HC Deb 10 June 1993 vol 226 cc420-1
4. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the United Kingdom percentage self-sufficiency in liquid milk.

Mr. Jack

The United Kingdom produces sufficient milk to meet its needs for liquid consumption, but not enough to meet the overall demand for dairy products.

Mr. Winterton

I say to Labour Members that this is indeed the voice of independence. Is my hon. Friend aware that I come from the county of Cheshire, which boasts some of the finest dairy farmers in the United Kingdom, perhaps in the whole of the European Community, and has some of the United Kingdom's finest grassland? Is he aware that we are no longer producing as much liquid milk as this country needs, but that, for whatever purpose, we are importing more? Can that be good in the light of a substantial and growing balance of trade deficit? What does he propose to do to allow our farmers, who have the ability to do it, to produce more of the milk that this country requires?

Mr. Jack

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Dairy producers in my constituency in Lancashire will have listened with interest to his description. They will, however, share common cause with us in their endorsement of the measures in the Agriculture Bill which addresses some of the problems that my hon. Friend underlines. In terms of the balance of payments, the Bill will enable milk to be used for the production of certain British cheeses and dairy products, which will replace those that are currently being imported. Farmers will be well pleased with such proposals.

Mr. Skinner

Does the Minister recall that about two years ago as a result of dioxin-contaminated milk in the Bolsover area, action had to be taken with Coalite, the company concerned, and an incinerator put out of use? Is he aware that since the new safety levels have been introduced, the Government have decided to allow Coalite at Bolsover to put that incinerator back into use, with the result that, once again, the Government are prepared to endanger food in that area? Will he take steps to ensure that that incinerator is not put into operation?

Mr. Jack

Incinerators are not directly in my area of responsibility. One of the sadder aspects of the hon. Gentleman's attempt to raise the matter in the way that he has is that he has not taken the opportunity to put on record the fact that we have one of the finest milk supplies with the highest purity levels in the European Community.