. We are opposed to any system that allows the destruction of food. We argue strongly that where food has to be withdrawn from the market because it cannot be sold at below predetermined prices, it should be distributed to hospitals, schools and other charities.

Mr. Jopling

Is the Minister aware that we are somewhat surprised about the undue prominence at current meetings of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection? Has the Minister had an opportunity to look at the tape in the last two hours reporting what the right hon. Lady said at the meeting this morning? She said on the one hand that there was a need for a better deal for consumers, but, on the other, that there was a need to strike a balance between the security of food supplies and consumer prices. Is the Minister aware that the right hon. Lady's influence over the past year or so has largely contributed to the catastrophic decline in livestock produc- tion and therefore the food production of this country? As a consequence of the right hon. Lady's statement, will nothing be done to halt this decline?

Mr. Strang

The statement that the hon. Gentleman has attributed to my right hon. Friend puts very well the Government's policy in this area. We have to strike a balance between the consumer and the producer. That is what we are doing in milk and other commodities. We recognise that farmers have had enormous increases in costs and that is why we have put the milk price up twice in the past few months—if we include the increase which is due to take place next month.