HC Deb 16 February 1978 vol 944 c656
18. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement concerning the opting-out provision now being proposed as part of a new constitution of the Milk Marketing Board.

Mr. John Silkin

The European Commission's proposals on the milk marketing boards would enable individual producers with up to 150 milking cows to opt out of a board scheme and retail their milk directly to the final consumer. This is one of the areas where I shall be seeking changes when the proposals come before the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Spearing

Is it not a fact that the lack of an opting-out clause in the original scheme was the reason for its success? When are the results of the poll likely to be available?

Mr. Silkin

This is a very dangerous situation. There are many difficulties if one exempts producer-retailers with up to 150 cows. I reckon that there are 4,000 of them in the country. The whole question is now intimately bound up with the price negotiations, and we shall simply have to see what can be done about it.