HC Deb 17 July 1980 vol 988 cc1735-6
4. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the increase in the co-responsibility levy to be paid by dairy farmers as part of the recently announced European Economic Community budget package.

Mr. Peter Walker

I have received a number of representations from farmers and their representative organisations.

Mr. Winterton

My right hon. Friend recently acknowledged the cash flow problems of farmers, particularly dairy farmers. Will he therefore explain to the House how he came to accept the package within the EEC which increases the co-responsibility levy? Is he aware that as a result, the dairy farmer with 100 milking cows will be paying an extra £1,000 a year?

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend has left out one side of the equation. Although the farmer will be paying an extra £1,000 a year in co-responsibility levy, he will be receiving almost an extra £1,000 a year in an extra price increase as a result of that agreement, so the effect is virtually neutral. With regard to the co-responsibility levy, I agree with my hon. Friend that we would have preferred no increase in price.

Mr. David Steel

Has the Minister any plans to restrict the retail sales of untreated milk in small quantities after 1983? Does he feel under any pressure from the EEC to do so?

Mr. Walker

No, we do not feel under any pressure from the EEC to do so. I can speak only for England and Wales, but we have made detailed announcements about green top milk. The position is different in Scotland.

Mr. Peter Mills

Although the co-responsibility levy does not help the dairy farmers of this country, will the Minister agree that the totally irresponsible editorial in the Daily Mail—which stated that the Milk Marketing Board should be disbanded and that it was a quango—would do even more harm? Will he kindly ask his press officer to go round to the Daily Mail offices and explain the benefits of the Milk Marketing Board to the consumer and to the producer?

Mr. Walker

I cannot guarantee that my press officer will perform that particular task, but I can say that both sides in this House are agreed that the Milk Marketing Board has been both a stabilising and a progressive influence in terms of the dairy industry of this country.

Mr. Torney

In view of the fact that levies are supposed to reduce dairy herds, will the Minister please tell the House why the United Kingdom must reduce its dairy production when we do not produce enough milk for our own use, and have no surplus?

Mr. Walker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that last month milk production was 6 per cent. higher than last year.