HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1427-8
4. Mr. Jay

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the present stocks held by the EEC in intervention and aided private storage of skimmed milk powder, wheat, barley, beef, butter and cheese, respectively.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I will, with permission, circulate in the Official Report the statistics that the right hon. Gentleman has asked for.

Mr. Jay

As we are all anti-marketeers now, will the Government, in face of the figures that apparently they are afraid to give to the House, set a date beyond which Britain will withdraw from the common agricultural policy unless it has been effectively dismantled by that time?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman's use of "all" is entirely and totally wrong. In the light of the present difficulties facing the Common Market, I hope that he recognises that the British Government have the support of the Governments of all the other member States.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Minister explain why there has been a colossal increase—about 30 per cent. to 40 per cent.—in the amount of skimmed milk sold at retail distributors while at the same time quite a large amount has been sold in the Common Market to make pig swill?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Under the disposal arrangements, skimmed milk has been returned to producers. It has, therefore, been used within the EEC. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraged by the fact that there are now about 350,000 tonnes in store compared with 880,000 tonnes a year ago. I hope that he will welcome that fact.

Mr. Myles

In any renegotiation of the CAP will my hon. Friend be careful not to seek merely short-term public acclamation as Labour Members seem to want? Will he consider the long-term future of British consumers and ensure that we have an adequate supply at reasonable prices for our housewives, which means surpluses?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

There is no doubt that there is a real identity of interest between producers and consumers. A strong British agricultural industry is much in the interests of the consumer as it maintains security and continuity of supply.

Following are the statistics: In early October, the most recent dates for which figures are available, there were 353,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder, 1.3 million tonnes of wheat, 54,000 tonnes of barley, 220,000 tonnes of beef and 319,000 tonnes of butter held in intervention stores throughout the Community. In addition, about 244,000 tonnes of butter and 62,000 tonnes of cheese were held in aided private storage and 49,000 tonnes of beef had been contracted for such storage under the two most recent schemes.