HC Deb 30 October 1986 vol 103 cc437-8
4. Mr. Colvin

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board; what subjects were discussed; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Selwyn Gummer)

My colleagues and I frequently meet the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board. My last formal meeting with him was on 13 May, when we discussed a wide range of subjects.

Mr. Colvin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. When he next meets the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board, will he ask how many dairy farmers have agreed to take the new outgoers scheme, which would pay them 16.3p per litre over seven years? Does he agree that that, given the 22–25p per litre that farmers can get for selling their quota on the open market, not many will take up the scheme? Why can we not top up our outgoers scheme as do the Germans, who will increase theirs to about 22–27p a litre, payable over five years?

Mr. Gummer

I am sure that my hon. Friend made a slip of the tongue. It is 18p a litre. Although it it is true that the Germans are topping up theirs, the French are paying less. No other country is topping up the amount to its farmers. Already a large number of people have written in for the details, and some people already wish to leave the industry in this way. We shall have to see how the system works. There is always disagreement in these circumstances about the right level at which to pitch it, but we have to stick where we are.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend explain to dairy farmers, some of whom are perhaps without the same benefits of intelligence and education as he has, how it is right that they are paying taxes so that the Russians can get 1 million tonnes of British corn at a third of the price that our dairy farmers are having to pay for it?

Mr. Speaker

Is that relevant?

Mr. Marlow

It is about dairy farming, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Gummer

Many of the farmers are aware that if the Community is 14–5 per cent. over-supplied, it is better to get something for particularly old butter, which nobody wants, than to get nothing for it.

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