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

May I reply to the debate and respond to questions and comments? It has been a useful debate, although some passions have been aroused. I understand the view taken by those of my hon. Friends who have always been critical of the CAP. [An hon. Member: "My right hon. Friend was once."] I was once, yes. But the Opposition negotiated entry into the Community, and I am rather surprised at some of their contributions to the debate.

I thank the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), and I agree with him that we should not exaggerate the effect of the scheme. I was asked at one stage about increases in production costs. I have a note here in reply to that which advises me that compound feed prices might increase by about 1½ per cent. in the United Kingdom during the time when the scheme is in operation, and it is expected to finish in October. This is very much less than the estimates based on the Commission's original proposal. The question of how this is reflected in the prices of individual feeds under the revised arrangements will largely be a matter for the compounders themselves to determine in the light of their commercial judgment—I argued that at the outset—and the market situation.

There has been reference to the impact on pig, poultry and egg producers. All I would say here is that it is not possible to make a precise assessment, but I believe that the effect on producers should be relatively small and temporary. One must also bear in mind—I say this to hon. Members on both sides—that the markets for pig and poultry meat are currently firm and are expected to remain so, certainly during the life of the scheme. Egg prices, too, are better than they were at this time last year.

I know and understand that strong feelings are expressed—[Interruption.] It is all very well to make speeches while sitting down. It would be better if the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) stood up and intervened properly, and if time were not so short I should invite him to do so. All I ask hon. Members to do, as the hon. Member for Cardigan did—he is a farmer, and he is critical of the scheme—is not to exaggerate the situation.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) asked whether we should increase United Kingdom production of skimmed milk powder. The United Kingdom is normally self-sufficient in skimmed milk powder. Few, if any, imports of powder will be required as a result of the scheme, and these will in any case give rise to no cost to the balance of payments.

The Poultry Federation raised the point that the formulae for skimmed milk powder preparation are unsuitable for poultry. I can only say that the trade was consulted before the formulae were drawn up as a result of the original proposals and the formulae were amended. I understand that the Federation has now raised some further points on these matters. We are examining these, and if there is a case we shall suggest further modifications.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that the Council regulations were not all passed until 31st March, one day before the scheme started. That is not so. The Council regulation was formally adopted on 15th March. I was pressed about the lack of denaturing plant, but the scheme does not require denaturing.

There have been criticisms about the nonsense of the Community milk surplus, but I thought I had made clear that the long-term solution must be to tackle the surplus at source. I have always argued that. Over and over again in the stocktaking exercise, I have pressed for a realistic price system, but I am only one member of the Council. Hon. Members must appreciate that surpluses of skimmed milk are not peculiar to the Community. New Zealand, Australia and the United States have surpluses.

The position of compounders in relation to the Price Code is important. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection has granted an exemption from the pre-notification requirement which permits compounders to pass on increases in costs resulting from the scheme during April and to notify afterwards rather than before. The trade has welcomed that exemption.

The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) made a strong speech. I referred to the Scrutiny Committee's Report to demonstrate that I have not been in conflict with the Committee's procedure. I defend my acceptance of the scheme, as I defended it in my opening speech. The problems exist whether we like them or not and I believe that this scheme is the best available solution.

I was asked to make a statement about the European Parliament's criticism of the scheme. The matter will have to be carefully examined and then it is a matter for the Council. Any new proposal will be submitted to Parliament. Perhaps we shall take a different attitude, but we must wait and see what happens to the Commission's proposals. I cannot say whether I shall be in a position to veto—it would be wrong for me to say that. Many hon. Members have argued that I should have vetoed the scheme, but I believed that the package was a good one. No other Ministers vetoed the scheme. It would have been foolish to do so when we had a good package.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business).