HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc1537-8
6. Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when next he will meet the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board.

Mr. Peter Walker

I shall be doing so tomorrow.

Sir A. Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision on green top milk will be warmly welcomed throughout Wales both by producer-retailers and by their satisfied customers? Does he agree that the real threat to the future continuation of the delivery of fresh milk on the doorstep is pressure, especially from consumer organisations, for the availability of UHT milk in supermarkets? Does he agree that such milk is unfit for human consumption?

Mr. Walker

I know that the news about green top milk was welcomed in Wales. I realise that there are a number of threats to retail distribution of milk. The doorstep distribution of milk is a vital and important institution in this country. It is vital in terms of jobs and social service and it is important for the sales of liquid milk in the United Kingdom. I hope, therefore, that whenever consumer organisations blast off about that they will recognise—whatever case they are advocating—the potential dangers and implications for doorstep distribution. As far as the drinkability of certain forms of milk is concerned, all I can say is that I do not like it myself.

Mr. John Home Robertson

When the Minister meets the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board will he explain to him the utter perversity of a Governmernt who propose to run down supplies of milk to schools at a time when the European Community is prepared to pay four-fifths of the cost of that milk?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. The Government give freedom to local authorities to decide these matters.

Mr. Gummer

When my right hon. Friend meets the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board will he point out to him that it is unacceptable that its subsidiary, Dairy Crest, should force retailers to sell milk in cartons instead of in returnable bottles? Is he aware that returnable bottles do not increase the constant waste of natural resources and they are cheaper than the cartons now being foisted upon the public?

Mr. Walker

I shall look into that point.

Mr. Torrey

When the Minister meets the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board, despite what he said to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), will he at least undertake to discuss with the chairman the MMB plan to get £60 million of our money back from the EEC to ensure that the nation's schoolchildren can have cheap milk?

Mr. Walker

Yes. I have already had a dialogue with the chairman of the MMB and the president of the NFU on this topic. They are now considering further potential plans on this matter. I hope that they will be successful.