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 Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West 12:00 am, 12th April 1976

This is an important debate because so much is at stake. The Minister leaned heavily on the Select Committee. The Committee understood his problems in wanting to do a deal in Brussels, and took into account very strongly his firm promise that he would try to win the battle over this scheme. For that reason, I think we allowed this scheme to go forward. It is a little unfair of him now not to admit that he gave a firm promise to us. I am afraid that when it came to the crunch in the deal, he gave way.

What has worried me for some time about the Community is that in the dealings in Brussels we do not take a stronger line in seeking the best deal for British farmers. Had the French been in this position, they would not have given way. My criticism of the Minister in this deal is that he did not win after what he had said.

I did not agree much with the speech of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), but I agree that this scheme will continue. If it is successful, if it gets rid of the mountain of skimmed milk powder, the Community will want to continue it.

The Ministers have not got to the root of the problem and dealt with those who produce for surpluses only. There is a real danger here. It is no good the Minister saying that this is once and for all. It will go on unless we deal with the real problem.

We in the South-West will suffer more than any other area because we have more stock. This will be a serious burden on all our animal production. It will also be bad for the trade. In one of its briefs, the trade says: Secondly, it must be a matter of grave concern, as the foregoing illustrates, that British Ministers should have followed the Commission in accepting that what was essentially a practical, and indeed highly technical, problem should be the subject of a political solution taken without any prior attempt to analyse its consequences or its effects on trade and trading. That is a serious condemnation of the Minister: It was a political deal which did not take account of the grave problems of the trade. Se we must condemn him on that as well.

Everything has been so negative. We should be taking a positive approach in the Community. I agree with what has been said about the sale of liquid milk. That is not possible because of the large volume involved, but something could be done to help. Certainly this milk powder should be sold at a lower price and farmers should accept a lower intervention price in areas of surplus. That is the positive way of dealing with the problem instead of tinkering with it.

We have heard tonight mostly from anti-Marketeers. I am proud to be a pro-Marketeer. It is easy to criticise the CAP, but we should try to rectify the mistakes rather than dump the whole arrangement. I have never believed that the CAP was static. It is flexible: we learn from our mistakes, as we do anywhere else. [Interruption.] It would be a great help if some of those who are chittering had a little skimmed milk. They would then have a better bloom on them at least.

We need to be flexible and learn from our mistakes and to deal with the problem where it exists. The Minister should go to Brussels and seek to take positive steps, by which I mean variable intervention measures to deal with certain areas within the Community which are simply producing for surplus. There might be national quotas. Certainly there should be a board to enforce the disciplines of the Milk Marketing Board. There should also be regional policies to encourage some of the small farmers who are producing simply for surplus, perhaps in Germany, to find alternative work.

I must warn the Minister that there will be a major backlash from British farmers unless this problem is dealt with now. I hope that he will go to Brussels and take energetic steps now to deal with it. This scheme is not the right way. It is bad for British agriculture and the consumer and in the long run it will be bad for the Community.