HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc1534-5
4. Mr. Cryer

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends to make a statement on the supply of green top milk.

Mr. Peter Walker

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox) on 7 March.

Mr. Cryer

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that that earlier reply was welcome confirmation of the policies being considered by the previous Labour Government? Is he prepared to make another urgent statement about grant aid for pasteurisation machinery, an issue that especially concerns small businesses? Will he consider tightening the licensing system so that when grant assistance for pasteurisation machinery is given small businesses are not driven out of existence by cowboy operators?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman referred to a confirmation of the previous Government's policy. In fact, our policy is a total contradiction of the Labour Government's policy. It will allow the 1½ million people who enjoy drinking this milk to continue to do so. We shall be making an announcement soon on pasteurisation grants. We recognise the importance of encouraging and helping it.

Mr. Woolmer

I welcome the Minister's statement that the sale of unpasteurised milk is to be banned through schools and shops. Does he recognize that a considerable number of people are still left at risk? For example, is he aware that in a village near Leeds the present policy will leave unprotected 500 people out of a population of 900 subject to a serious risk of illness? Will the Minister indicate when he hopes the phasing out of the sale of unpasteurised milk will be completed? Will he ensure that farmers are encouraged to take up the new grants, even where they are selling milk through their own outlets?

Mr. Walker

I guess that the date will be as soon as the last of the existing five-year producer-retailer licences expires, which is about the middle of 1985. We have changed the rule about labelling. There is a body of opinion, which I would not wish to dispute, which feels that, as well as some potential disadvantages with this type of milk, there are some potential advantages.

Mr. Body

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many thousands who enjoy drinking green top milk and who consider it to be much better than other types of milk? Does he understand that they will resent it very much if there is any more interference?

Mr. Walker

Yes. This is why our announcement that green top milk could continue, with the appropriate labelling and so forth, was widely welcomed in the areas where it is drunk.

Forward to