Protein Deposit and Private Storage Aid

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington 12:00 am, 12th April 1976

Perhaps my hon. Friend will listen. He knows full well that the Scrutiny Committee made a Report. I shall tell him why.

But the Council was faced with the need to agree some way of tackling the skimmed milk powder problem as it existed. I told the trade representatives that it might be necessary to decide on a measure along the lines of the Commission's deposit scheme in the context of other arrangements for tackling the problems in the milk sector.

As the House is aware, a number of other measures were agreed in the price package. I have in mind in particular the decision to increase the food aid programme from 55,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes; the deductions from the skimmed milk powder intervention price, which will have the effect of lowering returns to producers; the agro-monetary arrangements, which will further reduce real returns to milk producers in important production areas of the Community; and the agreement to decide by September on arrangements for producer co-responsibility in the milk sector to operate during the next milk year. So the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) is quite right.

This is not the time to discuss these matters in detail. But the decisions reached on the skimmed milk powder incorporation and on the protein stocking arrangement have to be considered in the context of the other measures adopted. Any method of disposing of a substantial quantity of skimmed milk powder from intervention stocks would have given rise to difficulties and objections of one sort or another. It would no doubt have been preferable if the Community had not been faced with the need to take unpalatable decisions to try to deal with this problem. It is no good my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) laughing. I insisted that the Community dealt with this problem and reduced its surpluses. But the fact is that the problem exists and cannot be ignored.

The Government intended that the debate on the Documents which are now before us should take place on 10th March. It is unfortunate that it did not do so, because a number of misunderstandings were created. The first was that, because the debate had not taken place, the introduction of the schemes should be delayed. As I have made clear tonight, and as the Report of the Scrutiny Committee itself makes clear, it was never intended that the debate on 10th March should precede my agreement to the schemes in Brussels. Therefore, there was no reason for the delay in the debate to delay the introduction of the schemes. Nor, as the Government have acted strictly in accordance with the Scrutiny Committee's recommendations, should there be any suggestion that the scrutiny process has in any way been undermined.