HC Deb 20 June 1991 vol 193 cc457-8
16. Mr. Robert Banks

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the future prospects for the United Kingdom milk sector.

Mr. Gummer

In 1990–91, dairy farming remained one of the most profitable sectors of agriculture in the United Kingdom, for all sizes of farm. Removal of the remaining monetary gap will also contribute to improved prospects for the dairy sector; however, the Agriculture Council has also agreed to a cut in member states' quotas. Member states may cut producers' quota as necessary up to 3 per cent. and pay compensation.

Mr. Banks

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that Britain has the best standard of milk in Europe and that the milk marketing board serves our farmers particularly well—not least with a reliable monthly milk cheque? Does my right hon. Friend further agree that any changes to the milk marketing board should be approved only following a referendum of all our dairy farmers?

Mr. Gummer

The milk marketing board is making its proposals and it believes that changes are necessary. I have welcomed the board's desire to make the system more satisfactory. It must be a matter of concern that, in many recent years, the return to the farmer on milk has been one of the lowest in Europe and the cost to the consumer has been one of the highest in Europe. That must suggest that changes are necessary and those changes are being proposed by the board under its own constitution.