HC Deb 10 December 1981 vol 14 cc983-4
26. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that any future EEC co-responsibility regulations for milk producers will not militate against United Kingdom dairy farmers.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have made it clear in the Council of Ministers that we are opposed to measures that discriminate against producers in this country.

Mr. Mills

Is it not unfair and wrong to penalise British producers in this way? Will my right hon. Friend press strongly in Brussels for those who produce the surpluses to pay for them? Is not action needed, as we need more milk production in this country to carry out our commitments?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

That is precisely why in the current negotiations on the mandate we have strongly resisted proposals that would exempt from co-responsibility levy some small producers, as they would discriminate badly against our producers. We are not alone in our resistance. The proposals are equally strongly opposed by other countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Does the Minister plan to persuade his counterparts in Europe to abolish the co-responsibility levies and schemes altogether?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We certainly question the flat rate co-responsibility levy, which is a hidden means of getting a higher price. At one end of the scale it means a higher price for the consumer, while at the other the producer has to pay the levy back to the Commission. We believe that it is much better to take net action at the level of price. We shall continue to work towards that end.

Mr. Torney

As the Minister is opposed to such measures, why does he not take action now to stop the co-responsibility levy and pass the advantage on to the consumer? Is he aware that the sale of liquid milk in the country is decreasing? If we could cut out the levy and reduce the price of milk, people may use more of the milk that we produce.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also acknowledge that in recent price review negotiations increases have been much lower than those negotiated by his Government.