HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 cc680-703
Mr. Speaker

We now come to the prayer on the Milk and Dairies and Milk (Special Designation) (Charges) Regulations 1987 in the name of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) and his right hon. and hon. Friends. Before I call upon the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), I should tell the House that there is a great deal of interest in this debate and I appeal for short contributions. The debate must end at 11.30 pm.

10 pm

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Milk and Dairies and Milk (Special Designation) (Charges) Regulations 1987 (S.I., 1987, No. 212), dated 15th February 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th February, be annulled. As I am sure hon. Members know, these regulations will be brought into effect on 13 March. It is reasonable to say that they have caused a storm in farming circles because of the effects that they will have, especially on small dairy farmers. A cursory study of what has gone on over the past two years will reveal precisely why they have caused such a storm. The effects of the Government's policy, especially in relation to milk quotas, the way in which the regulations have been introduced, their retrospective nature and the way in which they have hit small farmers have been devastating to the dairy sector.

The incomes of dairy farmers fell by 25 per cent. last year compared with the year before and were down by 45 per cent. over previous years. They now stand at the lowest. level of all but one year since the war. It has been established that there will be and, indeed, there have been visits to check conditions under which milk is produced. That is done in the interests of public health. In the past the cost of such visits has been borne by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Government are now proposing to institute a charge of £90 per visit to a herd of more than 20 cows and £80 per visit to a herd of fewer than 20 cows. That sum is to be levied and raised with the milk cheque through the Milk Marketing Board.

Farmers, the National Farmers Union and the Opposition parties have three basic objections to the Government's proposals. First, why pick on farmers again? No other charges are made for food hygiene purposes under, for example, the Act of 1984. No charge is levied on grocers, butchers or cafés. The principle of inspection in relation to public health matters has always been that since visits are in the public interest the public should pay. That has always been the case in the past and it remains the case in other areas. Why have the Government picked on farmers to break that basic principle? Farmers and hon. Members want to know the answer to that question.

Our second objection is that the charge is levied through the Milk Marketing Board. Therefore, it is required against its wishes to levy a charge for which it has no responsibility. It cannot decently be held accountable for this charge. That breaks the basic principle of good management, let alone good government, which is that those who carry out an act should at least be accountable for it. It is wholly unreasonable to place on the Milk Marketing Board the job of doing the Government's dirty work. The Milk Marketing Board has made that quite clear in letters circulated to many hon. Members. In capital letters and in bold type the board says: We do not accept that they"— that is, the Government— should be allowed the soft option of forcing the board to deduct these charges from payments due to milk producers for their milk. That is a fair statement, clearly put.

There is also legitimate concern that this charge will be levied directly from the milk cheque that farmers receive for products that go to the Milk Marketing Board. That is a very bad principle to establish. I have tried to draw some kind of parallel. The only one that I have been able to draw is that hon. Members would find it fundamentally unfair if the Government sought to recover rates charges by reducing mortgage interest relief. That is what farmers are being asked to accept and it is a very unfair and unreasonable way of levying this charge.

The chief anger is not so much about the way in which it is to be levied, or about the fact that farmers have been singled out for special attention, as about the level of the charge. The Government say that there should be a charge of £90 for a visit. It is calculated that each visit will take about one hour, so we are talking about £90 an hour. The Government have explained on a number of occasions that there are overheads and other charges, but that charge of £90 has to be compared with £19 for a visit by a qualified agricultural consultant.

Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)

indicated assent.

Mr. Ashdown

I see the hon. Gentleman nodding. Clearly, he takes the matter as seriously as we do. The charge that the Milk Marketing Board makes for qualified advisers is £150 per day. That charge includes overheads and a profit element. A qualified adviser could certainly make more than two visits in a day. At £90, two visits alone would be £180, which means a profit of £30. I do not know how the Government can justify raising a reasonable hourly rate from £19 to £90.

The Government are to introduce charges for their Agricultural Development and Advisory Services. The charges are likely to be set at between £20 and £30. In this case, however, the charge is to be £90. A more precise parallel is the inspection of medicated foodstuffs, to be introduced next year. This inspection is in line with EEC regulations and will be conducted by the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain on behalf of the Government. That is precisely analogous. Farms will be visited and the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has calculated a charge that will include overheads and other indirect costs. Pharmacists are much more highly qualified and much more highly paid, but the charge to be levied is only £40, not £90.

It is reasonable for us to question the basis of the charge. If £90 is an effective real cost, we can only draw the conclusion that it stands at that level because of the monstrous inefficiency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If that is not so, it means that an indirect and sly tax is being levied on farmers.

Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West)

The hon. Gentleman has rightly drawn attention to the money that farmers are being asked to pay and has emphasised that this will impose a burden on small farmers. Is he aware that the Liberals who are now in charge of Gloucestershire county council have passed a resolution to rate agricultural land at the soonest opportunity?

Mr. Ashdown

I need to be careful here, because the hon. Gentleman's question is straying a long, long way—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] My answer is that the public and the farmers know that the only time that the rating of agricultural land has come before this House has been as a proposal from a Conservative Member. When that proposal was defeated it is on the record that it was Liberal Members who led the opposition [Interruption.] Oh yes, it was. I can go on for a long time yet. Conservative Members may not like it, but I remind them that it was a Conservative Member who sought to rate agricultural land and it was the Liberal party who led the opposition to defeat that move.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)


Mr. Ashdown

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have been talking for 10 minutes already.

Mr. Cash


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time.

Mr. Ashdown

In the interests of getting through this reasonably quickly and without further interruption, I shall continue with what I was saying.

I was talking about the level of the charge and why it has been set at that level. In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) on 10 February 1987, the Secretary of State for Wales gave some of his reasons. The House may be interested to know what he had to say. He said : All these costs have been carefully calculated. If that is so, when the Under-Secretary of State replies, if that is so, will he undertake to put those costs—all of them—and the detail behind them in the Library of the House so that they can be properly inspected? I ask him to answer that question in particular. The Secretary of State for Wales went on to give perhaps some of the real intentions behind the cost. He said that there was no intention either to operate at a profit or to cross-subsidise other services". His slip shows later in the letter when he makes the revealing statement: The decision to charge producers for this work needs to be seen in the context of overall support for the dairy industry. Is that exactly how the Government see it?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson)

indicated assent.

Mr. Ashdown

The Minister nods. He agrees that the Government see it as part of recovering the overall charges. But those two statements cannot stand together. They are contradictory. It is clear that what the Government have sought to do is recover through the charges, not just as they claim, and by nodding assent the Minister has agreed, the cost of those visits but other costs and the return of other monies related to the general level of support. That is the case that we make.

The Secretary of State for Wales goes on in the letter to say: The object of charging … is to cover all costs that the Agriculture Departments incur in administering the milk and dairy regulations. We know that there are other milk and dairy regulations. Is it to recover costs for those too — for instance, in respect of import-export regulations or the checking of hygiene standards for producer-retailers and so on? We need to know because the Government seem to be speaking with two voices. Either the charge is to recover general costs from other areas or it is genuinely, as the Minister has claimed until now, solely calculated on the basis of the cost of the visits.

It is interesting to note that the Milk Marketing Board has taken a different line. It is not one with which I am inclined to agree immediately, but it is necessary to mention it. The board has said that in its view it may not be necessary to make those charges in the first place, bearing in mind that milk producers have their milk tested by the Milk Marketing Board four times a month and that a premium is paid on more than 80 per cent. of the milk produced, which demonstrates its high quality. The board says that poor performance in hygiene matters is already subject to penalties and can result ultimately in the termination of the contract. In present circumstances, the programme of visits, which costs £2.2 million per year, may no longer be necessary. I should be interested to know the Minister's view on that aspect.

The effects of the problem are very grave. I have received a letter from a small tenant farmer in Surrey, and I shall read it out because it shows clearly — [Interruption.] Conservative Members may laugh, but a serious burden will he imposed on some small tenant farmers. I hope that the House will listen to what the farmer in Surrey wrote to me: I am a small tenant farmer and have been greatly encouraged by a letter, from the NFU, stating your intentions to fight for us re. the proposal to charge for inspection of dairy premises. Thank you very much. Mr. Jopling states it is only 50p per cow as a charge. May be, taking cows as one huge national herd. How many farmers milk 180 cows anyway? In my case with 50 cows and as a producer-retailer, often having two visits a year, my costs are about £255 per year or £5 per cow. He cannot charge that to his customers and he says that the proposal will have a bad effect on him.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Is the hon. Member aware that a recent survey in west Wales showed that between 25 and 30 per cent. of dairy farmers are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and that any additional charge could push them over? Whatever the merits or otherwise of the charges in a general context, this is not the time to introduce them.

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. What is happening in west Wales is also happening in Somerset, where the burden of farm debt is rising and many people are close to bankruptcy. I agree with their views that in some instances these charges will push them beyond the limit.

I note that several brave Conservative Members have signed early-day motions on the matter. They include the hon. Members for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), who are all present, and the hon. Member for Wansdyke (Mr. Aspinwall). As those hon. Members have signed early-day motions we shall watch carefully, as will people outside, to see whether they have the courage of their convictions and vote against the regulations. If they do not, we shall conclude that the power of the Whips is more important to them than their consciences or the representation of their constituents. I hope that they will vote in line with the motions that they have signed.

The regulations are the unkindest cut of all for farmers. Dairy producers have suffered terribly from badly thought out and bungled Government policies. The regulations will add an extra and, for some, intolerable burden, especially for small dairy producers. The regulations single out farmers to pay a charge for a public health service which in every other area is paid for from the public purse. The regulations are unfairly levied and force the Milk Marketing Board to do the Government's dirty work for them. The level of charges is exorbitant and insupportable, either because the Government are asking farmers to pay for the inefficiency of the Ministry of Agriculture or because they are deliberately finding ways to levy an extra tax on farmers at a most desperate moment. In short, the regulations are damaging and unfair. They should go, and I ask the House to ensure that they do.

10.19 pm
Sir Peter Mills (Torridge and Devon, West)

I go along with the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) on charges, but I was amazed to hear him talk about the burdens on farmers. He has a nerve to show such concern when Liberal policies are so anti-farming and agriculture in many ways. I think particularly of the land tax that Liberals would introduce and the two-tier system of support which even the president of the NFU says is utterly ridiculous.

I do not really think that we can take too much notice of the comments made by the hon. Member. There is no question about agricultural rating. Although Liberals may deny it in the House, they support agricultural rating in many areas. Whether Liberal hon. Members like it or not, Liberal policy varies from constituency to constituency, and that has always been the case. It is no good some of those younger Liberal Members who have been Members of this House for only two or three years complaining about such statements. I have watched Liberal agriculture policies in action for longer than I care to remember. I can asssure them that their policies do not help British agriculture.

Having said that, I am very unhappy about some aspects of the regulations. However, the principle of charging does not worry me. Rather I am greatly concerned about the level. It is necessary for the inspections to be carried out. The hon. Member has forgotten the whole problem about the importation of liquid milk from the Community. The regulations are an aid to implement the heat treatment milk directives to ensure that our standards are not undermined by the imports of liquid milk. All farmers support a policy of seeking to keep out imports of liquid milk. I accept the Government's view on that.

There is also the question of exports of dairy products. High quality is essential if we are to export to other countries and it requires an independent body such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make these checks. I favour these checks being made by the Milk Marketing Board. The board has the routine, it can carry out the checks cheaper and it has more experience in these matters. However, that would not satisfy the Community and others. It is a great pity that the MMB cannot do the checking. Very little fuss would have been generated if it could.

So far so good on the question of the necessity for inspections. However, the charges concern me and many other farmers. If we consider the charges, there is no doubt that they will be an extra burden on farmers just at a time when they can do without them. The MMB has had considerable experience in visiting and checking. I could quote from the MMB brief which has been sent to hon. Members. However, it is true that the MMB is carrying out these inspections considerably cheaper than the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

It is also important that we hear from the Minister about the responsibility for collecting these inspection charges and whether it is perfectly legal for this collection to be imposed on the Milk Marketing Board. The Minister will recall that I mentioned to him the point about a possible reduction in the inspection charges in future. I hope that he will make every effort to reduce the cost in the light of experience of testing and visiting farms. There is no point in making the charges if, after six months or possibly a year, the Ministry finds that inspections can be carried out more cheaply. I hope that the Minister will not wait for a year, because of the difficulties facing dairy farmers at the moment. If, after six months, he finds that the Ministry can reduce charges substantially, I hope that he will act.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it may not be entirely satisfactory to leave it to the Ministry to decide on its own efficiency and whether it is collecting the charges by the most economical method? Would it not be good idea to bring in someone independent to judge how efficient the Ministry is?

Sir Peter Mills

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. As a former Agriculture Minister, I have every faith in the Ministry. I believe that if the Minister gives instructions that the methods are to be costed carefully and, after six months, if it is proved that the work can be done more cheaply, it will be so carried out.

I am sorry to have to say that I cannot accept the level of the charges and I shall continue to do all that I can to see that they are reduced.

10.25 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

There are some raw nerves in the House this evening. I suspect that some of our colleagues may be considering what has been put in the milk at Greenwich.

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) was right to highlight the background against which we debate the regulations. It is a background of quotas being introduced in 1984 with almost no warning and the subsequent cuts in production, a continuing co-responsibility levy and charges for the advice and assistance of the Agricultureal Development and Advisory Service. Many people in the industry must regard this measure as adding insult to injury.

Unlike the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills), the Labour party opposes the measure not simply on the practicalities but on the principle. As a member of the public who drinks milk, I am more than willing to pay through my taxes for measures to ensure that the milk is not a hazard to my health. Indeed, I would prefer to pay for that service, because the payment emphasises the fact that the inspectors are working for the public and in the public interest. If the service was wholly funded by the industry, it would have a perfect right to influence the way in which the work was done. Hon. Members have already said that the Milk Marketing Board is implying that it is possible to reduce the cost of the inspection programme. It may be possible to reduce the cost, but such reductions should be based on sound scientific advice, not on purely commercial grounds.

Almost every citizen of these islands will consume milk in some form every day, so the inspections are in the public interest, in every sense of those words. A lapse in standards at any dairy premises could lead to nasty outbreaks of food poisoning. Inspections are not carried out for the benefit of the industry. They are carried out for the benefit of the public, and it is reasonable that the public should control and pay for the operation.

The inspection of every food manufacturing processing and retail premises is paid for by the public, and the Government should tell us whether this proposal is a one-off exception or whether they intend to use it as a precedent for charging for the supervision of health and hygiene standards in bakeries, food shops, restaurants and cafes.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire North-West)

Has the hon. Gentleman considered the fact that health inspection is paid for out of rates and that farmers are not rated?

Mr. Home Robertson

The hon. Gentleman had better make up his mind about what is going on. The service is carried out through the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and I suggest that that is how it should remain.

If the Government intend to set this principle, it will have implications for other parts of the United Kingdom. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. MacKay), who is responsible for agriculture in Scotland, told me in a recent debate in the Scottish Grand Committee that the regulations would affect only England and Wales, and that is obviously true. Nevertheless, if it is national Government policy that there should be such charges, we should be told in what general direction the Government wish to go in covering the cost.

On 4 December the Government initially proposed that the charge was to be £90 per visit or £22 for sampling milk and water, but administrators were considering whether the proposed £90 charge might be reduced to £80 for herds of fewer than 20 cows. In other words, they recognised that they would have to make some concessions, so they decided that they would save themselves some trouble by telegraphing the concession in advance. Looking around the House, I suspect that it would perhaps be wise for them to make some further concessions during the debate.

In the press statement that was issued following the announcement, the Government suggested that the actual cost to individual dairy farmers would be about £30 per year on average. We received a fascinating consultation document stating that the object of charging for milk and dairy inspections was to cover the whole cost of the service It went on: All these costs have been carefully calculated and there is no intention either to operate at a profit to the Ministry or to cross subsidise other Ministry services. It went on to say that there was a prospect of a concession for smaller dairy farmers. Presumably, that very concession must show some kind of cross-subsidisation between different sectors of the industry — smaller farmers and larger farmers. That may well be right, but the Minister cannot have it both ways. This measure will either cover costs for every farmer or it will not. That point needs to be cleared up.

There then followed a consultation period when the principle of charging was resoundingly rejected from all quarters, from the National Farmers Union, the Dairy Trade Federation, the Milk Marketing Board to practically everybody else. The Government then followed the time-honoured tradition of pressing on with their original proposals, regardless of the result of the consultation period. As we know, the National Farmers Union rejected the principle of the charges out of hand. The Milk Marketing Board has said that it does not want the job of collecting the new tax from hard-pressed producers. It went on to say that the charges may have been set too high. It suggested that £19 per visit might be more appropriate than £90 per visit. It went on to warn that the Ministry could make a profit out of the mechanism. Perhaps it will do so. The Minister should come clean on that point.

The Dairy Trade Federation has made it clear that it also rejects the principle of charges. It went on to challenge the Minister's suggestion that inspections every three years can be sufficient in any circumstances. Indeed, it emphasised the need for the closest possible scrutiny of standards in food that is particularly vulnerable to any reduction in health and hygiene standards.

The proposed charges might earn the Minister some brownie points with his colleagues in the Treasury. We suggest that they are ill-considered, inappropriate and an unjustifiable imposition on a hard-pressed sector of the agriculture industry. They undermine an important principle and could cause serious difficulties in the future. They undermine the principle of an independently funded and totally independent food hygiene service. I suggest that my hon. Friends would do well to oppose the regulations in the Division. I suspect that many Conservative hon. Members would do well to do likewise.

10.34 pm
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

I object most strongly to the regulations. I do not know what world we are living in. I cannot imagine why we should pay this ludicrous charge. I do not object to the charge in principle, but I object to the level of it.

In the real world, it would be recognised that we have overtrained inspectors with BA degrees solemnly doing inspections which take about five or at most 20 minutes. We are told that they cannot go around with the Milk Marketing Board. The MMB must not have anything to do with it because of the EEC. I understand that, but why can they not go around when the milk is collected? We do not need a BA man to do that. That would help to reduce the charge.

The regulations come at a time when farmers are fed up with the way in which they think that they are treated by the EEC. I know that my right hon. Friend has fought manfully for them, but dairy people are getting a clobbering. On top of that comes this charge. I wish my right hon. Friend could take the regulations away and get them right so that people feel that they have a fair deal. Privatise the service, perhaps, but for heaven's sake take the regulations away and do something about them!

I have met nobody who knows anything about this business who believes that this is a fair charge. I have heard that criticism from people who do not object to the charge in principle. One suggestion is that, if all is well, no charge should be made. Why should there not be a charge only if a further inspection is required to give the farmer a going over to make sure that everything is fine? One of my farmers suggests that the high hygiene standards set by the MMB for farmers who regularly produce milk in payment band A make visits by Ministry inspectors pointless. Only when the producers are consistently in band B or are downgraded to band C are visits from the Ministry necessary, and then only if it proposes to offer constructive and helpful advice should the producer be charged.

I am not a legal man, but I do not like the idea of the Government making a charge and asking the MMB to collect it by making a deduction from the milk cheque. Quite a lot of farmers will simply not pay. I know some who will go the European Court of Justice. For those reasons, and a host more which my right hon. and hon. Friends will be able to produce, I hope that my right hon. Friend will think again.

I have no doubt that this was hatched in the Treasury. The Treasury must have said, "Farmers are getting a lot of money from the EEC and it is about time we showed a little public expenditure restraint, so see what you can do in MAFF to make things right by the Treasury and to show that you are making life a little uncomfortable for farmers." Farmers have had a rough enough time without these miserable regulations.

10.37 pm
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I disagree with the regulations from start to finish. I disagree with the principle of levying a charge. It is grotesquely unfair on farmers.

I did not think that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) presented his case in a way which will be acceptable to the House as he concentrated too much on the level of the charge. The charge itself is outrageous and cannot be justified. I have received petitions and delegations from farmers and met them at the local market at Chelford. Not one believes that the charge, whether the principle or the level, can be justified.

My right hon. Friend and his colleagues have to give a reason why farmers have been singled out for such a charge. Some other businesses, which are making a lot more money than dairy farmers, are subjected to no such levy. I do not want any lessons from the hon. Member for Yeovil on how I should vote in this place. Right or wrong, good or bad, I have put my head on the block ever since I came to this place almost 16 years ago. I intend to vote against the regulations. Strangely enough, I shall be in the Division Lobby with the hon. Member for Yeovil and his colleagues.

Since 1 April 1984, the dairy farmers have suffered the most grotesque burden and injustice in the form of the quotas that were placed upon them retrospectively. With reluctance, and with great difficulty, they have manged to take on board the reduction in output that has been imposed upon them. They are now to face another cut in quota, when we as a nation are not self-sufficient in liquid milk. Is it understood that Britain is facing in reality a greater cut than any of our continental colleagues in the EEC? Is my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food saying that we are self-sufficient in liquid milk? The answer is that we are not. Our population is roughly that of West Germany and of France, but what were the tonnages of quota for the two countries? The answer is considerably greater than ours. I understand that France was given a quota of 26 million tonnes and Germany 25 million tonnes. We were given a quota of 16 million tonnes. In other words, we were at a grave disadvantage from the beginning.

Why are we imposing upon the hard-pressed dairy farmer yet another burden, however modest my right hon. Friend the Minister may seek to make it appear to be? In overall terms it might be fairly modest, but it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. I represent an area where dairying is of great importance. In my constituency the dairy farmer is the backbone of the rural economy and of the villages. I am not prepared to represent Macclesfield and have a Government, whether they think that it is for the right reason or not, undermine the basis of our rural stability and economy.

I have spoken out against and voted against quotas, and I intend this evening to cast my vote against the regulations. First, the charge cannot be justified. Secondly, it is wrong for the Milk Marketing Board to act as a tax gatherer for the Government. If the Government believe that the charge is justified, the Ministry should collect the fees and charges itself and not expect the MMB to do so by deducting sums from the milk cheque to be received by dairy farmers throughout the country.

This is a sad day. We are knocking another nail in the coffin of the dairy farmer, and I am not prepared to be party to it.

10.44 pm
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

We are considering a matter of principle and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is right to argue in those terms. There is no point in going half way, as the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) has proposed, by saying that the charges are too high. The hon. Gentleman mentioned that exports are a factor, but with an 8.5 per cent. cut in milk quotas in April, there will be nothing to export, anyway.

In what other sector of the economy would such a thing happen? Are we soon to he walking into restaurants to be faced with a VAT bill and statutory charges for health inspections?

The Government are seeking to clobber one of the poorest sections of agriculture, and many small dairy farmers are suffering grievously. There are many in the west and in Wales who average only 80 acres. They have 30 or 40 cows and many are earning only £90 a week. The statutory charge of £90 is equal in some instances to a weekly income of £90. Careful account should be taken of that.

Dairy farmers have been hit hard and it should be understood that some of them are receiving family income supplement. The Milk Marketing Board is a farmers' organisation and it is being given the responsibility of becoming a tax collector. That is absolutely scandalous. The MMB should resist that role.

The Treasury is leading the Minister by the nose on this issue. Monetarism is creeping into the management of agriculture, which is unnacceptable. It is a whiff of what is to come when the Treasury will have even greater control of agricultural policy, to the detriment of British farmers. The answer to these statutory charges will be delivered in one mighty blow to the Conservative party in the by-election in Truro, where it will be given a big shock about the feelings of those living in the countryside. ADAS charges were unacceptable to the industry, and have been a grievous imposition at a time when the industry can least afford it. The Conservative party and the Government have abandoned agriculture and the dairy sector. They will reap a bitter harvest for what they have done.

10.45 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Huslop (Tiverton)

The principle of these proposed charges is wrong. That being the case, the quantum of them is of secondary importance. On a trivial point of secondary importance, I would be interested to hear from whichever Minister is winding up what assumptions the Ministry is making about the number of inspections per day that will be carried out by an inspector. In arriving at the figures of £90 and £80, it has to be assuming a certain number of inspections per day. How many inspections is it assuming?

The reason why the principle is wrong is this. Despite what an hon. Friend of quite astonishing ignorance, who intervened, determined to display his ignorance, said, the Ministry is paid for not out of rates but out of national taxation, which farmers pay.

Mr. Ashby

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

No, I will not. Farmers pay national taxation—

Mr. Ashby

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

No. My hon. Friend chose to put the cap on himself. I did not name him.

Farmers pay national taxation and have no better reason to pay for an unwanted inspection of this kind than do companies that own factories and pay national taxation but do not pay for factory inspectors' visits, when factory inspectors are paid for by national taxation and not by the ratepayer. When wages inspectors come, the firm that they visit does not have a charge imposed on it, but wages inspectors are paid out of national taxation, and not out of the rates. Do not let us have that foolish and ignorant argument raised again.

The truth of the matter is that the Ministry has no case for imposing this charge. The total revenue from it is trivial in the context of Government revenue, but it is extremely onerous in terms of the incomes of small milk producers. to say, as I do not doubt that some Minister will be foolish enough to say, that farmers can claim tax back for these charges is true only if they pay tax. However, it is not true, if, under the pressure of quotas and co-responsibility levies and the falling price for their culled cows and barreners, or they are making a loss because they cannot cover the interest rates on their loans out of the reduced throughput of milk because of quotas. If they are not paying tax because they do not have the net income left it is foolish to say that they can recover part of the costs of those charges. That is the sort of false argument that only foolish people advance.

The thing to do with this order is to take it away and burn it. When something is obviously wrong a Minister with guts and a brain takes it away and burns it. Only a Minister who lacks either or both persists with it. — [Interruption.] That is so. It is so obviously a wrong and ill-conceived measure that the only possible thing to do with it is not to offer to reduce the imposition which has been shown to be grossly excessive: the only thing to do with a measure that is wrong in principle is to withdraw it.

10.51 pm
Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)

I met my farmers on Friday and they told me about these regulations and exactly what I should do. They did not suggest it in quite the vehement terms that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) used. Nevertheless, it was clear to me they had had a rough time and that milk was likely to have an even rougher time as time went on.

I hope that we shall have a major debate on agriculture before long because it has gone through a change every bit as serious as those in the steel and shipbuilding industries. Yet we do not spend anything like the same proportion of the time on this great industry as we do on those others.

Not only has the fortune of dairy farmers been adversely affected, but there is a striking disparity of treatment between dairy farmers — especially tenant dairy farmers—and cereal farmers. It is hard to explain to the dairy farmers why they appear to have been singled out for this special treatment when the cereal farmers were not even touched in the whole course of the negotiations when my right hon. Friend the Minister was president of the Council of Agriculture Ministers and still have a comfortable existence, amassing vast surpluses for which the consumer has to pay. I should have thought that some change in the common agricultural policy could have been achieved to allow some extra help because far more dairy farmers than cereal farmers stand in need of such help.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend could advise us of the total sum that will be raised by these charges. In any part of public expenditure, it is necessary to consider the savings that could be made in the Department concerned. Before the principle of charges is accepted, the Department must be confident that no savings are necessary. As I said, and as the House will know, the position for agriculture has greatly changed. We are not now, as we were just a few years ago, anxious to increase production—in fact, very much the reverse. That being so, it is difficult to see why it is necessary for the Department to spend £217 million on research and development. I cannot but believe that some of that total, which has increased from £140 million in the space of five years, could have been made available to help to cover the cost of the charges. The same goes for departmental running costs, which have increased from £147 million to £220 million in five years. When an industry is under great pressure and in decline, I find it hard to see that no savings whatever could have been made in the departmental budget. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to look carefully at the savings in his own Department because they are more easily to be found there than in most other Government Departments. His Department's role has changed greatly in recent times. A more modest role would accurately reflect the changed circumstances, and greater support for the dairy farmer would not come amiss.

I am not opposed to the principle of the charges. I merely say to my right hon. Friend that if he thinks that they are a light burden and easily to be borne by the dairy farmers, particularly the tenant farmers, he is greatly mistaken.

10.56 pm
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

I shall not detain the House for long.

I had the opportunity of hearing my hon. Friend the Minister of State speak in my constituency at an open meeting of the Derbyshire National Farmers Union a few weeks ago. He made a passionate defence of the regulations. However, they were not particularly well received at that meeting, as anybody would expect.

Nobody could deny that the dairy industry faces a great challenge and serious problems, along with the whole of agriculture industry. There are two main objections to the regulations. The first is that the charge in no way relates to the size of the herd, unless one has under 20 cows, and then there is an £80 charge. That is ludricrous. If one has 20 cows, there is a £10 reduction, and the standard rate applies to anything over that. That is not fair, certainly not to the smaller farmer. I do not class someone with 30 or 35 cows as a large dairy farmer. That distinction is not wide enough.

The second main objection, with which I agree, is that the charge is being taken direct from the milk cheque. That point has been covered by other hon. Members. The dairy farmers are almost not being trusted to pay the charge. There would be great problems in getting them to pay it, and understandably so. The money is docked automatically out of their pay packet, the milk cheque. I thought that that could be done only by increasing taxation, not by passing legislation in the House. That has definately upset many small farmers.

My constituency contains several small family farms, where the farmers have done so much to preserve the British countryside, yet they feel that this is one more measure that stabs them in the back and gives them more problems. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will tell us that he will reconsider the regulations. They are not acceptable to the dairy industry and to many of my colleagues on Conservative Benches. I hope very much that the Minister will reconsider them before the night is out.

10.58 pm
Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

I shall speak briefly.

I am not terribly happy about the regulations, but I am not unhappy about the principle. having been attacked by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop)—

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I thought that he was the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend.

Mr. Ashby

Yes, I think that he is, or at least should be my hon. Friend.

Let me say this. At any café or on premises where health is involved, health inspectors are paid for out of local rates. Those buildings pay their rates; factories pay their rates, and so on. That is dealt with by the health inspector. If the exception is to be the factory inspector, I remind the hon. Member for Tiverton that farms are also factories, and factory inspectors go to farms as well and that is paid for nationally.

Having dealt with that point and with the principle, I should say that the amount involved is very high. I am not happy with £90 for farms with over 20 cows. I am not happy with £80 for farms with under 20 cows. I should like to see some sort of auditing and some figures to justify that amount. Many of us who have dairy farmers in our constituency are concerned that this may be an example of the Government getting a lot of money from dairy farmers, and that money being used to pay for other services that are being given.

We must not forget that dairy farming is a contracting industry. The dairy farmers are, for that reason, in considerable difficulties. I believe that the nation would be happy to say, in the case of dairy farmers, "You are a contracting industry; your are not responsible for the contraction of your industry. It has occurred due to factors outside your control, as a result of Common Market negotiations and as a result of European negotiations." The nation would further be prepared to say, "In your exceptional circumstances, we think that we would be happy to pay the charges for your health inspection."

The principle is not wrong but — I say this again—this is a contracting industry, and because of that, perhaps, the burden of the cost of these inspections should be borne by the country.

11.1 pm

Mr. Tony Speller (Devon, North)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made many brave attempts to help agriculture and too often has been vilified for the good things that he has done. Uniquely, he has lost his touch when it comes to dairy farmers. The sheer sense of injustice that is reverberating throughout the dairy industry at present is truly well-founded. It is the feeling of inequity. It is a point that hon. Members of both sides of the House have made about the fairness of a charge when no other sector of the nation, nor, indeed, of agriculture, has had to bear such burden. It is not a greatly expensive burden, and it may not even be the last straw. None the less, it is a burden that no one else has had to bear. I do not enter the argument about who inspects what. I have spent much of my life in the catering industry, where milk is stored in vast quantity, and in the factories where milk is processed, and it is only our farms that are seen to be picked on as a specific charge on a specific farmer. In sheer terms of equity the Government are being unreasonable in this case.

I accept, as I started by saying, that my right hon. Friend has made bold proposals on such things as afforestation, alternative use of land and on many matters which we all know have to change. The dairy farmer, if he was efficient and at the optimum level before quotas must, by definition, not be there now, since his optimum production has been cut hack. That must mean that he is at a greater disadvantage than those in any other industry, where people have the opportunity to plan forward on price and production.

There was some controversy tonight about the question of who would rate agricultural land. It is fair to say to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), with whom I frequently agree—perhaps to his surprise — that there was a Bill on rates laid before this Parliament. At the Committee stage the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) introduced a new clause requiring that, should the Bill be passed, measures relating to the rating of agricultural land should he brought forward within six months. Every Labour Member of the Committee voted for the clause. A Social Democrat voted for it, as did a Liberal, the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft). I think it was clause 6. I only mention this to show that all of us, from time to time, may vary in intent, and probably no side has a monopoly of purity. It is fair to say that it was in this Parliament that this vote for rating was taken. Equally it is fair to say that when someone has actually voted, that has rather more power than his words on later hustings.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I happen to be a member of the NFU and my constituents have suffered badly, because the one and only slaughterhouse has just been shut. That just means that it will cost god knows what to enable barren cows to be slaughtered. The point about rating must be cleared up. I am surprised at the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller), because he is a very honest and genuine man. We fought the last election saying that there would be no rating of agricultural land. It was in our manifesto. It was the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) who introduced a private Member's Bill and my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) who opposed it. Alliance Members all went into the Division Lobby to vote against it. Ever since, we have made it absolutely clear that we do not support rating agricultural land.

Mr. Speller

If the hon. Gentleman, who is also an honest man, says that, of course I accept it. Tomorrow morning, I shall put on the board the extract from Hansard to which I referred.

We are being unfair to and discriminating against what is today the weakest of all our agriculture sectors. It is a a matter not just of milk quotas and inspection charges, but of the knock-on effect on the beef market. I beg my right hon. Friend the Minister to think again and withdraw this unfair impost enabling a number of his hon. Friends to remain his hon. Friends in the Lobby.

11.5 pm

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

I join with some of my hon. Friends in their misgivings. There is something wrong. First, there are only two Labour Members here. It is extraordinary that, on an issue of such importance to the agriculture sector and this particularly sensitive part of it, only two Labour Front Benchers are present. We shall note with interest how many Labour Members will be in the Division Lobby.

I was inclined to vote against the regulations, but, having heard the invective in the speech of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), I must tell him that he makes a great error of political judgment in inviting us to demonstrate some political machismo just to please him. We do not do it that way. If the hon. Gentleman had used his speech with a little more sensitivity and persuasion, he might have gained the—

Mr. Ashdown

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Nelson

The hon. Gentleman spoke for far too long. I am not going to give him another chance.

I have the honour to represent a constituency next door to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern). Many of the members of the NFU who met him last Friday must have hot-footed it over to Midhurst to see me as well. They left me in no doubt about their feelings. I shall not reiterate many of the important and compelling technical points which have been made by my hon. Friends against the regulations. Instead I shall ask a few brief, basic, and I hope not naive, political questions.

Why did my right hon. Friend the Minister bring forward these regulations? Until now, they were not necessary. What has made them necessary now? Why bring them forward now? Is there some nuance of political sensitivity — I readily defer to my right hon. Friend's ability to determine that — which has made him strike upon this time? Is it really worth the candle? As I understand it, the measures will raise about £2 million. The cost of administration, whether through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, or indirectly through the Milk Marketing Board, will be considerable and will be an offset against any gain.

On a day when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science announced, to great Conservative glee and applause, hundreds of millions of pounds of extra expenditure on teachers' pay, which he was able to wrest from the Treasury, was it really the politically right judgment to come to the Conservative party and the House and push for an extra £2 million gross? Was it worth it, especially when the sector from which it is to be taken is as beleaguered as the dairy sector?

I can see in simplistic terms that there is a case for levying a charge. I do not think that any Conservative Member should question the ideological case for people paying a charge. In various sectors—local government, for example—we evangelise the case for that. In this instance we should ask ourselves who is deriving benefit from what is imposed. The answer is that it is not the dairy farmer but the public at large. Therefore, if there is a case for charging, should it not fall, if not in whole certainly in part, upon the health budget rather than the agricultural budget? Perhaps that should not be the case, but there is a case for saying that the cost, even the inflated, bureaucratic, inefficient cost, should not bear so heavily on the dairy sector at a time when it is being asked to make another 2 per cent. cut in quota this year and 1 per cent. next year and when problems of reallocation through the outgoers scheme are very serious for the dairy sector.

While I share some of the misgivings on the technical front, I still feel that my right hon. Friend, who is undoubtedly a great champion of agriculture and who returned from Europe in November with an outstanding deal for the beef and dairy sectors and on the green pound and elsewhere, owes it to the House to address these fundamental political questions. I know that my right hon. Friend's heart is in the right place.

11.13 pm
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jopling)

The main point at issue is the simple one of whether the cost of our milk and dairies regime—about £2 million a year—should be borne by the Government or by the milk producer. Many of my hon. Friends have asked that question. I shall begin by trying to put right some of the comments that were made.

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) set out the background to the incomes of dairy farmers and outlined the situation in which dairy farmers find themselves. My hon. Friends the Members for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) and others also referred to this and it is important that I should set the record straight about the background.

Nobody recognises better than I the difficulties that the dairy industry has been through in the past few years. It is important to set out the background figures. Average enterprise net income this year, 1986–87, for dairy farmers in England and Wales is forecast to be just over £16,000. That compares with just under £14,000 last year, 1985–86, and about £10,300 for 1984–85 and £8,900 in 1983–84. To put it another way, in real terms as opposed to cash terms, enterprise net income for dairy farms in England and Wales for 1986 is forecast to be at the highest level for the 1980s.

I now wish to deal with a different matter — the suggestion that we should abandon the work altogether and rely on the Milk Marketing Board testing for total bacteria count. I remind the House that the board's total bacterial count test is a relatively crude measure of the hygienic quality of the milk. It also tells us very little about the conditions of cleanliness under which milk is produced — conditions to which consumers surely attach great importance. All these matters are covered by the milk and dairies regulations, but none of them can be reliably assessed by measuring the total bacteria count levels in a laboratory. It is technically possible to ignore all the requirements contained in the milk and dairies regulations, yet still to produce milk that has a low total bacteria count. It is for that reason that a system of farm visits is necessary.

In the light of that explanation, I hope that my hon. Friends, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden, who raised this point, will accept, as the Milk Marketing Board and the National Farmers Union appear to accept, that this work should be done, quite apart from the MMB's work on the total bacteria count.

On the more contentious question of who should pay, it may help if I remind the House of the context in which we are now operating. In July 1985 I announced that the Government planned to reduce the net cost of ADAS's advisory and statutory services by about £16.5 million in the financial year 1987–88. That decision was well discussed in its wider context, in accordance with the Government's overall policy of reducing public expenditure. Therefore, it must be seen in the broader context of overall public support to agriculture. I make no apology for repeating the figure that I have given to the House on other occasions. We should remember that public support for the dairy sector in 1985, the last year for which we have figures, was equivalent to £90 per cow. That is a huge amount of public support, which I do not begrudge, for this sector. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) raised that point.

The £16.5 million that we decided must be found had to be raised from various sources, including advisory work, economies in ADAS's operations, and also by charging for statutory work. In considering what statutory work should become chargeable, we took th view that it was reasonable to concentrate on those areas in which the work benefits the industry. We agreed to the very strong request of the NFU that—

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jopling

Not in mid-sentence, if my hon. Friend does not mind. I must finish the point with which I am dealing, and then I shall give way. It is a very important point.

We agreed to the strong request of the NFU not to charge for the statutory duties with regard to tuberculosis and brucellosis testing. The NFU was extremely keen that we should not do so. However, in the case of milk and dairies work we concluded that the existence of strict and detailed regulations helps to maintain the market for liquid milk in England and Wales.

Mrs. Winterton

A few moments ago my right hon. Friend gave a statistic that caught my attention—that the amount of support per cow in the United Kingdom is £90. Will he inform the House of the amount of support per cow in the Federal Republic of Germany and in France so that we can make a comparison?

Mr. Jopling

My hon. Friend will have to put down a parliamentary question about that. I am afraid that I do not have the answer now, but I will gladly give it later. With respect, however, I do not think that it is relevant when we are referring to charges for the British herd and every cow is supported to the extent of £90 of public money.

I remind my hon. Friends that the home market for liquid milk is very large, accounting for about 50 per cent. of production. The liquid milk market is extremely lucrative for farmers. The 1p per pint increase in the retail price that took effect in January will add about £40 million a year to producers' returns, and that the increase in the retail price is sufficient to pay the charging bill under discussion today about 20 times over. I am strongly of the view that that situation owes a great deal to our milk and dairies regulations. I agree with hon. Members who say that the board's arrangements have contributed to that position, but I am convinced that my Department's milk and dairies regime has also played an important role.

The work benefits producers in another most important way. My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) raised this point. It has enabled us to negotiate strict provisions in the Community's heat-treated milk directive which the House, including Opposition Members approved in November 1985 and it will enable us to implement the directive so as to ensure that our high standards are not undermined by imports of inferior quality milk. That is a crucial point and will obviously benefit our own industry but it is possible thanks only to a domestic regime which enables us to demonstrate to our community partners that our standards are so high.

Mr. Cash


Mr. Jopling

I should go on, but I will give way if my hon. Friend insists.

Mr. Cash

Would my right hon. Friend agree to veto the proposals coming up in the Council tomorrow regarding the French desire to ensure that they receive a national subsidy in relation to their small milk producers?

Mr. Jopling

That is a separate point. I shall be at the meeting of the Council of Ministers tomorrow and we have already expressed grave disquiet about some of the proposals that have been made by the French Government.

The producer benefits significantly from the work and it is not unreasonable, in the context of total support for the dairy industry, that he should meet the modest costs involved. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield asked a question on that and I believe that there are precedents for such arrangements. For example, there is a fee for Ministry of Transport testing on motor vehicles and fees for planning applications and building regulations consents. Some of my hon. Friends have drawn attention to inspection by the Health and Safety Executive. I can tell them that although the Health and Safety Executive does not charge for factory inspections, it does charge when it issues licences such as petroleum licences.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) made the point that establishments such as restaurants and cafés pay business rates which help to offset the costs that local authorities incur in carrying out inspections. The House might not have liked that, but it might just remember that no such mechanism operates in the case of milk and dairies charges and, in any event, neither factories, shops nor restaurants enjoy the same level of public support as the dairy industry enjoys in this country today.

Some hon. Members have indicated that they are ready in principle to accept charging but that the proposed charge of £90 is much too high. I wish to make two points in reply to that. First, it is important to understand that it is not the ADAS visit alone which costs £90. We have assessed the cost of the whole system including, for example, administrative support at headquarters and in the Ministry's regional and divisional offices. I remind the House, particularly the hon. Member for Yeovil who raised this matter, that where the penalty for transgression of the arrangements is to put a farmer out of business, it is absolutely essential to have adequate controls over the uniformity and accuracy of the inspection provisions. Hence, it is essential to have a good deal of overlying management control.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)


Mr. Jopling

Please let me finish this phrase.

We have divided the resulting global total by the number of routine visits, which gives us the figure of £90. I have been through the figures thoroughly and I am satisfied that they correctly reflect the cost of the service, no more and no less.

Mr. Colin Shepherd (Hereford)

Can my right hon. Friend explain why the charge arrived at by that method is so much higher than the figure arrived at by the animal health division in assessing the charge necessary for its veterinary inspections on visits as part of the Ministry's preventive animal health scheme? Indeed, the vets now feel that they are being undercut by the Government.

Mr. Jopling

I have explained that it is necessary to have a heavy, overlying management control. I should also point out that 25 per cent. of visits have to be followed up by letters or further visits because unsatisfactory conditions are found. The figure of £90 must be kept in proportion. It is levied only when a visit is made. That means that on average it will be paid once every two years, and farmers with high standards of compliance with the regulations will pay it once every three years or even less frequently. In other words, it is open to all wholesale producers to reduce the impact of the Government's proposal to £30 per year, or less if they have fewer than 20 cows. To sum up, for an average size herd of 60 cows the charge for a visit once every three years is 50p per cow. Set against current annual public support of £90 per cow, that is not an unfair imposition.

A number of my hon. Friends have asked whether the Milk Marketing Board should collect the sum. The House wants lower charges and the way to get them is for the board to collect the money, because that is much the cheapest way. I was also asked whether the proposal is legal, and I am assured that it is legal, under the powers in section 118 of the Food Act 1984.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West asked me to ensure that the search for economies continues and to review the scheme at the end of the year. I can give him assurances on both counts. We shall certainly continue to examine closely the operation of the system, with a view to achieving further economies. If, in the light of that, we can reduce the charge, I shall lay the necessary amending regulations before the House. In the light of that undertaking, I invite the House to reject the motion.

11.28 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

It took the Minister about 16 minutes to reply to the debate and I do not believe that he has answered the points put by his nine hon. Friends, never mind the case made by my hon. Friends the Members for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey). The proposed charge is wrong in principle, its mode of collection is devious and inappropriate and the proposal is burdensome on a sector of the farming community which has been hard pressed by the present Administration since they took office.

The alliance parties prayed against the regulations to give the Government the opportunity to deploy their case and the House the opportunity to throw out the regulations, which have been universally opposed within the industry. The NFU has received and presented petitions from county branches all over the country and the Milk Marketing Board has spelt out in trenchant and unmistakable language the case that it should not be made to act as a tax collector for the Government to finance regulations which are for the hygiene of the industry and the benefit of the public and should be paid for out of general taxation.

It is no part of the alliance's view that these inspections or tests are not necessary. It is clear, however, that they should not be borne by the 37,000 producers in the industry for whom this is the last straw on the camel's back. The Minister must take the regulations away. We will divide the House on the regulations. I invite hon. Members on both sides of the House, and particularly those hon. Members who spoke out so trenchantly from the Conservative Benches, to join us in opposing the regulations.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 42, Noes 286.

Division No. 104] [11.30 pm
Alton, David McLoughlin, Patrick
Ashdown, Paddy McWilliam, John
Best, Keith Marek, Dr John
Boyes, Roland Marland, Paul
Bruce, Malcolm Maxton, John
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Cartwright, John Meadowcrott, Michael
Cormack, Patrick Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Gower, Sir Raymond Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hargreaves, Kenneth Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Harvey, Robert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hicks, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Speller, Tony
Home Robertson, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
John, Brynmor Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Johnston, Sir Russell Wigley, Dafydd
Kennedy, Charles Winterton, Mrs Ann
Kirkwood, Archy Winterton, Nicholas
Knox, David
Livsey, Richard Tellers for the Ayes:
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth and
Maclennan, Robert Mrs. Elizabeth Shields.
Adley, Robert Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Aitken, Jonathan Browne, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bruinvels, Peter
Amess, David Bryan, Sir Paul
Ancram, Michael Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Arnold, Tom Buck, Sir Antony
Ashby, David Bulmer, Esmond
Aspinwall, Jack Burt, Alistair
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Butcher, John
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Butterfill, John
Baldry, Tony Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Batiste, Spencer Carttiss, Michael
Bellingham, Henry Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Bendall, Vivian Chapman, Sydney
Benyon, William Chope, Christopher
Bevan, David Gilroy Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Blackburn, John Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Colvin, Michael
Bottomley, Peter Coombs, Simon
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Cope, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Couchman, James
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Dickens, Geoffrey
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dicks, Terry
Bright, Graham Dorrell, Stephen
Brinton, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Dover, Den
Brooke, Hon Peter du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Durant, Tony Lee, John (Pendle)
Dykes, Hugh Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lester, Jim
Eggar, Tim Lilley, Peter
Emery, Sir Peter Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Evennett, David Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lord, Michael
Fallon, Michael Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Farr, Sir John Lyell, Nicholas
Favell, Anthony McCrindle, Robert
Fenner, Dame Peggy McCurley, Mrs Anna
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fookes, Miss Janet MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Forman, Nigel MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Maclean, David John
Forth, Eric McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fox, Sir Marcus McQuarrie, Albert
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Madel, David
Freeman, Roger Major, John
Fry, Peter Malins, Humfrey
Gale, Roger Malone, Gerald
Galley, Roy Maples, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marlow, Antony
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Glyn, Dr Alan Mates, Michael
Goodlad, Alastair Mather, Sir Carol
Gorst, John Maude, Hon Francis
Gow, Ian Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Grant, Sir Anthony Mellor, David
Greenway, Harry Merchant, Piers
Gregory, Conal Meyer, Sir Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Grist, Ian Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Ground, Patrick Moate, Roger
Grylls, Michael Moore, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hanley, Jeremy Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Haselhurst, Alan Moynihan, Hon C.
Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW) Murphy, Christopher
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Neubert, Michael
Hayward, Robert Newton, Tony
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholls, Patrick
Heddle, John Norris, Steven
Henderson, Barry Onslow, Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Hickmet, Richard Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Osborn, Sir John
Hill, James Ottaway, Richard
Hind, Kenneth Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Hirst, Michael Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howard, Michael Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Pattie, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Pawsey, James
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Portillo, Michael
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Powley, John
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Prior, Rt Hon James
Jackson, Robert Proctor, K. Harvey
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Jessel, Toby Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rathbone, Tim
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Renton, Tim
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Key, Robert Ridsdale, Sir Julian
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Knowles, Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rost, Peter
Lang, Ian Rowe, Andrew
Latham, Michael Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lawler, Geoffrey Ryder, Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Thurnham, Peter
Scott, Nicholas Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Tracey, Richard
Shelton, William (Streatham) Trippier, David
Shersby, Michael Trotter, Neville
Silvester, Fred Twinn, Dr Ian
Sims, Roger van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Skeet, Sir Trevor Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Speed, Keith Waldegrave, Hon William
Spencer, Derek Walden, George
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Squire, Robin Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Stanbrook, Ivor Waller, Gary
Steen, Anthony Walters, Dennis
Stern, Michael Ward, John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Watson, John
Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N) Watts, John
Stokes, John Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Sumberg, David Wheeler, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Whitfield, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Whitney, Raymond
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wilkinson, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Terlezki, Stefan Wood, Timothy
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Yeo, Tim
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Tellers for the Noes:
Thome, Neil (llford S) Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Thornton, Malcolm Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.