HC Deb 10 December 1984 vol 69 cc723-4
6. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what has been the cutback in milk production in Wales and in the area of the Vale of Glamorgan, respectively, from the date of the introduction of milk quotas up to the latest convenient date; how the proportionate cutback in each case compares with the United Kingdom proportion; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The cutback of 10.3 per cent. in Welsh production between April and October 1984 compared with the same period last year is as much a consequence of the long dry summer as it is a response to the imposition of milk quotas. The comparable reduction in England and Wales is 9.3 per cent., and it is at present unlikely that supplementary levy will be payable. The United Kingdom reduction is 8.7 per cent. I regret that figures for the Vale of Glamorgan are not available.

Sir Raymond Gower

I appreciate that it is too soon to make a final judgment, and I accept that the drought might have caused special problems, but will my right hon. Friend take account of the fact that the figures underline the importance of milk production in many parts of the Principality, including the Vale of Glamorgan?

Mr. Edwards

I understand the importance of milk production. In the period up to October the United Kingdom was about 3.9 per cent. below the estimated dairy quota, although I judge that the gap will have closed considerably by the end of the year. The five local panels have completed their examination of special case claims and the main tribunal, which has been substantially enlarged, is considering with all possible urgency appeals against local panel decisions and the exceptional hardship cases.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that he will go to Brussels and make a special plea on behalf of Welsh dairy producers for an extra milk quota for 1985?

Mr. Edwards

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government, in considering their stand in Brussels when they receive the Commission's proposals in the new year, will consider carefully the special circumstances that affect different parts of the United Kingdom, including Wales.

Mr. Best

My right hon. Friend will know that he and I represent many farmers who have been hit hard by the milk quota proposals. Will he have a word with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and ensure that when he goes to Brussels he makes certain that no European country gets away with undercutting the quotas, so that Britain bears a fair burden of the problem and not a disproportionate one?

Mr. Edwards

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 20 November: My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made it quite clear to the Commission that, with regard to the super levy, either all of us collect it or none of us do so. We shall not be in a position in which Britain keeps the rules while others do not."—[Official Report, 20 November 1984; Vol. 68, c. 143.]

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is it not evident that there is still much dissatisfaction about milk quotas? The Secretary of State should know that from experience, bearing in mind the fact that only a week or two ago local dairy farmers stormed into his office. Why did he not keep faith with his people and at least insist on a deal similar to that obtained by the Irish dairy farmers?

Mr. Edwards

It is hard to believe that the Opposition are arguing, against the background of the CAP and CAP expenditure, that Britain should have had an increase in its milk quota. That is a remarkable revelation of the Opposition's agriculture policy.