HC Deb 30 June 1983 vol 44 cc689-90
6. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the future of daily doorstep deliveries of milk.

Mr. Jopling

I believe that the doorstep delivery of milk is valued by the consumer and all sides of the milk industry. I am sure that it will have an enduring role in milk distribution.

Mr. Atkinson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and congratulate him on his new appointment. Is he aware that a glossy leaflet is being distributed by milkmen to customers throughout the country suggesting that unless action is taken now daily doorstep deliveries of milk could be a thing of the past? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the only action that will guarantee daily doorstep deliveries is for existing customers to maintain their orders for those deliveries?

Mr. Jopling

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The system of doorstep deliveries encourages a high level of liquid milk consumption, which is good for Britain and good for the EC, especially at a time of surplus. If those in other member states drank as much milk as we do in the United Kingdom, the Community's dairy surplus would be much less of a problem.

Mr. Deakins

Is the Minister aware that that was a very bland and uncommunicative reply? Will he tell us something about the consultations with the industry, both here and overseas, on the Importation of Milk Act, which was passed in a great hurry just before the general election? Will he also tell us what action he proposes to take to deal with the increasing milk surplus on the continent, which is an increasing threat to milk producers in this country and to doorstep deliveries as more and more continental firms seeks ways of getting round our regulations in order to get into our stable liquid milk market?

Mr. Jopling

The hon. Gentleman will know that at the price fixing this year, as a step towards dealing with surpluses, we introduced threshold guarantees, which no doubt will bite before long. The answer to what the hon. Gentleman said about the Importation of Milk Act, which completed its passage through Parliament just before the election, is that the regulations that we shall make under that legislation are still being prepared. We shall have discussions with interested parties before the new arrangements are introduced. At this stage it is impossible to say when, or if, UHT imports of milk may arrive, and it remains to be seen whether consumers, having tasted and drunk this stuff, will be prepared to buy it in any quantities.

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