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 James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , West Derbyshire 12:00 am, 12th April 1976

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention—which was not, perhaps, quite as helpful as he thought it would be. The right hon. Gentleman will make his own statement shortly.

On the second of these proposals—and this matter was raised by the hon. Member for Crewe and by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury—there is considerable doubt as to whether by bringing the private storage aid scheme into effect we are not contravening the regulations of the GATT. This is almost certainly true. The reason that it was brought in, as the House well knows, was in order to forestall the Americans' bringing a case immediately because the Community is breaking the GATT. In fact, it is 250,000 tonnes on which private storage fees can be paid by the Community, and the import from the United States is just over 8 million. It is a very small proportion, but a very significant one. It is, in fact, breaching the regulations of the GATT.

However, the Minister has been hardly fair or frank with the House about the whole of this skimmed milk powder story. We have over 1 million tonnes in store. If he had accepted the Commission's proposals in the round, the whole package, there would have been a possibility that we might have been able to be constructive tonight; but he did not. He and his colleagues did not accept any kind of measures put forward by the Commission to reduce the levels of herds in Europe, which would not have affected this country at all.

The Minister accepted quite wrongfully an increase in the intervention price of dried milk. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) was dead right when he said that it was not an increase in the intervention price—which the right hon. Gentleman accepted—that was needed, but that it was a doing away with the intervention price for dried milk, and the introduction of a tendering scheme, which was the Commission's proposal. That is what should have been done. If it was not a tendering scheme, as my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West said, there sould have been a marked lowering of the intervention price.

At the Council meeting, the Minister and his colleagues accepted only part of the package proposed by the Commission. The result has been very bad for this country and it will not have any effect on an increasing amount of dried skimmed milk going into intervention. It is true that there will be a certain amount of disposal of skimmed milk under these arrangements, to the detriment of farmers in this country and with extra cost to the consumer.

I hope, therefore, that my right hon. and hon. Friends, and hon. Members opposite, will support our amendment, and, if that amendment is successful, I hope that the Minister will say what his intentions are. I do not believe that he can continue to maintain this scheme in face of the disapproval of the House. Certainly, when he goes to Brussels in May, he cannot and must not bring in the private storage aid scheme. That is quite obvious, and I hope that he will accept the verdict of the House.