HC Deb 22 October 1984 vol 65 cc420-1
3. Mr. Raffan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the current situation regarding the implementation of the European Economic Community milk quota scheme in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Milk production in Wales was reduced by 9 per cent. between April and August this year compared to the same period last year. It is therefore unlikely that supplementary levy will have to be paid in November. The five local panels of the dairy produce quota tribunal have already dealt with 80 per cent. of the special case applications for increased quota. I consider this to be good progress.

Mr. Raffan

What assurances will my right hon. Friend give that milk quotas are being as rigorously imposed by our EEC partners as they are here, since only six member states have passed legislation, and producers in the majority of member states have not even been allocated provisional quotas? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition, the Italian Agriculture Minister has only recently discovered how many dairy producers there are in Italy and has declared that his Government will pay levies, contrary to Commission rules?

Mr. Edwards

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was the first to raise the issue with the Council and the Commission. He made it clear that we in Britain believe that quota levy cannot be imposed on farmers here or in other Community countries until the scheme has been introduced by all member states. My right hon. Friend has pursued the matter in subsequent meetings in Brussels and will be doing so again in the coming weeks.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is the Secretary of State aware that many dairy farmers in Wales are worried that the vets investigating centres at Cardiff and Aberystwyth are to be closed? Is there any truth in that suggestion and what does the Minister intend to do about it?

Mr. Edwards

A proposal for reorganising that service has been made and a consultation paper has been circulated to employees. It is proposed that certain centres be closed. As the hon. Gentleman has heard about the consultation paper, I believe that it must have been received by his constituents.

Mr. Best

When will my right hon. Friend be able to announce quotas for next year? Will he reconsider the position of the small farmer, with a herd of only 30 or 40 cows, who is suffering hardship now as a result of difficulties experienced in 1983, such as mastitis, which is not covered by the special hardship criteria?

Mr. Edwards

I cannot provide information about the quota for next year at this stage, but as a result of the large number of applications under the leavers scheme we should be able to put the 40-cow man, producing about 200,000 litres of milk a year, back to the same position as he was in before the quota scheme was introduced. The specific cases to which the hon. Gentleman refers should generally be covered by those arrangements.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman guaranteeing the future of the small dairy farmer in that answer? May I remind him that in west Wales — in Clwyd for example — many small dairy farmers face either substantial cuts in their income or bankruptcy?

Mr. Edwards

The first round of acceptances under the outgoers scheme involves about 550 Welsh applicants covering about 44.4 million litres of quota. The fact that we have received acceptances on that scale should enable us to put the 40-cow man—the smaller producer—back to the production levels that existed before the quota scheme was introduced.