HC Deb 09 June 1988 vol 134 cc972-3
4. Mr. Robert Hicks

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next plans to meet the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board; and what subjects he proposes to discuss.

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

My right hon. Friend expects to meet the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board later today to discuss various issues affecting the dairy industry.

Mr. Hicks

When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman of the Milk Marketing Board to discuss New Zealand butter, will he confirm that the purpose of the transitional period, which started 15 years ago, was to enable New Zealand to seek alternative markets for its dairy products but that it still has one third of the United Kingdom packed butter market? Is not there evidence that New Zealand can benefit from world markets by the increase in the price of dairy products in those markets? In the last four years alone, that has enabled New Zealand to benefit to the tune of an additional £180 million.

Mr. Thompson

New Zealand's agricultural interests have been active in putting their case throughout Europe and the world. It will be for the Commission to devise any new arrangements with the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand butter industry. New Zealand butter is not part of our quota arrangements.

Mr. Ron Brown

Is not the European Economic Community a cynical con which makes people suffer, especially small farmers and working-class individuals? Would it not be better if we were honest enough to face the fact that Britain suffers in many ways because of the EEC and that it would be far better to withdraw from it instead of kidding people that the EEC matters? It matters only to rich farmers and to people in big business. That is a fact.

Mr. Thompson

It is not a fact that all classes of people in Britain suffer from this country being in the EEC. The contrary is true.

Mr. Jack

Is my hon. Friend fully satisfied that the Milk Marketing Board has taken every opportunity to develop innovatory products to counter the flow of foreign-produced dairy products on to our supermarket shelves?

Mr. Thompson

The Milk Marketing Board, together with Dairy Crest, is alive to the competition that it faces on the supermarket shelves. That competition will expand if people continue to buy foreign goods. I am sure that the M MB is looking at every possible way of adding value to milk, thus competing by producing import substitutes, and that it will also do everything it possibly can to find markets for its exports.

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