HC Deb 09 December 1977 vol 940 cc904-6W
Mr. English

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is yet in a position to announce the maximum retail and wholesale prices of milk for liquid consumption to operate from 1st January 1978.

Mr. John Silkin

The Government announced on 28th July that, with the ending of the guaranteed price arrangements on 31st December as required by the Treaty of Accession, they would in future determine statutory maximum wholesale prices of milk for liquid consumption in addition to specifying maximum retail prices as at present.

The maximum wholesale prices to apply from 1st January 1978 in the various parts of the United Kingdom for the normal daily delivery of milk to the dairy where it is to be processed for liquid consumption will be as follows:

p per litre
England and Wales (except London)
12.840 (58.37p per gallon)
London 12.426 (56.49p per gallon)
Scotland 12.763 (58.02p per gallon)
Northern Ireland (except Belfast)
12.811 (58.24p per gallon)
Belfast 12.720 (57.83p per gallon)

In accordance with the arrangements I announced in July, the average return to farmers will in future be determined by the Milk Marketing Boards in the light of their returns from the markets for both liquid and manufacturing milk; but the maximum wholesale prices for liquid milk now determined should enable the boards to give producers a price significantly above that resulting from the present guarantee.

The maximum wholesale prices now determined, together with the need to cover increases in distributors' costs, will make it necessary to increase the maximum retail prices of milk by 1p per pint from 1st January. The price of ordinary pasteurised milk will then become 12½per pint.

Given my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's commitment to hold retail milk prices unchanged until the end of 1977, the subsidy provision for milk will be increased by £23 million to meet commitments under the existing guarantee arrangements up to 31st December 1977 and to avoid any carry over of past financial commitments into the new pricing arrangements which begin on 1st January. The provision is a claim on the contingency reserve and parliamentary approval for this expenditure will be sought by means of a further Supplementary Estimate in due course. Pending this, any necessary expenditure will be met by drawings on the Contingencies Fund.

Statutory instruments giving effect to these maximum wholesale and retail prices will be laid before Parliament shortly.

Sir Thomas Williams

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he proposes to take to modify the significant difference which, because of the low proportion of milk production which is sold for liquid consumption in Northern Ireland, would otherwise exist between the returns to milk producers in the Province and those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. John Silkin

It has been decided that the guaranteed price for milk for the period April-December 1977 as applied in Northern Ireland will be increased by 0.43p per litre (1.95p per gallon). This will make an additional £3.6 million available to the Northern Ireland Milk Marketing Board. It will be for the Board to decide when and at what rate it should be paid over to producers.

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