HC Deb 02 March 2000 vol 345 cc554-5
33. Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

What recent representations he has received on the future structure of Milk Marque. [111564]

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Stephen Byers)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Unlike your lot."] It is a close-run thing.

Since 4 November 1999, when the members of Milk Marque voted in favour of the board's proposals for the voluntary break-up of Milk Marque, the Department has received nine letters from hon. Members and members of the public on anxieties about the dairy industry. Two parliamentary questions have also been asked.

I welcome Milk Marque's decision, which gives the industry the opportunity to form new, closer and beneficial relationships between milk producers and other industries.

Mr. Paterson

How can breaking up Milk Marque help to establish efficient producers of dairy products when continental competitors such as MD and Arla are already twice as efficient as our own dairy producers?

Mr. Byers

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I shared the concern about the compulsory break-up of Milk Marque, which was the recommendation from the Competition Commission. For that reason, I did not agree with that recommendation, but the members of Milk Marque themselves decided that, on a voluntary basis, they would agree to breaking Milk Marque up into three successor organisations. That was a decision for the members of Milk Marque and that is wholly appropriate in the circumstances.

Madam Speaker

We now return to Questions 8 and 11.

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