HC Deb 22 January 1987 vol 108 cc1015-6
4. Mr. Torney

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of national consumption of dairy products is met by domestic production.

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

The extent to which our consumption of dairy products is met by domestic production varies from product to product. But in 1985 domestic production of butterfat and solids not fat, the two main components of milk, was equivalent to 89 per cent. and 113 per cent. respectively of total domestic production.

Mr. Torney

Why did we have 269,000 tonnes of United Kingdom butter in intervention in August 1986—a 33 per cent. increase on the previous six months? Why do we still import some 70,000 tonnes of butter from fellow EEC countries when we are cutting milk production in Britain?

Mr. Gummer

Because we live in a democracy and people are allowed to choose the butter that they want to buy. If the British housewife chooses to buy butter made in another country, she must have the right so to do. I want to see an attempt in Britain to get the British housewife to realise that British butter is the best in the world.

Mr. Cockeram

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, according to the figures for the last year for which they are available, over 40 per cent. of butter produced in Britain was sold into intervention? Therefore, is it not time that the Milk Marketing Board gave less emphasis to computers and statistics and more emphasis to the purpose for which it was set up, which was incorporated in its title, marketing, thereby better serving the hardworking British milk producer?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend has made a most important point. How can we argue against cuts in quotas in Britain if we put such a large amount of the milk that we produce into intervention?

Mr. Home Robertson

In the course of the negotiations on milk, has there ever been any consideration of special provision for those regions which are net importers of milk? Does it not add insult to injury for regions, or in some cases nations, to see reductions and losses in jobs on dairy farms and in creameries at the same time as they see more and more imported butter in their shops?

Mr. Gummer

I think the hon. Gentleman will accept that many of the countries in the EC make such arguments. We have decided that we must bear the burden of Community costs right across the Community, not only because so many could argue in that way, but because we find ourselves wishing to export our surpluses in other products to other Community countries.