I believe that the doorstep delivery of milk is valued by the consumer and by the industry, and will have an enduring role in milk distribution. As regards the UHT milk judgment, my Department is having urgent discussions with the Commission about the health and hygiene safeguards that must be applied to any imports of UHT milk from other member states.
Does the Minister agree that there is widespread concern about the possible threat to doorstep milk delivery? Will he give an undertaking that he will not be forced to concede on that issue, no matter what the pressure is from Brussels or how enticingly it is wrapped up in a package deal?
I give an absolute assurance. I think that I can claim that in the past four years we have done everything in our power to assist and encourage the doorstep delivery service. The high liquid milk consumption in this country is an advantage not only to the British work force, customer and houswife, but to Europe. If its liquid milk consumption were as high as ours, there would be no milk surplus problem.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the milkman, like the postman, is the housewife's early morning friend, and that on that matter neither she nor we want to go continental?
It is true that in this country not only is there a highly efficient system for delivering fresh milk of high quality to every doorstep every day, but that many elderly and handicapped people receive that important social service.
Will the Minister accept my endorsement of his stance on milk towards the French Minister of Agriculture? Will he press for an inquiry into the low consumption of liquid milk on the continent and strenuously object to the intrusion of Irish milk producers into the affairs of the Milk Marketing Board?
Yes, Sir. At the last meeting of European Ministers the French Minister suggested that there should be an examination of the activities of the Milk Marketing Board. I am glad to say that, when I suggested the urgency of examining why liquid milk consumption in France was drastically lower than in Britain, that suggestion was accepted by the Commission.