I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Milk-based Drinks (Hygiene and Heat Treatment) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1508), the Milk and Dairies (Heat Treatment of Cream) Regulations 1983 (S.1., 1983, No. 1509), the Milk (Special Designation) (Amendment) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1510), and the Milk and Dairies (Semi-skimmed and Skimmed Milk) (Heat Treatment and Labelling) (Amendment) Regulations 1983 (S.1., 1983, No. 1511), dated 18th October 1983, the Importation of Milk Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1563), dated 24th October 1983, the Milk-based Drinks (Scotland) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1514), the Cream (Heat Treatment) (Scotland) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1515), the Milk and Dairies (Semi-skimmed and Skimmed Milk) (Heat Treatment and Labelling) (Scotland) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1526) and the Milk (Special Designations) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1527), dated 17th October 1983, and the Importation of Milk (Scotland) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 1545), dated 21st October 1983, copies of which were laid before this House on 26th October, be annulled.
With this it will be convenient to discuss also the second motion:
That, in the opinion of this House, the Importation of Milk Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1983 (S.R.(N.I.), 1983 No. 338) ought to be revoked.
It might be for the convenience of the House if I describe the background to the regulations relating to the conditions under which UHT milk, sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream may be imported. There can be no doubt that these regulations have caused widespread concern. I have received letters and representations from organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The representations have come from the Dairy Trade Federation, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, the Transport and General Workers Union, the milk marketing boards, and the National Farmers Union. In addition, I have had representations from individual consumers. They have all expressed worry, even consternation, at the impact that these imports may have on every section of the dairy economy.
It is well understood that our system of doorstep delivery of milk is unique. I concede that uniqueness is not by itself a sufficient criterion for maintaining a system, but it is not disputed by anyone that the doorstep delivery provides a welcome and satisfactory service to the consumer. Isolation is feared by many, especially women alone at home and elderly people, and there is no doubt that the milkman is a valuable contact for them and for others.
If the doorstep delivery system were to be disrupted, that could put many jobs at risk. About 50,000 people work full-time in milk distribution. About 15,000 people are employed in liquid milk processing and packaging and about 15,000 are involved in the road haulage industry, glass manufacturing and electrical vehicle construction. I accept that the destruction of the system will not happen at once, but the House should be under no illusion that the damage to doorstep deliveries will have serious consequences and will affect milk consumption. We can tell that from the experience in the Netherlands. Since the late 1960s, deliveries have fallen from 90 per cent. to under 25 per cent., and consumption has fallen by 25 per cent. It is clear that no section of the community will remain unaffected.
It is also clear from the regulations that the effects on the consumer must be taken into account and that we must have regard to the quality, hygiene and health standards. It is acknowledged by everyone with any knowledge of our dairy industry that we have the highest and the best standards of milk production, processing, packaging and delivery. Inspections take place at all stages by the most competent officers. It is essential that this thorough inspection is continued as far as possible for imported milk.
The regulations refer to the imports through authorised places of entry. It is fortunate that I have been given a copy of the London Gazette, published today, which answers some of the questions that I was asking, in particular the one on how many places of entry there will be, though it only partially answers it. According to the London Gazette, there will be 17 places of entry. I do not know how many places of entry there will be in Scotland, because that information will be published separately in Edinburgh. Perhaps when he replies to the debate the Minister will say how many places of entry he has designated there.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that information. I wish that the answer was two for England and Wales as well. An imperative in the Minister's decision should have been to keep the number of places of entry to the absolute minimum. I say, not in any obstructive way, that we must lessen the administrative problems of inspection. We must ensure a high frequency of sampling and strict testing, and in my opinion 17 is far too many.
It is vital that adequate resources are made available at Ministry and port health authority level to make sure that we have a rigorous, though fair, form of monitoring for milk imports, and it will remain essential for many years to come that the procedures continue to be sustained.
What analysis has the Minister made of the number of personnel who will he required? What will the cost be? May we have a guarantee that the cost will be fully provided for? What criteria will be laid down for the primary inspection? Paragraph 2 of schedule 2 to Statutory Instrument No. 1563 is curious, because it says:
(1) Within a reasonable time after the arrival of a consignment of imported milk at a designated place an authorised officer shall carry out a primary examination (that is to say such examination of the consignment of imported milk as may be carried out without opening any closed container in which it is to be supplied to the ultimate consumer or to a catering establishment, and an examination of any document accompanying that consignment).
(2) if upon that primary examination the authorised officer decides that any of the consignments of imported milk has been imported in breach of these regulations or that human health would be protected if that consignment were not unconditionally authorised to be removed, he shall give notice to the importer in writing that the consignment must not be removed from the designated place for any purpose other than its exportation.
How will that work? How will the authorised officer form a judgment on the health standards and hygiene of the milk without opening any container? Will he have an X-ray machine? That will not tell him much. How can he possibly do it without taking a sample?
We now know, again courtesy of the London Gazette, what the form of certification will be; I shall not read that document into the record and delay the House unnecessarily, but it worries me to the extent that. given that the primary examination must be done without opening containers, it seems that the form of certification will be taken on its face value. If it is signed, that will be that. How on earth, with such a full certificate being provided, will the authorised officer be able to make any checks? Will there be any examination on the other side of the Channel or of the Irish Sea?
The more one looks at the regulations, the more it becomes clear that the Government should have had a debate when they were in draft, so that they could have had the benefit of the advice of the House on these and other matters before proceeding. It has been, to put it mildly, rather naughty of the Government on an issue as important as this to make us discuss it at such a late stage in the proceedings.
I come to the curious inclusion of sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream in the importation regulations. The Government are going beyond what is strictly necessary under the European Court decision of February of this year. I do not think that that can be denied. When the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—now the Secretary of State for Energy — made his statement on 9 February, he repeated a number of times that the decision referred only to UHT milk. For example, he said:
During the course of the Council, as the House knows, the European Court of Justice issued its judgment in the case related to United Kingdom imports of ultra-heat treated milk As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) yesterday, the judgment states that the United Kingdom would be entitled to lay down the objective conditions which it considers ought to be observed as regards the quality of milk before treatment and as regards the method of treating and packing UHT milk of whatever origin offered for sale in its territory. The Government will study the judgment in detail and will as soon as possible take the steps necessary to comply with it. Our aim will be to provide for the import of UHT milk from other member states subject to its satisfying the same health and hygiene requirements on which, in the interests of public health, we insist for the production and processing of our own milk". —[Official Report, 9 February 1983, Vol. 36, c. 1003.]
Clearly, the Minister was saying that the judgment referred only to UHT milk.
That assurance was repeated and underlined when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, spoke in reply to the Second Reading debate on the Importation of Milk Bill on 10 May of this year. She said when referring to the regulations which would finally be produced under the Bill:
However, their main effect will be to provide for the importation of UHT milk and cream and flavoured milk from member states subject to these products satisfying the same health and hygiene requirements".
The emphasis was again on UHT milk. When replying to that debate the hon. Lady said:
I should like to repeat that the judgment applies only to UHT milk, which tastes different from the fresh milk to which we are accustomed in this country, of which, I believe, we are the largest consumer in the Community.
The hon. Lady went on to point out that UHT milk accounted for
such a small share—1 per cent.—of the United Kingdom market". — [Official Report, 10 May 1983, Vol. 42, c. 743–59.]
Once again the emphasis was on UHT milk only.
It is true that the minds of many hon. Members on that day were engaged on other matters, particularly the forthcoming general election, though my mind was otherwise engaged. I was on my way to Gothenburg to see Aberdeen play Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners Cup—and win—but that is by the way.
Hon. Members who were present on that day—for example, my hon. Friends the Members for the City of Durham (Mr. Hughes) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) and others—pressed the hon. Lady to say how far the Bill was intended to go. The hon. Member who then represented Thirsk and Malton, now called Ryedale (Mr. Spence)—who is not in his place, though I see that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) is with us, and was present that day—also pressed strongly to make sure that doorstep deliveries would be protected.
There is no doubt that the Minister's response on that occasion was designed to assuage the fears of hon. Members. Indeed, had the House had any idea that the measure would be used for other than the importation of UHT milk it would never have been allowed through at that late stage of the Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Durham complained that the Bill was being put through virtually on the nod.
I accept without reservation that the Minister did not seek on that occasion to mislead the House. It is clear, therefore, that there has been a significant change of policy to include sterilised milk and frozen cream. It is serious that this change of policy has never been reported to the House of Commons. I should have thought that there would have been a proper oral statement setting the record straight. Surely the Minister owed it to his Parliamentary Secretary to make one and so exonerate her of any duplicity and assert her innocence in the matter.
One must ask time and again why the Government have gone so far. We have had no logical explanation, and today we are governed by the rules of order in that I open the debate and the Minister replies. In view of all that has been said, we are left with the impression that the right hon. Gentleman has capitulated even before being tested in the defence of British interests.
It has always been thought that it was Government policy to defend to the limit the doorstep delivery of milk, at the same time remaining consistent with our obligations under the treaty of Rome and the European Court decision. That was clearly in the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary when she promised the widest possible consultation, while not accepting—I regret that she did not accept—the statutory right of consultation that was pressed on her.
During the consultation process that has taken place since 10 June, the Minister has been pressed to write into the regulations a period of transition of, say, three to five years, to allow some adjustment and to give the industry time to meet any new competitive challenge that might arise. I accept that the industry is competitive at present. There is strong evidence to suggest that a transition period would have been acceptable to the Commission, but the initiative for the transition period had to come from the Government. They had to lodge a formal request with the Commission for a transition period. I regret that that was not done, and I hope that it is possible, even now, to do that.
I should like to ask the Minister some questions about frozen pasteurised cream. Can he give an absolute assurance that there will be no risk to public health from imports? If he believes that there is a public health risk from imported pasteurised milk, how can pasteurised cream not represent the same health hazard? I do not see the distinction, or how the right hon. Gentleman makes it. Is it not the case that freezing has no bactericidal effect; in other words, that it does not kill the bacteria?
I fully accept and understand that the European Court's judgment made it quite clear that we could not use health regulations in a spurious way that would amount to, as article 36 of the treaty states,
a disguised restriction on trade between member states"?
It is difficult to do so, but, nevertheless, we probably have to accept that decision. However, I have before me the Minister's press statement dated 26 October 1983. There is no number on it, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows which one it is. It is headed, "Michael Jopling Speaks About The Challenges Facing The Dairy Industry" and concerns a speech made at the golden jubilee lunch of the Dairy Trade Federation.
I was not lucky enough to attend the lunch. Some people might say that I was lucky to miss the Minister's speech. The right hon. Gentleman said:
Although we must comply with the law we can also avail ourselves of certain helpful aspects of the judgment. In particular, the judgment recognises that we are entitled to lay down objective conditions as regards the quality of milk before treatment and as regards the methods of treating and packing UHT milk offered for sale in the United Kingdom. We have, of course, invoked these references in the course of the intensive discussions which have taken place with the Commission and Member States since February.
The Minister went on to say that the regime would provide for comprehensive certification for imports, and so on. He made great play of how he understood the importance of doorstep deliveries. He was, of course, defending very high standards.
I do not want to indulge in scaremonger tactics, but we need some assurances about a point that has been raised with me by, for example, the Milk Marketing Board. In a letter dated 14 February it said:
The industry has recently been involved in a review of the regulations relating to UHT cream and milk based drinks and in the course of this review the Ministry of Agriculture have insisted that henceforth it will be necessary to apply a treatment of 140C for 2 seconds to render these UHT products safe against the dangerous organism chlostridium botulinum.
Some hon. Members may think it easier to say "CB", but I always think of a radio when I hear those initials.
The letter continues:
This requirement is based on evidence from the Department of Health and Social Security and because of its concern for the health of its customers the industry has accepted this tighter UHT specification for cream and milk based drinks. Having been made aware of the danger by the DHSS the industry has strongly argued that UHT milk both domestically treated and treated elsewhere in Europe prior to import must be treated to the same level of 140C for two seconds. It is clearly absurd that one level is adequate for white milk when a tighter level is required for, for example, flavoured milk.
The regulations certainly say that UHT milk-based drinks and cream are to be treated at 140 deg C for two seconds, yet the temperature for UHT milk is 132·2 deg C for a minimum of one second. That is clearly
inconsistent. As the Milk Marketing Board points out, it is below the guidelines recommended to eliminate that highly dangerous organism "CB".
In practice, however, our dairies use the higher temperature. It is extraordinary that the Minister should accept the lower levels in the import regulations. He should have been consistent, in the interest of health. There is also growing concern about the detection of antibiotics in milk in Ireland. I shall not cite the instances, as I am sure the Minister is aware of the articles that appeared in The Irish Times on 3 February and in the Connacht Tribune on 10 June 1983.
I think that UHT could best be described as unpalatable, hideous and tasteless. It could be argued that it will not take much of the market. At present it has only 1 per cent. of the market, so there is not much to worry about. However, sterilised milk—which can be imported under the regulations—already takes more than 6 per cent. of the market, and in some parts of the country the figure is as high as 20 and 25 per cent. Therefore, there is clearly a threat.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in the greater midlands area sterilised supplies account for 36 per cent. of daily doorstep deliveries? The national figure is quite bogus, because the balance between pasteurised and sterilised products will vary from region to region. The biggest threat to daily doorstep deliveries will come from those areas with high sales of sterilised products.
I entirely accept that. One of the difficulties of using averages is that they can be misleading. However, if I had cited the west midlands and the figure of 36 per cent., I might have been accused of over-dramatising things.
Once we go that far, things will not end there. The judgment of the European Court and the other pressures will mean that very soon there will be pressure for the importation of pasteurised milk. What will the Government do then? What excuse will they give?
At present, the economics of doorstep deliveries are finely balanced. It will not necessarily require a flood of imports to distort, change and disturb the industry's pattern. What will the Government do to monitor the effect of imports? Before things go any further, will the Minister — if he is successful in defeating our prayer — immediately offer to hold discussions with all those concerned in the dairy trade, the trade unions and the distributors and so on, so that he is in a position to act swiftly if there is any evidence of a challenge to doorstep deliveries?
Will my hon. Friend invite the Minister to tell us whether, as he suggested, the Government have gone rather further than they needed to? Would the Minister care to tell the House whether the Government could have taken steps to ensure that we would not receive cream from countries where foot and mouth disease was endemic? It would have been reasonable to make that stipulation, given this country's record of keeping itself generally free from disease.
I accept that point, and I am glad that may hon. Friend asked that question. There are many questions that I should like to ask, but time does not permit me to do so. However, I hope that my hon. Friend receives an answer, because at this stage we should not still be asking why the Minister did that. Given the importance of the issue, he should have told us without being asked.
The decision to take us to the European Court shows us something about the Commission's bureaucracy that must be the despair of those remaining few who believe wholeheartedly in the EEC. The Commission cannot leave well alone. We have a unique system of doorstep delivery, which is not doing anyone any harm. However, it is clear that the consequences of change for us were disregarded. It was impossible for the Commission to do other than apply the grey uniformity which goes under the euphemism of harmonisation.
Conservative Members have an important responsibility to defend the rights of the House and consumers. The Government's response, by going further in these regulations than compelled to by the court decision, displays an accelerating trend in their behaviour to the EC that is too prevalent. The Government have indulged in strong rhetoric in the defence of British interests, but they are woefully inadequate when action is required to defend those interests. The interests of the people, producers and distributors would be served best by the rejection of these regulations, and I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to join us in the Division Lobby.
On behalf of the House I express my warm good wishes to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) on becoming the Opposition spokesman on agriculture, fisheries and food. — [Ho N. MEMBERS: "Why is he not in the Shadow Cabinet?"] That is a matter for the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) who sits grinning. No doubt, as a good party manager. he will prevail upon his Back Benchers to ensure that the hon. Gentleman obtains more votes next year.
We are sad that the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) is not well. He previously filled the role now being played by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to pass on to the hon. Member for Paisley, South the good wishes of the House.
These new regulations, which were laid before the House a few weeks ago, are essential to enable the United Kingdom to comply with Community law and to provide effective public health safeguards on imports for the British consumer. The European Court of Justice decided in a judgment in February this year that the United Kingdom's present regulations, which have the effect of preventing imports of UHT milk, are inconsistent with our obligations under articles 30 and 36 of the treaty of Rome and are therefore contrary to Community law.
In the light of this ruling, the Government have no option but to comply with the law, and my predecessor announced this intention immediately after the judgment. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North say—I think it was a responsible remark—that he agrees that the Government of the day must obey the law of the land.
The Government were sufficiently keen to make a mockery of the European Court's rulings on our equality legislation when they introduced an order on equal pay for work of equal value, which did nothing to implement the European Court's judgment. May we look to the Government on this important issue similarly to undermine the European Court's judgment—this time in the national interest?
I have sufficient responsibilities under my agriculture, fisheries and food portfolio without becoming involved in that matter. The hon. Lady must discuss it on one of the many occasions that I am sure the House will provide to debate women's lib. Many matters will be raised tonight, and I hope that we can keep away from that.
In the light of the European Court's ruling, the Government have no option but to comply with the law. If we fail to do so, we shall inevitably expose ourselves to the possibility of further proceedings in the European Court. The House should note that we should be vulnerable also to proceedings in our domestic courts. I acknowledge the concern of hon. Members about the economic consequences of complying with the judgment and the detail of our regulations. I hope in due course to deal with all of those points.
I trust that no hon. Member will dispute the general principle that Ministers and their officials should comply with the law of the land. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North has set the tone. There have been suggestions by hon. Members, including the hon. Gentleman, that we should comply with the law, but only slowly or partially. That would not be a tenable position, and to adopt it would prompt an immediate further challenge in the courts. There is nothing in the judgment or in articles 30 and 36 of the treaty of Rome to suggest that a gradual or partial compliance with these obligations is sufficient. There is no such principle in our law or that of the Community, nor is there any evidence that the European Court, the Commission as a whole, any other member state or individual trader would have acquiesced in such an arrangement.
I have good reason to doubt whether the Commission would have accepted a further delay beyond the nine or so months since the Court judgment and our compliance with that judgment.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is widespread feeling among organisations dealing with the welfare of the elderly that these regulations, if implemented, could be the beginning of the end for milk deliveries to their homes? The implications would be serious for our retired people.
We are all aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in matters affecting the elderly. I shall deal with that point at the end of my speech when I discuss the importance of the doorstep delivery.
We must comply with the judgment, but that does not mean that there has to be a free-for-all. On the contrary, although the judgment requires us to admit imports, it acknowledges that in the interest of public health the United Kingdom can lay down objective conditions on the quality of milk before heat treatment and on the methods of treating and packing imported milk. The judgment acknowedges also that we can operate a system of certification and that we can sample and test imports to ensure that our requirements for the protection of public health are met. These observations by the court are significant, and they are fully reflected in the rigorous import regime that will be established by these regulations to protect public health.
The general effect of the regulations is to ensure that imports will be subjected to requirements equivalent to the stringent health and hygiene safeguards that we apply to our milk production. I hope that that answers the question of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North. The regulations provide that imports must be accompanied by a prescribed certificate properly completed. The form of the certificate is being published today, as the hon. Gentleman said, in the London Gazette.
For public health purposes, the importer will be required to provide a range of factual information about each consignment and to give guarantees relating, first, to the condition of the milk before processing; secondly, to the heat treatment process; and thirdly, to the end product. The regulations lay down detailed rules for the examination of imports at the ports.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North asked whether the port health authorities could examine the milk. I refer him to statutory instrument No. 1563, page 6, schedule 2 where paragraph 3 gives a great many powers. It provides:
For the purposes of further examination under this paragraph an authorised officer may, to such extent as is reasonable and within such time as is reasonable
do many things, including taking, testing and analysing samples of imported milk and so on. That demonstrates that the inspecting officer at the port has the right not just to inspect products externally but also to sample and open them.
In England and Wales it will be the responsibility of the port health authorities, who are already responsible for monitoring the safety of other imported foodstuffs, to carry out the examination. They have the experienced staff and the necessary infrastructure to ensure that the job is done thoroughly and that public health is fully protected. The port authorities will work closely with my Department and will take samples——
I have given way a great deal. I must proceed. To achieve uniformity of standards and the necessary co-ordination, it is necessary to restrict trade to ports which have the facilities and expertise necessary to provide adequate safeguards in this important health function.
England and Wales has 144 ports, and we have designated 17 of them, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North said. They are the ports which are already designated to handle meat. All those ports have great experience in the public health aspects of the meat trade. It is logical that milk should be added.
My right hon. Friends are designating two ports in Scotland and three entry points in Northern Ireland, details of which will be published in the appropriate Gazettes.
I must proceed. The regulations are concerned solely with public health safeguards. They do not deal with animal health, which is covered by existing legislation. I heard someone mention foot and mouth disease which is what I shall deal with now.
There has been some public controversy about safeguards against foot and mouth disease. We are changing from a system of specific animal health licensing for UHT and sterilised milk, cream and milk-based drinks, to one of general licences as a result of the European Court judgment. I assure the House that our conditions will continue to provide adequate safeguards against the introduction of foot and mouth disease.
The time-temperature combination of heat treatment required for UHT products under the animal health regulations is a minimum of 135°C for at least one second and for sterilised products 108°C for 45 minutes. My veterinary advisers are satisfied that these combinations are sufficient to provide an adequate safeguard against the risk of introducing animal diseases such as foot and mouth. I have had this advice confirmed by the experts from the Animal Virus Research Institute at Pirbright, which I think will be recognised as the world reference laboratory for foot and mouth disease.
If any case of foot and mouth disease were to occur in a country which sends milk to us, we would immediately investigate the circumstances to see whether there was any risk of post-processing contamination. In such an event we would consider what additional precautions were necessary—for example, area restrictions.
That is one of the most disturbing statements that I have heard during my 13 years in the House. If ever a stable door was being closed after the horse had bolted, it is that one. It is a disgrace for any Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to come to the House with such regulations when we have no additional controls to prevent the import of foot and mouth disease. I am appalled by the Minister's statement.
If foot and mouth disease broke out in a country within the Community, and there have been a number of outbreaks of the disease in the Community over the years, although not many, we would deal with it in relation to milk in almost exactly the same way as we would for any other food product.
Dairy farmers in my constituency have put two points to me. The first is the fact that foot and mouth disease is endemic in Community countries. Secondly, what guarantee is there that the tests, which my right hon. Friend assures me are adequate, will be done? Is there any inspection by which we will know that the tests will conform to the standards?
There were two outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Denmark in 1982. It is well known that we import a great deal of bacon and pig products from Denmark. It has been a regular practice for Britain to import animal products from countries in which foot and mouth disease has appeared from time to time. The hon. Gentleman is being unreasonable in making a fuss about this matter.
I shall deal with the scope of the regulations. The first point that I wish to make, which has not been sufficiently acknowledged, is that we do not start with a clean slate. Far from it——
I shall give way later. Before the judgment, imports of all types of milk were effectively prevented. As a result of the decision taken by the Labour Government in 1977, from that date imports of cream have been freely admitted. When the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes) refers to milk imports I hope that he recalls that in 1977 imports of cream were freely admitted. Some of the criticism from Opposition Members is strange.
I will not give way.
This matter was seized upon by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice and was criticised as being inconsistent treatment of products with similar health risks. In framing our regime, we have had to consider several constraints. First, the measures that we propose for imports must, in accordance with the treaty, be entirely justifiable on public health grounds. We cannot introduce restrictions for economic reasons.
Secondly, such measures must not be more stringent than those which apply to home production, although our intention is that they shall be no less so. Thirdly, they must be consistent. We cannot treat different products differently when the health risks are the same. Fourthly, we should not, without good reason, interrupt an existing trade. Several serious legal challenges under our interim regime since February have underlined the importance of that matter.
The application of the four criteria lead to two important conclusions, which must be spelt out. First, there is no question that our measures can be confined to ultra-heat treated milk. The judgment was confined to UHT milk because that was the subject of the complaint before the court which, in its judgment, interpreted how the provisions of articles 30 and 36 of the treaty should be applied. Those articles are of general scope and apply to all types of milk. We have had to consider how the principles laid down by the court should apply to other types of milk.
Our second conclusion was that we must devise a regime which takes account not only of the wider implications of the judgment, but which draws a dividing line, as do these regulations, on the strongest possible legal basis. This means that we must take full account of the four criteria to which I have referred. I can see much disadvantage in making a minimal provision in our regulations which could be attached immediately, on a legal basis, as being inadequate and call for a relaxation of our initial regime.
I shall illustrate these principles by explaining why we decided to make provision for the import of sterilised milk and of frozen pasteurised cream. Sterilised milk in the United Kingdom is subject to a spectrum of heat treatments and not to just one standard form of treatment. It consists of using temperatures ranging between 104 and 113 deg C and with times of treatment ranging between 15 and 40 minutes.
We are imposing a requirement on imports of 108 deg C for 45 minutes, which is equivalent to treatments in the upper part of the spectrum, and is more rigorous than those which we propose to require as the minimum for UHT milk, which is treated at 132·2 deg C for one second. There could be no public health justification for not making provision for the import of such sterilised milk. We already admit freely imports of sterilised cream as a result of the Labour Government's decision, to which I referred. I understand fully the economic importance of sterilised milk in United Kingdom milk consumption, but at present there are no imports of that product. I can see no purpose in legislating to exclude imports of that product if such a decision cannot be defended legally on public health grounds.
Sterilised milk at the lower end of the spectrum is a product similar to pasteurised milk, where the safeguards provided by a rigorous heat treatment process are not available. We have, therefore, not provided for this product in the regulations.
The present position under the regulations is that pasteurised milk, which comprises about 90 per cent. of our liquid milk consumption, and sterilised milk, which has been treated less vigorously than UHT milk, will continue to be banned from entering the United Kingdom.
When the hon. Gentleman says "not for long", he is saying that should there be a further attack by the courts, we should lose the case. That is not my view. That is a defeatist and dangerous attitude to take on public health grounds. I hope the hon. Gentleman will reflect upon his comment, which is damaging to public health in Britain.
It is a bit rough for the Minister to complain that what happened in 1977 is all the fault of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin). The Minister has, by these regulations, opened the door so far that he will face difficulties, although I believe that he can succeed. The Minister, by going so far, has given the Opposition no confidence that the Government will stand by the industry.
When the hon. Gentleman reads what I have said, he will regret the remark that he made from a sedentary position a few moments ago.
There is a small existing trade in frozen pasteurised cream, which follows the Labour Government's decision in 1977. Although frozen pasteurised cream is not subject to rigorous heat treatment, as compared with UHT milk or cream, we consider that the public health status of the product is acceptable under suitable conditions because the freezing prevents the growth of contaminating pathogenic bacteria which would otherwise multiply steadily at room temperature or even at refrigerator temperature.
I wish to deal with the time and temperature combinations of heat treatment. We propose to require, in the new domestic regulations for UHT cream and milk-based drinks and in the parallel provisions for imports, a minimum treatment of 140 deg C for two seconds. That is higher than the public health requirement of 132·2 deg C for one second, which we have had for the past 20 years in our domestic legislation for UHT milk. On technical grounds, it is reasonable to specify a slightly higher standard for cream, which is of course thicker, and for flavoured milk to which other substances have been added. Recently there have been suggestions that to provide the fullest safeguards against some public health hazards, such as botulism, we should specify in our import regulations a standard for milk similar to that proposed for cream.
In considering that suggestion I had to examine two matters: first, the fact that in practice other member states already apply more stringent standards to their UHT milk—140 deg C for two seconds — although in most cases this goes beyond what is provided for in their legislation; and secondly, I have been conscious of the fact that to specify this higher standard in our import regulations would require us to have the same standards in our domestic regulations, which might be unwelcome in some sections of our industry.
Against that background I have taken the view that it would be right to maintain the present provision for milk in our domestic regulations of 132·2 deg C for one second, and to have the same provision in our import regulations. However, I am ready to have further discussions on the views that have been expressed, and to consider, in the outcome of those discussions and of the information that we shall be gathering about the standard of treatment of the imported product, whether a later amendment to the regulations will be needed with regard to the heat and time treatment of UHT milk. That assurance meets one of the requests of the National Farmers Union, and also meets the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North.
It was a Labour Minister who opened the stable door, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue this matter. I will not give a time scale for it.
I know that the possible economic implications of the proposed imports cause great concern to the dairy industry, which has been extremely vociferous — I do not blame it for that—in propagating its views of how we should tackle the problem that has been created by the European Court's judgment. My Department has had full consultations with the industry, and I am bound to say that I am disappointed that in many recent public statements the industry has concentrated negatively on the possible economic dangers and has largely ignored the legal and other considerations that must be taken into account.
I am well aware of the fear that cheap milk in the shops could undermine the doorstep delivery service, although I should add that the threat comes not only from imported milk. Hon. Members will remember the recent Tesco milk offer, when pasteurised milk was sold for a short time with a minuscule mark-up at a price substantially undercutting the doorstep-delivered price. The milk was about 4p a pint cheaper than the milk delivered on the doorstep. I am not against sensible developments to widen consumer choice on an economic base, but I am well aware of the adverse consequences for consumers, for milk producers and for those who work in the dairy industry, that could flow from a sudden decline in or a loss of doorstep deliveries. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) referred to old-age pensioners, whom I have very much in mind.
However, we must be careful not to exaggerate the risk of that happening or to increase it by unwise reactions to the threat of imports. I remind the House that the taste of UHT and sterilised milk must limit its appeal to British consumers, accustomed as they are to fresh pasteurised milk. I do not know how many hon. Members have tried it, but I think that it tastes horrid. I cannot believe that many people would wish to try it twice——
—and having tasted it once I would not wish to do so again.
During the months since I have been responsible for such matters, I have been impressed by the wide support enjoyed by the doorstep delivery service. That has emerged clearly from my correspondence and from the many representations that have been made to me by hon. Members and by their constituents.
I know of and welcome the efforts being made by the National Dairy Council and the Glass Manufacturers Federation to remind consumers of the great advantages of the doorstep delivery service and its dependence on consumer support. That is the right approach, because in the last resort the service, and the many jobs that go with it, depend on the support of the consumer. The British consumer values both the product and the service provided. If the dairy industry continues to bend its efforts towards maintaining and improving the service and the product, and gives publicity to its advantages rather than those of the imported substitute, this unique service will retain the loyalty of the British consumer. I have full confidence in the industry's commercial skill and capacity to compete. Supermarkets may wish to expand their sales, but they have no interest in giving priority to imports. The Government have no wish to damage doorstep deliveries —quite the reverse—but they cannot seek to protect it by improper means. It is up to the industry to fight for its market, and I believe that it can do so.
I urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to vote against the motion and to join me in encouraging our consumers to continue to support the regular doorstep delivery of fresh, pasteurised, British milk.
I listened with great interest to the Secretary of State, who referred throughout his speech to imported milk and to UHT milk. However, in Northern Ireland the door has been open to other products for some time. In Northern Ireland, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, there are high standards for the treatment of milk. However, if we must import milk from the continent and from the rest of the island of Ireland, we fear that those countries will not impose equal standards on their dairy products and that we cannot have equal treatment or equal competition with our products.
There are high transport costs involved in bringing milk from the Continent, but in Northern Ireland those high transport costs do not exist, because the milk is simply loaded into a tanker, which is driven across the border. I am curious—no doubt the Minister will give us full information about this when he replies—about the three entry points that he mentioned. Are they land frontier entry points, sea ports, or a combination of both? As I understand it, milk from Great Britain will still not be imported into Northern Ireland or, perhaps, the rest of the island of Ireland when the regulations are passed. I hope they are not passed, but there is a question there which demands an answer.
The Library has provided me with an interesting research note which I assume the Minister has seen. On page 8 of that document, the Minister will find a list of the retail prices of liquid pasteurised milk at January 1983 in various Common Market countries. He will discover that the retail price in the United Kingdom was 37p per litre, whereas in Eire it was 26·5p. That difference arises because the method and organisation of milk production and processing in the Irish Republic is very different from that in Northern Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom. A considerable price differential has appeared—10·5p a litre.
When non-United Kingdom produced milk starts to flow across the border into Northern Ireland, the effect upon the dairy industry there will be horrific. It is inevitable that the milk will not so much flow as rush in a raging torrent across the frontier. Because of the system in the United Kingdom, that rush will have a disturbing effect throughout the nation. There is no way in which to avoid that. The Minister should tell us far more. What he has revealed today will simply create terror among producers in Northern Ireland.
The Government have also skated lightly over the importation of cream. The Minister talked of fresh cream imports under the previous Labour Government. Is it not a fact that those imports came principally from the Irish Republic? I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman was careful to qualify what he said when discussing them. He said that there was no way in which imports could be prevented when they came from countries that have health standards that are similar to ours. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) an assurance on 10 May that health standards in the Irish Republic were the same as those in Northern Ireland. That is one matter on which there has been general agreement between Dublin and Belfast for many years. Standards might not always be as well administered in the southern part of the country as they are in Northern Ireland, but there is an intention that standards should be similar.
The Minister used the similarity of standards between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in an attempt to justify the importation of fresh cream from continental countries. Hon. Members will realise that he was not comparing like with like. If he was attempting to do that he should explain which countries in the EC have similar health standards to those appertaining in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
The Minister was not convincing today, and it will take a great deal more to convince the milk producing community in Northern Ireland that their future is assured, in spite of what has been announced today. The imports that we are being asked to allow were supposed to be confined to UHT and sterilised milk. The Minister went further than that and without justification. As a result, he has created grave circumstances for the dairying part of the agricultural community. What does the Minister mean by sterilised? He gave us a string of figures and described various treatments. I shall read what he said with interest tomorrow. On 10 May in reply to the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Spence) — he represented Thirsk and Malton before the general election—who asked whether
UHT milk carries foot and mouth disease and whether research had been carried out, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said:
The answer is no, as the temperatures used in the process would kill the disease."—[Official Report, 10 May 1983; Vol. 42, c. 759.]
Information that I have received casts some doubt on that answer. There is also the clostridium botulinum bacterium. On foot and mouth disease, a document which I have received states:
there is uncertainty about the lethal effect on the foot and mouth virus of heating milk to 132·2°C for one second and since imports will be permitted from Member States with endemic foot and mouth disease … it is imperative that the heat treatment should be increased to 140°C for 2 seconds.
The Minister told us that Pirbright informed him that the treatment that he will insist on will be sufficient. I wonder about that. Foot and mouth is endemic in many countries. The most recent outbreak in Britain cost the farming community and the state an enormous amount of money. If the most recent outbreak is considered to have been many years ago, I should like to have the right hon. Gentleman's definition of "many years" as there was a major outbreak in the 1970s. By farming standards, that is not many years ago—it is the very recent past. The raw scars of that outbreak remain in farmers' minds. We do not want to take the risk of repeating those dreadful months.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that information. The outbreak was even more recent than I thought. However, there was a much more serious outbreak a few years earlier, and it proved much more costly.
According to my information, the problem is that cows can secrete the foot and mouth virus into milk for several days before they show clinical signs of having the disease. Therefore, imports of pasteurised cream involve a risk of introducing the virus to Britain. Moreover, there is a grave risk that the virus will be spread throughout the country before its presence is detected. Freezing has no effect on the survival of the virus. People do not eat frozen cream. My experience is that people take the stuff out of the freezer, thaw it and whip it or use it in some other form. A small quantity could be left over for several days. That is the normal procedure in every household, as every hon. Member and housewife knows.
The danger is real and great and the Minister's attempt to justify importing fresh or frozen cream is unacceptable. It is certainly unacceptable to me. I hope that it is unacceptable to the House, although no doubt the Whips will ensure that in the eyes of the world it will appear to be acceptable to the House.
As the hon. Gentleman refers specifically to Northern Ireland, I confirm that the health status of the Republic of Ireland is the same as that of Northern Ireland. Imports from the south therefore involve no risk of foot and mouth disease.
With regard to imports from other EC states, I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will need to be specific animal health licenses certified by the veterinary authorities in the north, who will require to satisfy themselves as to the animal health status of the country of origin and the heat treatment to which the product has been subjected. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but that statement does not take us very far. He referred to heat treatment, but there is no heat treatment, in the sense used hitherto, in the formation of frozen cream. The process goes in the other direction. The temperature is lowered, not raised. I therefore find his comments surprising, but perhaps we may have a fuller explanation of the process later.
I am not just concerned about Northern Ireland. Like all hon. Members, I am concerned about the United Kingdom as a whole. The Minister said in opening that there was no way in which the United Kingdom could interfere in another country's affairs. There were, of course, interruptions from various parts of the House whenever he made that comment. At present, as for many years past, at the various potato-exporting ports of Northern Ireland there are Egyptian inspectors to ensure that potatoes from Northern Ireland farms meet the standard required by Egypt. If that can be done with potatoes, why should not similar and indeed more comprehensive arrangements be made for milk?
I see no reason why that should not take place within the Community. If the United Kingdom accepts such inspections so that we can sell seed potatoes to Egypt, other countries which are clearly anxious to make money out of selling milk here— they intend to make a profit, not a loss—should be willing to accept the stringent demands that we ought to make but apparently have not so far made in this respect.
Grave concern is always expressed about the future of doorstep deliveries. There is no doubt that doorstep deliveries are threatened by the import of milk. I understand that the economics of the doorstep delivery system is very finely balanced. The economics of the whole United Kingdom milk sector is equally finely balanced. If our milk sector is disrupted to such an extent that the doorstep delivery falls, the whole house of cards will fall and all the jobs involved in transport and delivery of milk will disappear. That is extremely serious. Moreover, the whole structure — the sharing arrangements and co-operation in the present monopoly—will be at risk and the whole system of milk production in which there has been such vast public and private investment will be destroyed, causing great hardship for many farmers.
The entire milk industry of this country — the production, sale, treatment and delivery of milk—is under threat as a result of the regulations. That is why the House is so worried. That anxiety is to be found not only
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food told her hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr):
the same health and hygiene requirements." —— [Official Report, 10 May 1983; Vol. 42, c. 759.]
will apply to imports from other countries as apply to imports from the Irish Republic. From what I have heard this evening it seems that the Government are failing to live up to that undertaking. There is no way in which any
British Government can say that the status of animal health on the continent is anything like as good as it is in the island of Ireland. Therefore, the Government have retreated from the promise made on 10 May. Everyone concerned with the milk industry must condemn that failure, and I hope that hon. Members will do so in the Lobby tonight.
Those farmers who listened to their leadership — which has not yet changed its mind — when we discussed the Common Market 10 years ago should now realise how foolish they were to do so. The pigeons are coming home to roost, and the farmers do not like the pigeons very much.
To say the least, one is concerned about these regulations. The Government have been placed in a difficult situation following the European Court case of 8 February. However, no hon. Member has acknowledged that the Government have kept out this milk for a long time. It is a miracle that that has been done, particularly as we are members of a community which believes in free trade.
One can understand the reasons why the Government have brought forward these regulations. They have been obliged to accept and introduce them. One can also understand the real fears and strong feelings of the various milk organisations in the United Kingdom. Indeed, much is at stake if doorstep deliveries are threatened.
The Opposition's case is not convincing. Sadly. they never mention the producer, and he is concerned about these matters as well.
Well, not very strongly. It must also be remembered that the president of the NFU has said that we must accept these regulations and that it would be unwise if we were to change course now.
Although the Opposition Front Bench made it quite clear that we should accept the ruling of the European Court, other hon. Members, including some of my hon. Friends, have said that they do not. I remind Opposition Members in particular that in 1977 the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food introduced the pigmeat subsidy. A European Court ruling was given on 21 May and on 11 June the subsidy was stopped. The Socialist Minister acted quickly on that occasion, and my right hon. Friend is doing exactly the same now.
How the doorstep delivery system will be affected by UHT imports is unpredictable. The future depends on our action to counter those imports. We should go on the attack. We have the best milk in the world. Instead of accepting this situation, we should be counter-attacking all the time. The future of doorstep deliveries depends on the quality of milk, the service and the price. That must be remembered as well.
My big criticism of the Opposition and of some sections of the dairy trade is the tremendous publicity they have given to this milk. Many people had not heard of sterilised or UHT milk, but they have now. The Socialists and others who oppose the regulations have given the product the best publicity it could have received. There has been free advertising all along the line. Many housewives and consumers will say, "This milk is cheaper by 5p a pint; let us try it." The Opposition have done a grave disservice to doorstep deliveries by their free advertising.
UHT and sterilised milk are not of the same standard as fresh milk. Certainly I do not like the taste. I have heard that even cats do not like sterilised milk. We must publicise good, fresh milk which has been pasteurised. The Milk Marketing Board and the industry are determined to go forward on the attack rather than being on the defensive.
There are strong rumours that parts of the trade want to import fresh milk, perhaps to undermine the power of the Milk Marketing Board. If what I have heard is true, it destroys completely the case of the Opposition. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give some information about that.
The Opposition and the trade unions have forgotten something else, and I hope that the shadow Minister will listen carefully. If we do not adopt the regulations, there may be legal problems not only in the Community but in this country if people wish to purchase imported milk. I wish my right hon. Friend had put more stress on that aspect of the matter.
What I fear most is retaliation against food exports. If we refuse to import milk from some parts of the Community, what will they say about our exports of food? I must declare an interest, because in my constituency are North Devon Meat and other food processing companies. If there were retaliation, trade union members in such plants would be affected. I do not think the Opposition have thought about that. It could undermine our whole food export trade. I accept that there is a delicate balance. I would much rather things continued as they are, but we must accept the regulations. Much is at stake.
I hope that the Minister will refer to foot and mouth disease. I have had an excellent brief from the Milk Marketing Board which shows clearly that some countries are concerned about our exports of milk powder. If there were the slightest suspicion that there was foot and mouth in this country they would not accept our milk powder.
I was coming to that. We have evidence that there has been a problem when there has been a suspicion of foot and mouth in this country. We also need to study carefully the problem of chlostridium botulinum.
I have received an excellent brief from the Milk Marketing Board in Northern Ireland. That country produces excellent milk. Indeed, I have a soft spot for Northern Ireland, as I was once a Minister there. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider the whole question of frozen pasteurised cream. I am not at all happy about that. If Northern Ireland feels strongly about it, we should consider the matter again.
The Opposition do not have a leg to stand on. It was a previous Labour Government who opened the door to the difficulties that we are now facing. They cannot wriggle out of that. On balance, I shall support the Minister, but I hope that he will take note of the various points that have been raised during the debate.
My message to the Opposition and to the dairy trade is, "For goodness sake go on to the attack. We have the best milk in the world, so let us sell it."
I have the honour to speak in the debate as chairman of the co-operative parliamentary group. The debate is of the first importance to the co-operative movement which is, of course, much the largest consumer organisation in Britain. It is with pride that I declare an interest as a co-operatively sponsored Member of Parliament. As well as being the largest consumer organisation, the co-operative movement is both the largest farmer and the largest supplier of liquid milk. Those are its credentials for insisting that its voice should be heard in this important debate.
Britain has more liquid milk sales than any other country in Europe. Furthermore, the volume of milk sales is related to the extent of doorstep delivery, which exceeds that in any other country. All the evidence suggests that, when doorstep deliveries decline, the consumption of milk falls with it. The co-op—or rather the co-ops, because we are not in any way a monolithic entity, but rather a collection of community-based, community-owned and community-oriented voluntary associations — together supply more than one quarter of the nation's milk. We do so through a doorstep delivery service, which we want to continue in the interests of our many millions of members. We also sell milk in shops, where the price is lower than for doorstep deliveries but it is our view that milk imports, at perhaps 5p or 6p a pint cheaper than milk sold on the doorstep, could seriously undermine the doorstep delivery system.
Milk is a price-sensitive commodity for many families. There are 7 million people living in or near poverty. A price differential of 5p or 6p is a considerable incentive to them to opt for foreign milk. I hope that no one will try to minimise the importance of the price factor.
The doorstep delivery of milk would, in many cases, become uneconomic if there was even a marginal switch to cheap imported milk. The profit on doorstep deliveries is small. If only 3 per cent. of consumers switched to imported milk in shops, or bought 3 per cent. less each week from their milkman, his round could become uneconomic. In consequence, the remaining 97 per cent. of consumers on the round would lose their choice of doorstep delivery. For many, that would inevitably mean that they could not even choose between fresh and long-life milk. The elderly and the disabled, large family units and those living in remote areas without private transport, would be especially hard hit. The effect of fewer rounds would be a drop in the consumption of milk. That would be bad nutritionally, especially as replacement food, if any, would almost certainly be more expensive, and therefore the poorest would suffer most.
There is also the issue of public health. The Government's approach to the issue seems to the cooperative movement to be an abandonment of the previous policy. The change is, in our view, highly dangerous and unacceptable. It is one from "no risk" to "minimum risk" and I am by no means reassured by the parliamentary replies that I have had from Ministers on this issue.
The consumer interest in the doorstep delivery of milk is reinforced by the producer and distribution interests. The number of jobs that are at risk, the industries that face decline, perhaps even extinction, must also be considered. There are tens of thousands of workers directly involved in the doorstep delivery service and many more on farms and in industries such as glass, bottling and electric vehicle manufacturing.
My hon. Friends the Members for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) have made a very distinguished contribution in arranging for the workers whose jobs are at risk to have their case heard by the House. I know that my hon. Friends will speak on the employment consequences of what is proposed. At the same time, I am sure that my hon. Friends will have been pleased to learn that Brian Hellowell, speaking for the cooperative movement, recently made it clear that we are concerned not only with interests of consumers, but also
…to preserve jobs and the vital service aspect of doorstep contact.
The Minister, who has left the Chamber, told me in a reply on Monday:
…in the last resort the future of this unique service can be assured only by the continued support of consumers." —[Official Report, 14 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 354.]
He should have said, and must now recognise, that the future of this unique service can be determined by the merest minority of consumers. As I have shown, as few as 3 per cent. of consumers could leave very many milk rounds no longer viable. What the Minister is doing is to allow freedom of choice for the vast majority to be put at risk by a tiny minority of defectors to foreign milk. It is a central fallacy in the Minister's speech tonight, as in his reply to me on Monday, to imply that the majority of consumers can save the doorstep delivery service. It can be ended by a small minority of consumers.
Quite apart from my role in the Co-operative movement, there are two other reasons why I have a special interest in the debate. First, as the Minister knows, I had very close links with the Department for a number of years, going back to the mid-1960s—that is, long before the second coming of Lord Peart.
The other reason is that, as the then Minister responsible for the disabled, I was very much involved in the making and launching of the Dairy Trade Federation's "Care Code" for milk roundsmen in 1977. The code asks milkmen to observe, inquire and take action whenever milk they have delivered has not been taken in, or if they see any other signs that a customer may be in serious difficulty. The success of the code over the past six years has shown how our doorstep delivery service provides an essential link with the outside world for the elderly and the disabled. There are countless instances of milk roundsmen coming to the aid of their customers who are in trouble.
Most of the instances of help given by milk roundsmen have gone unreported, but the Ely milkman who, in July of this year, received a bravery award for rescuing two children from their burning home, and the Knaresborough dairyman who discovered an elderly lady who had suffered a stroke, are two striking examples of the code's success. Therefore, the Minister must not be allowed to ignore the social cost of undermining the uniquely valuable service of doorstep delivery.
Many will have read a recent article about milk imports by John Young in The Times. After pointing out that tomorrow the floodgates are to be opened and, for the first time in our history, foreign milk will be imported, he said:
All that stands in the way is the House of Commons, which will be urged on Wednesday evening to throw out the new regulations and tell the European Court to mind its own business.
Far from telling the court to mind its own business, the Minister has gone further than the strict requirements of this provision by allowing in sterilised milk and pasteurised cream.
I quote from a letter from the National Joint Council for the Dairy Industry in England and Wales, which says:
What is causing most anxiety is that the Minister of Agriculture intends to let in sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream as well as UHT milk. This is beyond the requirements of the European Court and goes against previous Government assurances.
Does the Minister think that the French would go further than a decision of the European Court and, by so doing, damage the French national interest? He surely cannot believe that, but he has gone much further than he was required to do by the strict terms of the court's decision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) pointed out that there was an inconsistency between the Government's attitude on this issue and their attitude on equal treatment for women. It was not good enough for the Minister to say that he had no responsibility in that field. He is a member of the same Government as the Minister who is standing in the way of a court decision that does not suit this Government. The Minister's speech was inadequate, glib and grossly incompetent.
Fundamentally, what we are dealing with tonight is another of the absurd consequences of the common agricultural policy of the EC. I hope that many Conservative Members will join us tonight in resisting these orders. It will be much to their honour if they do.
I intend to make a brief contribution to the debate tonight in order to describe to the House some of the reasons why I am unable to support my Government in extending the regulations to include the importation of sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream from the EC, in addition to the UHT long-life milk which we are now obliged to admit, whether or not we want it.
In this debate I wear three hats in championing the cause of the British dairy industry, the milk retailer and the consumer, of whom I am one. In my constituency there are many efficient and well-run dairy farms in a county, Cheshire is renowned throughout the world for the excellence of its dairy products, which include the famous Cheshire cheeses—I stress that we have more than one—which we export all over the world.
We in Britain are not producing the milk surpluses that exist in the EC today. In the forthcoming reform of the common agricultural policy we shall be looking to the Minister to press for national quotas on milk so that those countries that are at present producing the surpluses will have to pay for those surpluses and be penalised for producing over and above their agreed national quotas. I do not want to see efficient British farmers subsidising the over-production of milk by countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Germany.
The dairy industry has fought long and hard to stop the importation of UHT milk, but reluctantly has had to accept last February's ruling of the European Court, with certain reservations. However, since then, and much to our disappointment, the Minister has seen fit to include in the new regulations the importation of sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream, and that will have a considerable effect on the industry as a whole.
It will particularly affect one of our national institutions, the doorstep delivery of milk. This service must continue if we are to keep up the sales of British fresh liquid milk, which is produced efficiently on the farms and is then transported to the dairies where it is processed and bottled under the strictest and most hygienic conditions before being delivered daily to the consumers.
During the recess I was fortunate to visit many dairy farms in my constituency to see one end of the operation. I also visited Healds, a big dairy in Manchester, where I saw the bottling and other processes. I am grateful to have had that experience, because it has helped me considerably.
The doorstep delivery of milk is of tremendous benefit to several sections of society. They have already been mentioned in the debate. The elderly, disabled, young mothers with small children and those who live in remote rural areas without their own transportation rely on doorstep deliveries. We have been told that a change of only 3 per cent. from the consumption of our own fresh pasteurised milk to foreign imported milk could affect the whole structure of doorstep deliveries. In that event, sales of liquid milk in Britain would drop considerably and that would badly affect many sections of the dairy industry, including the farmers. People will often go to the shops to buy cheap imported milk, but the others in the community whom I have described will find it difficult to carry enough bottled milk home. The result will be a drop in consumption, and that will be neither good nor practical.
If the doorstep delivery ceased, a social service would be lost. I hasten to add that it is a valuable social service which costs the state not a penny, which is more than can be said of many social services. Every day a friendly milk roundsman calls in the neighbourhood. He can spot at first hand the tell-tale signs of trouble or illness in the household of, say, an elderly resident. As we know, once a service to the community ceases it is rarely restored, and society is the poorer for that.
The effects on public health might prove even more damaging, because imported sterilised milk, which is produced, processed and bottled under far less stringent conditions than apply in Britain, would still contain certain contaminants which could affect both humans and animals. That aspect has been discussed at length in the debate.
That also applies to frozen pasteurised cream, the importation of which would, I believe, be the thin end of the wedge for future imports of fresh pasteurised milk, and that, as a consequence, would undermine even further our efficient dairy industry.
In my area sales of sterilised milk account for about 6 per cent. of the liquid milk sold, and I believe that that is about the national average. However, in certain inner city areas the figure can go as high as 23 per cent. One can imagine what the import of cheaper foreign milk supplied through the shops would do to the small independent roundsman and to the bigger dairies, and the damage that would be done to employment prospects as a result.
Employment in many associated industries would also be affected. I refer to glass manufacture, electric vehicle construction and the manufacture of heavy goods vehicles. That would, in turn, affect my constituency badly, as heavy goods vehicles are manufactured in Sandbach and are certainly used in the dairy industry. I have not even touched on all the other jobs that might be put in jeopardy, including those involving the processing and bottling of milk, distribution to the various depots and delivering the product to the doorstep.
Ultimately, it is the consumer who will suffer once again. However, I for one have great faith in the good common sense of the British housewife who, in her search for good value for money and not just the cheapest product on the market, will come down on the side of the fresh pure British pinta that is delivered to her door. I am one of thousands who feel that we must do all that we can to protect our best national interest in this matter, and I urge the Minister to do exactly the same.
I shall try to be brief, because many other hon. Members wish to speak. I want to concentrate on something that the Minister disgracefully skated over in his speech. I refer to the effect of these measures on British jobs in the milk and supportive industries.
My constituency has the biggest milk bottle manufacturing plant in the country, and probably in Europe. It employs 460 people. It turns out 100 million milk bottles every year. That is one third of this country's output, which is in all, 300 million milk bottles. Hon. Members should imagine the jobs that are involved and the number that will vanish as a result of the regulations. Each milk bottle makes 20 trips, so the job is regular as the bottles do not have any returnable value. In that town the unemployment rate already stands at 14 per cent. with 3,731 people unemployed. The town is surrounded by dairy farms. The Minister's attitude seems to be that the Common Market is the be-all and end-all, and that British jobs must come last. That is not good enough.
That attitude is wholly contrary to the Government's patriotic attitude towards the Falkland Islands. It is time that the Minister started defending jobs in Britain, instead of taking so much notice of the European Court. The production of milk bottles requires a lot of sand, silica, quarrying and so on. When we met the glass manufacturers in the House last Thursday, they were deeply concerned about the effect of these measures on their products. A bottling plant has to run at a high volume. That means that it also turns out, for example, sauce and pop bottles, pickle jars and jam jars. A huge quantity of glass has to be melted. Therefore, if the milk bottle trade goes, the other side of glass manufacturing will go with it. The size of furnace and weight of glass involved car, not be used just to turn out a smaller quantity of, for example, sauce and medicine bottles.
Each milk bottle costs 6p to produce. Supermarkets selling plastic containers of milk will be able to undercut heavily the price of milk that is delivered to the doorstep. To gain a foothold in the market, Common Market imports will be sold as loss leaders and will be widely advertised. It has been said that the taste is not so good, but such milk can be used in Yorkshire puddings, scrambled eggs, milk puddings and in the sort of cheap dietary meals that pensioners and housewives who are on low incomes have to make.
As has been said, in rural areas doorstep deliveries enable the milkman to keep an eye on old people. The milkman will know if someone has not been seen for a few days. However, what will happen now? The milkman knows that if the delivery of milk has not been taken away, he ought to tell the local authorities that something is seriously wrong. If no milkman calls, a pensioner might have to be three of four weeks behind in rent payments before any one knows that he or she is in difficulty.
The Tory Government's attitude to rural areas is unbelievable. With the privatisation of British Telecom — despite the Government's promises—the telephone boxes in the villages will go. During the four years of the Conservative Government, the price of petrol has increased from 84p a gallon to £1·84 a gallon, and this has hammered the rural areas. Village shops have gone to the wall because they cannot afford to trade. In rural areas, old people who do not have a car to take them to the supermarket to buy their milk in bulk will finish up with no milk. It is not economical to deliver a bottle of milk to one house, miss the next 9 or 10 houses and then deliver the milk somewhere else. The milk supply business, which includes delivery, the manufacture of glass, bottling, loading and distribution, is based on volume. The whole industry is attacked if this volume is hit. In the Netherlands, when daily doorstep milk deliveries declined, milk consumed from that source fell from 80 per cent. to 25 per cent. of total consumption.
The Tory Government's philosophy on the market economy affects their attitudes to the Common Market. They say that the market must find its own level and we must have the widest possible market. Why does this not apply to gas? The Government believe in rigging and controlling the gas price and skimming off the profits to regulate consumption and to make it profitable for the Exchequer to pull in an extra £1 billion a year. However, the Government do not apply the same argument to milk. About 55,000 jobs at least — perhaps 75,000 if we include those who work in the quarries to make the raw materials of the milk bottle — are at stake if these regulations are accepted.
The Government are in a supine position and are allowing the Common Market to tread all over them. Last year, the Common Market said that it would revise the way in which it drew up the figures for the proposed British rebate. There were howls of outrage from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. Tonight, they have the opportunity to say to the Common Market: "We are not standing for your juggling of the figures. We shall not acept that you are taking away our rebate. In protest, we shall withdraw these regulations until the matter is sorted out. Until we meet around the table to argue about this rebate, the House will not approve these regulations." The Government would do that if they were as patriotic as they profess and if they were as jingoistic and fond of flag waving as they were during the Falkland Islands incident. The Government accepted the Common Market measures when they agreed to reduce steel production by 14 million tonnes while Italy reduced production by I million tonnes.
The Government accept the milk proposals. They show no patriotism, pride or determination to fight for British jobs in this fallacy that they are proposing. Why do they not act as the French would if wine were entering France from Italy? Why do they not have one point of import, in a similar way to the French when one man at Poitiers handles the incoming Japanese video recorders? It takes six months to do the necessary paper-work and every restriction is placed on this video importation. Britain will have 17 points of import.
The party of jingoism, the Union Jack and rural areas consists of nothing but suckers. They are a push-over when someone else's interests are considered. It is time that the Government stood up to fight for their people in the rural areas and especially for British jobs. A butter mountain can be subsidised; but if there is a coal mountain the pits are shut, the miners are sacked and everything is sold out to the mass commercialism of the Common Market.
The Labour party is the party of Britain. We shall protect British jobs and interests and look after the British consumers. The Conservative party is the party that is selling out.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) has left the Chamber, because I should have liked him to hear my comments about his reference to the Manchester co-operative society which has its headquarters in his constituency. It is the biggest landowner in my constituency, owning about 5,000 to 6,000 acres. It has taken the retrograde step which has incensed the local inhabitants, of banning all forms of foxhunting on its land in Leicestershire. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will read that message in Hansard tomorrow.
I listened with care to what my right hon. Friend said, because I am anxious to support the Government tonight if I can. I have always tried to support my party, but. I confess that I shall not be in the Lobby with it tonight. I have not taken that decision lightly, and I should like to explain briefly why I cannot take that step.
I agree that we must comply with the European Court ruling and allow UHT milk into this country. What worries me, as has been mentioned earlier, is the fact that the DHSS says that to eliminate the possibility of infection, the ultra-heat treatment should be at 140 deg C for two seconds, but I find that the regulations detail 132·2 deg C for one second. That makes me unhappy about accepting the regulations.
I am even more unhappy about sterilised milk. It is all very well for people to say that sterilised milk accounts for only about 6 per cent. of our milk sales, but that varies from one part of the country to another. In parts of the midlands it accounts for one third of sales. I am not altogether happy about approving regulations allowing the importation of sterilised milk from the Community.
If the regulations come into effect after tonight's vote, the heating of sterilised milk will be increased to 108 deg C for 45 minutes. I have received expert advice that contaminants are not destroyed by that level of treatment and are often not destroyed by the level of treatment for UHT milk.
I could have gone along with my party on those points, but I part company with it in relation to the import of frozen pasteurised cream. I have done my best to fall in line with my right hon. Friend, but I have the nagging thought at the back of my mind that if we allow in frozen pasteurised cream — even my right hon. Friend recognises that the health standards of some continental producers are inadequate — we will find it almost impossible not to accept pasteurised milk. If we accept unsatisfactory standards for pasteurised cream, we shall find it difficult to prevent any subsequent attempt to bring in frozen pasteurised milk.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend said that he could agree with the first two points, despite his reservations about the third. Will he remember that frozen pasteurised cream has been imported into Britain for the past seven years as a consequence of the decision of the Labour Government? My hon. Friend may ask whether a ban could have commenced now. Our experience has shown since the court case in February, that we would certainly have been taken straight to the European Court had we sought to change what has become an established chain. We faced an impossible option, but the Government were put into that position because of the decision by the Labour Government.
I am obliged to the Minister for his remarks. I must stress that some hon. Members have striven hard to understand the Minister's point of view. If we narrow down the conundrum, which appears in the complicated group of papers that hon. Members are studying, my right hon. Friend is asking the House to take two additional steps beyond those which the European Court has required. That is where I part company with my right hon. Friend. In any event, we must allow in imports of UHT milk but not sterilised milk. I also do not believe that we should allow frozen pasteurised cream to come into the country. Those battles can be fought later if a case is pressed. For goodness sake, we must not allow all our defences to fall today and allow Britain to become awash with imported milk and cream.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House are worried because many jobs in Britain depend upon the daily doorstep delivery. The milk roundsman is an important person, as the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) mentioned the importance, from a social point of view, of the daily doorstep delivery. We must also bear in mind the ancillary services which complement the daily doorstep deliveries. Our system, which is fragile and truly remarkable, is also a form of social service and is unique in Europe, if not in the entire western world.
I promised to be brief, and I have made my intentions fairly clear. I cannot understand why UHT milk is being imported through 17 ports. If I had had my way, Skegness would have been the only point of access. The UHT milk imports would have taken a long time to get through Skegness. Why on earth must the process of importation be speeded up by providing 17 points of access? When the Minister replies, will he say what the extra cost will be, presumably to the United Kingdom consumer, in running the additional complicated machinery? Will every imported consignment be tested? I hope so. I believe that any import should be subjected to scrutiny and lengthy examination. I trust that the Minister will remember that some hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that he is wrong in this case.
With great regret, I will be unable to go into the Lobby tonight with my hon. Friends.
Once again, I declare an interest, in that there are many dairy producers in my constituency. We are fortunate in that the Milk Marketing Board erected a comprehensive factory many years ago employing hundreds of my constituents. I congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) on a constructive maiden speech in his new responsibility of shadow spokesman for agriculture. I wish the hon. Gentleman well.
I believe the Minister to be a sorry man. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will regret trying to persuade the House to accept the regulations. When history is written, perhaps he will be regarded as the man who began to dismantle the daily milk delivery service in this country. I hope that I am wrong, for the sake of the consumers, the elderly and the young in our society.
Had the Minister not decided to extend the regulations quite arbitrarily beyond what had been previously agreed as applying to UHT milk only, there would probably have been no need for such a lengthy debate. It was a cynical gesture to arrange a debate on the day that the regulations come into force. It gives the impression that hon. Members are merely rubber-stamping decisions taken long ago, and gives easy ammunition to those who are enemies of the Community.
When the European Court gave its ruling in February of this year, it was clearly understood that it applied only to UHT milk. That was underlined in a House of Commons debate in May, and other hon. Members have emphasised what the Under-Secretary of State said then. The dairy industry, with some reservations, would have accepted that, since sales of UHT milk amount to just under 1 per cent. of total liquid milk sales, and they were more than able to compete with the competition. It is not likely that the British public will succumb easily to the product, as we have become used to the delicious pinta that is such a feature of our daily life. We are proud that 33 million pints of milk are delivered each morning to 16 million homes. That is a wonderful achievement, and we must do everything to maintain the existing system.
However, quite out of the blue, the Minister included sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised milk in the new regulations, which immediately changed the entire matter. Sterilised milk accounts for about 6 per cent. of the milk bought in Britain, and in some areas as much as 10 per cent. The British have always maintained the highest standards of hygiene in milk production, and each pint of milk produced here is carefully checked at each stage of the process until it arrives on the doorstep. It cannot be claimed that every country in the EC has equally high standards and, as many of those countries are not entirely free of diseases such as foot and mouth and tuberculosis, there is always the possibility of a danger to public health.
The sterilisation requirement for imported milk is now 108 deg C for 45 minutes, but I am reliably informed that even that improved standard is insufficient to destroy contaminants that might be present in the milk. The DHSS recommends that UHT milk should be treated at 140 deg C for two seconds, but that standard is not being applied in the present regulations.
Concern has also been expressed that imports of frozen pasteurised cream will open the way for the import of pasteurised milk.
Another issue that has caught the public imagination is the threat to the doorstep delivery. That service is so much a part of our lives that many people take it for granted, but the figures show that the economics of the system are such that a fairly small drop in the number of people requiring the service would make it impractical to continue it at all even though a large majority of people might prefer it. Imported milk will of necessity be sold in shops and if just a few consumers are tempted away from the undoubtedly superior product supplied by the milk roundsman the doorstep delivery service will be in trouble. Those who will suffer most will be the old, the infirm and others unable to get to the shops with ease. Moreover, the many thousands of people involved in the distribution and bottling of milk would be out of work. The implications are therefore extremely serious.
The regulations should be withdrawn and amended to apply far higher standards of hygiene.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most disturbing aspects of the Minister's comments on the health aspect is that he gave no assurances about the personnel to be employed in conducting the tests? He made no attempt to answer the authoritative claim of the Milk Marketing Board that the ports were wholly unequipped to carry out the necessary tests. He said not a word about that and repeatedly refused to give way when I sought to intervene to make the point.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I am sure that the Minister will answer the question when he replies.
If the regulations were amended as we suggest they would ensure much fairer competition from our European partners and the continued health of consumers.
Sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream should be excluded from the present regulations. Many farming organisations and other bodies have suggested that there should be strict control by port authorities through comprehensive sampling and testing of all imported milk so as to enforce high standards. That is vital in view of the health risks of contaminated and impure milk. Milk is an important part of the British diet. It is nourishing, cheap and, at present, easily available. It is vital for producers, retailers and especially consumers that that should remain the case.
Finally, I wish to put a few questions to the Minister. Is it right to assume that frozen pasteurised cream does not meet the standard of UHT treatment and that imports should therefore not be allowed to continue? On 11 November the Farming News stated:
On the eve of the lifting of legal barriers to imported UHT milk from the Continent, it has been discovered that Harrods is already selling a French-made fresh pasteurised dairy cream.
No doubt the Minister will confirm that later.
The article continued:
A DTF spokesman confirmed that his organisation had bought three packs of Claudel, at £1·15 each, for examination, 'At first glance this product, with a two-month shelf life, would appear to be improperly labelled,' he said.
I hope that the Minister will clarify the position when he replies.
How much UHT milk does the Minister estimate will be imported in the next six months? What will be the effect on the daily delivery of fresh milk? What plans has he to deal with the situation if foot and mouth disease is imported during the next few months? What will be the effect on the producer retailers who sell green top milk in various parts of the country? What will be the effect on the future role of the Milk Marketing Board? What will be the effect on milk producers? Finally, what will be the effect on the Dairy Trade Federation which has done excellent work in the past decade?
I am glad that the Northern Ireland Office is now represented on the Front Bench. I should like to tell the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) that I was present when the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office made an intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross).
The hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) supported the regulations. He said that the Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland has produced an excellent paper on the subject. He did not however, tell the House that it utterly opposes the regulations. I can do no better than summarize some of the arguments that it makes. Frozen pasteurised cream could never previously have been imported into Northern Ireland. Whatever arguments there are about it being permitted in the rest of Great Britian, it was never before allowed in Northern Ireland. I know that there was a small importation of frozen pasteurised cream from the Republic of Ireland into Great Britain and I understand that some cream is imported from Normandy, but it never came into Northern Ireland.
I was a Member of Parliament when the vote on whether the United Kingdom should enter the Common Market was taken. On the night of that great debate, some hon. Members prophesied the very thing that is happening today — that the long arm of Europe would dictate policy to this sovereign Parliament. Their prophecy has come true. I am glad that I voted against membership. I remain utterly opposed to membership of the EC.
The European Court of Justice might have ruled that the Government of the United Kingdom must permit the import of UHT milk, but we were informed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the European Court's ruling permitted the United Kingdom to lay down quality standards for imported products. He said that there would have to be subordinate legislation to specify standards enabling sampling and other protective measures to ensure that imported UHT milk was of the same quality as domestic produce.
The Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland argues in its paper about the serious contaminant chlostridium botulinum which produces the most lethal toxin known to man. It is not normally found in British milk but it is found in the soil and if hygiene during production and processing is not of a high standard, milk can be contaminated by the heat resistant spores of that extremely dangerous organism. The board recommends that the required heat treatment be raised to 140 deg C for two seconds. That is the same as is required for UHT cream and UHT milk-based drinks in Britain. I do not understand why one standard should apply to domestic milk and another to the imported product.
The board points out the seriousness of the position on frozen pasteurised cream and says that such cream represents an even greater risk. It also says:
Cows can secrete the foot and mouth virus in milk for several days before showing clinical signs of the disease and therefore imports of pasteurised cream means that not only is there a risk of bringing a virus into this country but also a risk of it being spread widely across the country before its presence is detected. Freezing has no effect on the survival of bacteria and viruses.
The board also says that foot and mouth disease is endemic in many of the countries from which the imported products will come. That is a vital point for Northern Ireland. The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, who had responsibility for agriculture in Northern Ireland, is well aware of the situation in Ulster.
The importation of raw milk from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland also exposes cattle in Northern Ireland to considerable health risks. I am well aware that the small imports from Donegal to Leckpatrick have been carefully controlled. However, the new regulations open the door wide.
The Minister intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East and suggested that health standards in the Republic were equal to those in Northern Ireland. The paper from the Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland states:
Some progress on control has been made and at present the incidence of Brucellosis in Northern Ireland is almost zero, and while TB is still a problem the Northern Ireland position in relation to the eradication of both of these diseases is very much better than that which obtains in the Republic of Ireland … The extension of the existing importation from Donegal to one centre near to the border with the Republic to other centres throughout Northern Ireland from all parts of the Republic must seriously undermine the attempts which have been made to eradicate both Brucellosis and Tuberculosis from Northern Ireland.
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is Utterly Horribly Tasting.
In its wisdom, and after much debate, this House set up the Northern Ireland Assembly, which was given the responsibility of scrutinising proposed legislation. Yet this legislation did not come before the Agriculture Committee of the Assembly, of which I am chairman. Another hon. Member who hopes to speak later is also a member of that committee. In a letter that was hastily delivered to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Lord Mansfield, the Minister in charge, said:
The Ulster Farmers' Union, the Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Dairy Trade Federation and the Ulster Farm Bottlers' Association have been made aware of the intent of the regulations and are content.
All those organisations have been in touch with us, and not one is content. They are all protesting the regulations and are making it clear that they are completely opposed to them.
How will the Minister police these regulations along a border which the security forces cannot protect from the bringing in of arms, bombs and other terrorist equipment? He should name the three ports of entry.
I think it would be helpful if I were to tell the hon. Gentleman that the three ports of entry will be the port of Belfast and the frontier posts of Newry and Armagh. They will be useful in ensuring that there is limited access. Of course, there is little that can be done, as he knows better than I, to prevent the sort of traffic, both of animals and goods, that occurs across the border from time to time.
When the hon. Gentleman talks about Armagh he should define where that entry post is. There is no entry post actually in the city of Armagh because it is not on the border. Where in county Armagh will the milk come in? Is it to be Crossmaglen or some other place? The Minister will have to come clean with the House and tell us exactly where it is. He did admit that there is a problem. If there is not proper policing and raw milk comes in, it will have a detrimental effect on the high standards that he knows prevail in the milk industry in Northern Ireland.
The dairy industry is very important to the economy of Northern Ireland. It does not need the Minister slamming it. Instead, it needs his defence and support at this critical time when jobs are at stake.
I must declare an interest in that I am sponsored to the House by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which is very much involved because the import of this milk will cause much unemployment among our members and among members of the Transport and General Workers Union, with which we share the mass of trade unionists who work in the dairy industry.
I listened carefully to the Minister's statement and I could not help feeling amazement at the naivety of what he was telling us or his lack of understanding or knowledge of the working of the milk distribution industry. In his decision to include sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream with ultra heat treated milk, the Minister has taken upon himself a grave responsibility. I wonder if he has briefed himself properly on the industry with which he is meddling. What he has done so far will cause the disintegration of the industry. Does he realise that the liquid milk market represents 9 per cent. of the retail food index and that the annual retail value of the industry is £2,500 million? I hope the Minister is listening to this, because he may learn something.
Each person in the United Kingdom uses 4·5 pints of milk per week; that is 12 pints of milk per household. There is a daily delivery of 33 million pints of milk to 16 million homes. According to a survey done not by the Socialists but by the Dairy Trade Federation, 98 per cent. of customers are satisfied with the delivery service. If the Minister does not wipe the industry out at a stroke he will seriously weaken it and certainly cause considerable unemployment among its workers.
The hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) chided the Opposition for being unpatriotic. No one could suggest that the Dairy Trade Federation is Socialist, and it is very much opposed to the regulations that the Minister is introducing. It represents 4,500 dairy companies and co-ops throughout England and Wales. Likewise, the Milk Marketing Board is hardly Socialist. It is as opposed as I am to the orders. The Minister does not appear to care about the 75,000 full-time workers in the milk industry—those in distribution, the roundsmen, the supervisors and those in the dairies. [Interruption.] There are obviously other Conservative Members who do not understand the implications of the orders on our dairy industry. They think that I am speaking rubbish.
A large proportion of the 75,000 employed in the industry will be thrown out of work by the loss of the doorstep delivery system. I know that Conservative Members find that fact hard to swallow, especially the Minister. He is a shrine-worshipping admirer of the Common Market. He does not care that it is interfering with our industry and that British jobs will be lost.
The Minister has not thought the matter through. I wonder whether he has been under pressure from Cabinet, or whether we are trading off milk to secure concessions in another area of the EC. Perhaps the Minister will tell us that, or perhaps he will not.
The Parliamentary Secretary stated clearly on 10 May that the orders, to which we agreed almost on the nod, would apply only to UHT milk. Why has there been such a drastic change in Government policy? Why are sterilised milk and pasteurised cream now included? Why has the Minister sold out? Why has there been a change of policy with a change of Minister?
Sterilised milk will seriously damage the daily doorstep delivery system. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) said earlier that 36 per cent. of people in his area use sterilised milk. I know that in Bradford about 20 per cent. of doorstep delivery is sterilised milk. A breakdown in the daily delivery system will cause unemployment. Jobs will be lost not only in distribution but right back to the farming industry.
It is interesting to note that where sterilised milk is used more, in areas such as Birmingham and Bradford and most of the north of England, there is considerable unemployment. In my constituency, unemployment is higher than the national average. People would prefer to buy their milk from the milkman and have it delivered on the doorstep, but if in the shops or at the supermarket imported milk is cheaper by 2p, 3p, 4p or 5p a pint, they will buy that milk because they cannot afford the higher price. People want to pay less in times of mass unemployment.
I do not know how the Minister can bury his head in the sand and say that the milk tastes nasty. Of course sterilised milk does not taste nice. I do not like it. The dog belonging to the former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food did not like it either. The right hon. Gentleman told us that. [HON. MEMBERS: "That was UHT."] I know that it was UHT. Sterilised milk does not taste nice either.
If one's husband is out of work, and probably one's teenage children as well, one will try to save some coppers by walking down to the supermarket to buy the milk. That is where the rub will come. It will mean the breakdown of our daily delivery system. In most of the country it will mean considerable unemployment.
The Minister does not seem to have considered that the economics of the milk distribution system is such that it needs only a small loss of a pint here and a pint there to make it unviable. The cost of delivering milk to the doorstep is so high that, as soon as a few pints here and a few pints there are lost, the system becomes unviable and the delivery system stops.
I am certain that the Minister will live to regret his action that he has taken. I only hope that when the regulations go to another place they are thrown out lock, stock and barrel. I hope that Conservative Members will not just pay lip service to their opposition to the Government's proposals, but will come into the Lobby with us against the regulations.
This is not the first time that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) has ruined his case by exaggerating. It is sad that he bandied about figures that he could not substantiate.
I am concerned as much as anyone about the production and sale of British milk, whether it is fresh milk, cream or manufactured milk. I am interested in the producers, the dairy farmers and the manufacturing plants and, of course, doorstep deliveries. Moreover, we are all concerned about jobs in the milk industry. Therefore, one does not welcome the regulations, but one must accept—the Opposition do not seem to be prepared to do so— that there is no alternative to introducing the regulations if we are to abide by the European Court——
The hon. Gentleman has already spent too much time nattering. I wish that he would shut up.
Our objective should be, not to listen to the gloom and doom of the Opposition, but to follow the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills), who highlighted the super qualities of British fresh milk and British dairy products, which are real value for money. The housewife should always put them first and not contemplate foreign imports of UHT.
We must not be afraid of an inferior imported product. We must go out and sell our product, which is the finest that can be produced. We can sell it on its own merits and also maintain our excellent door-to-door delivery service. I believe that it is possible for it to continue, with all the advantages that hon. Members mentioned. It provides a social service. My morning paper is delivered each day by the milkman.
There is no alternative to accepting the regulations. The pass was sold by the Labour Government in 1977, but Labour Members have kept remarkably quiet about their deep and distant past and their failure to stand up then for our British dairy product. The judgment of the European Court has made it essential for the Minister to bring in these regulations. Consequentially, the sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream that has, in any event, been coming in during the past seven years will be allowed in, in full.
We must concentrate, not on the decision that we have had to take, but on making certain that the regulations are carried out as stringently as possible and that we can be certain that the rules laid down for heat treatment and hygiene are strictly enforced on the milk that comes in.
I am interested in the number of ports that have been mentioned for entry points for the products, and I was thinking earlier that I wish that they were all north of Lerwick.
I should like the Minister to comment a little further on the uncertainties that we all have about the heat treatment, the temperature and the time for which it must stay at that temperature. I hope that he will re-emphasise that he is completely satisfied that the treatment recommended and enforced by the regulations will clear this country from any danger of foot and mouth. If he could say that again firmly, that would be most helpful.
I appreciate as much as anybody the enormous trouble that the Milk Marketing Board, the National Farmers Unions in the home countries and the dairy trade have taken to give advice to the Minister about the regulations, and I am glad that he has listened to our representations and, where possible, fulfilled them. The message tonight should be, "Get out and sell our home products to defeat the imports that could come into the country because of these regulations."
I do not think that we shall be flooded with UHT milk from the continent. The British housewife has more sense than to be conned by this evil-tasting liquid from the Continent. The Milk Marketing Board has already accepted this tremendous challenge and has many new products under consideration, which it is developing and which will be welcomed by the housewife when they come on the market. In this way, we shall help to reduce the supply of surplus milk in Europe. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] These new products will help to deal with increased production. It is a challenge to the British dairy industry, and one that can be won.
The Minister is asking the House once again to capitulate to the Common Market, and that is a disgrace. He talked about the law of the land, but this is not the law of this land but the law of the EC. So much has been lost of our sovereignty that we do not make our laws; they are made in the EC.
The Minister talked about widening choice, but this action will not do that. The loss of the doorstep delivery will narrow, not widen, choice. This debate highlights yet again what a disaster it was for the British people that we ever joined the EC. We think of what it has cost the British taxpayer in contributions to the common agricultural policy and in higher food prices, when we could have bought more cheaply on world markets. We think of what it has done to the steel industry in the city part of which I represent.
The tragedy is that tonight it is the turn of the dairy industry, and the House is being treated poorly because now the imports start coming in; we should have had this debate earlier. Obviously this action will be good for the rest of the Common Market. After all, they, not us, have a surplus of milk and they want to unload it on to our market. The step we are taking could affect the jobs of farmers and farm workers. Some dairy farmers have already been paid to leave the industry, but there is no compensation, I regret to say, for farm workers.
My hon. Friend is right; having taken a golden handshake, the farmers can come back after five years and start up again in the dairy industry. The jobs of tanker drivers, those employed in the bottle industry, those who work on the electric vehicles and the milkmen are all at risk. Many things are at stake, not least the interest of the consumer, who depends greatly on the doorstep delivery. As others have said, the old, the disabled and the sick are particularly dependent on this service, especially the old in rural areas who do not have motor cars but only an expensive bus service, if they have a bus at all. How they will manage if the doorstep delivery goes I shudder to think. Thus, the rural communities, the consumer generally and the people directly involved with the industry will be the sufferers.
Reference has been made to USDAW and the campaign that it has been running. USDAW and the Transport and General Workers Union have tried to alert people to the threat to the doorstep delivery. I regret that the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) is not in his place, because he did not seem to think that we should be alerting people to the dangers that we say exist. He does not appear to be proud of what we are doing tonight; he wants this measure introduced by stealth. That would be the wrong way to pass legislation. I have always been opposed to our membership of the Common Market and feel therefore that I have every right to speak against the regulations.
I was glad to see a big and effective lobby of Parliament on 1 November against the importation of UHT milk. In other words, some of us have done our best to alert people to the dangers. At present, UHT milk accounts for only 1 per cent. of retail milk sales in Britain. Sterilised milk is a different proposition and the figures for that vary from 10 per cent. to 30 per cent. for different parts of the country.
We must not forget the health question; foot and mouth and TB are endemic in the rest of the EC, and I believe that milk imports could spread infection here, particularly as frozen pasteurised cream has been included, because freezing does not kill bacteria.
UHT milk has been cleared safe and healthy, but is it? A recent DHSS booklet recommends that the temperature of UHT should be raised from the current 132 deg. to 140 deg. C and that the time of treatment should be extended from one to two seconds. The DHSS believes that failure to extend the treatment in that way could risk botulism being brought into this country. Those are serious matters and I hope that when he replies the Minister will deal with them. I hope that we shall be told why the Minister agreed that sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream should also come in.
The number of ports involved should preferably be restricted to one, because I should like the products to be blocked there. That would give us a breathing space in which to attempt to change the regulations. We could then use our stick, which is that we shall not continue to pay our huge contributions to the common agricultural policy if such action is taken against our industry and consumers. Thus, it would be easier to deal with the problem if the number of ports was restricted to one.
However, in the final analysis, the problem will be solved only by Britain coming out of the Common Market; and the sooner the better.
I should like to take the middle way in this debate. The fact that a foreign court is attacking one of our greatest institutions says much for the crassness of aspects of the EC.
I agreed with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) said about preserving our doorstep deliveries, but for the past two hours much of the debate has been fought in an atmosphere of unreality. To listen to the Oppositon one would think that in this case Britannia was throwing herself at a French lover, whereas in fact she is tied to a post and being raped against her will. We have no choice in this matter, given the generalised principles set out at the court hearing. We must abide by the regulations and that is why, unwilling and with a heavy heart, I shall vote for them tonight.
We should not be complacent. I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). It is not simply a question of the housewife making a market choice. She will be looking at a different product. Our fresh milk is characterised by being delivered on the doorstep, fresh in a bottle. However, there are now to be metric cartons. The product will be very different.
The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) came in to the Chamber about two hours later than the rest of us and informed us that UHT milk was horrible, and I have to admit that he is right. However, the sort of UHT that will be available in six months' time will not be that horrible, because it will be low-fat milk.
In about six months' time, I envisage advertisements on television showing a housewife saying that she cannot tell the difference between UHT and fresh milk, just as she cannot tell the difference between Stork margarine and butter. Therefore, we face a grave danger. It is not good enough to say that we can rely on the great British dairy industry. We must rely on more sustained marketing from the Daily Trade Federation.
There is also a role for the Government, and if the Government cannot speak out, at least a Back Bencher like me can. Why cannot we do what the French do? Why cannot we do what the French did at Poitiers? I must take up a point made by the National Farmers Union in its excellent statement. Despite the strict controls and regulations that we have heard about tonight, so-called fresh pasteurised cream is on sale in Harrods. Yesterday I discovered that Kerrygold UHT milk is or sale in London hotels. That stuff is already getting into the country. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will put more resources into our ports in an endeavour to slow down the flood of UHT milk.
Let us be as ruthless and tough as the French. Let us take advantage of section 29, which gives us power to consider the health aspects of the product. We have already heard about botulism. I have been told that if UHT milk is heated to 140 deg C it is undrinkable, not only by humans but by dogs. The Minister said that he would look at the issue, but he must do so straight away. We must be like the prudent business man building up a business. We must be prepared to avoid, if not evade, tax. In working to rule on these regulations we must obey the law to the letter and preserve one of our greatest national institutions.
We might as well meet head-on the conclusion of the Agriculture Committee in its first report for the 1979–80 Session in which it went into the likely impact of the importation of foreign milk. The last sentence in paragraph 129 states:
In principle, however, we favour giving consumers the greatest practicable choice of what to buy and how to buy it.
That has some semblance of appeal. This milk-sop Minister is now over-zealously proposing to threaten the operation of that choice. The certain effect of these measures—there is no point in dodging it; this is not an exaggeration — will be to damage and to reduce the frequency of our daily doorstep deliveries.
We are told that, on the orders of the Common Market, we must admit UHT milk; but why, on earth, should we admit sterilised milk? It is as though someone stopped the Minister to ask him whether he had a penny and he said, "Take a pound." The Minister wrote me a letter on 16 November dealing with this point. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that, if we must deal with UHT milk, we might as well throw in the rest, and end the matter in one sitting.
Several hon. Members have said that the argument is not solely about UHT milk. This is where the Minister has gone overboard. He has volunteered to include sterilised milk in this regulation. Page 2 of a brief that has been ably prepared for us by the House of Commons Library states:
It should be emphasised that the case was confined to UHT milk".
The brief refers to the judgment handed down by the European Court. I ask the Minister to think, even at this late stage, about sterilised milk. It is no good saying that sterilised milk accounts for 1 per cent. of the national market and 6 per cent. of the market in England and Wales. I was told in a letter from the Greater Midlands Cooperative Society Ltd. that in its area sterilised milk sales are more than 36 per cent. of all milk sales.
The Minister knows that an alteration of 1, 2 or 3 per cent. in the quantity of milk carried on the milk rounds, which have been carefully built up and sustained over the years, will make a difference. During debates on the egg market, the responsible Minister unfortunately told a meeting of egg producers that they should not be upset about French egg imports because they amounted to only 2 per cent. of the egg market. However, that small percentage upset the egg producers.
The Chief Executive of the Great Midlands Cooperative Society Ltd. Mr. Henn, underlined this point by stating:
the Minister has extended the regulations unnecessarily to permit the import of sterilised milk".
It is no good the Minister saying that he is anticipating what might happen the day after next; he is too fond of doing that.
If the Government believe that we must have this measure, why do they not try for some transitional arrangement? The Minister of State replied to my letter to him:
I must make it clear that the suggestion that the Commission would have been prepared to agree to a transitional period is unfounded.
Never mind the Commission. Will the Minister be kind enough to tell us whether we asked other member states for a transitional period and if so when and with what result? Sections of the industry believe that it may have been available. I put it no higher than that. The facts seem to prove that such an arrangement was not sought by the Department.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman recalls it, but I mentioned exactly that point. I said that I had good reason to doubt whether the Commission would have accepted any further delay in the nine months between the court's decision and the laying of the regulations. The Commission pressed us extremely hard during that nine months. I do not believe that we could have gone any further without laying the regulations.
I understand what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. We seem to be the only country within the Community to jump through hoops of fire the minute the decision arrives from the European Court. We do not simply do what it tells us; we give it more than it rules that we should.
If the hon. Gentleman is going to press that point he should remember that the court ruled in February and we did not lay the regulations for nine months. He will recall that when his Government were in power they had a pig support scheme which was challenged in the same court. The right hon. Gentleman, the then Minister, complied with the court within three weeks.
No one is arguing that we should not ultimately respect the rulings of the European Court. Suppose that the boot were on the other foot and this was a ruling against the French. Would they have moved so quickly and widely to open doors to imports from this country? Of course they would not.
Paragraph 127 of the Select Committee report stated:
we start from our strongly held belief that door-to-door delivery renders a valuable service to the community which it is highly desirable to preserve. It is a great convenience to many, particularly in scattered rural communities".
That point is extremely important, but the Committee might have added that it is also true of the village communities that exist in the heart of our inner cities such as Birmingham. It is important there for the elderly, the disabled and the lonely to have daily doorstep deliveries, because apart from the postman who delivers the giro cheque—received by the many thousands of people who have been forced out of work—the only regular caller is the milkman. Milkmen and women perform an extremely valuable service.
In its evidence to the Select Committee the Dairy Trade Federation at paragraph 119 said that
consumption of liquid milk would decline by as much as 40 per cent; and that the effect of even a relatively small quantity would increase the unit cost of the delivery system to the detriment of its maintenance.
How can the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends ignore such advice? At other times they cannot agree quickly enough with what the Dairy Trade Federation, the National Farmers Union and other such bodies say. In this case, after considered evidence to a Select Committee a Government Department says, "Never mind. We know best. Forget it all. Trust us."
In plain English, the Dairy Trade Federation and the trade unions involved are saying — it cannot be disproved, and I do not want to exaggerate the position —that if UHT and sterilised milk from abroad get a toehold in this market they will start to chip away at the regularity and frequency of daily doorstep deliveries. I am not saying that they will disappear overnight. It may be that instead of deliveries on six days, they will be cut to five, from five to four, and then down to three. Once we start on that slope, despite the pious hopes of the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills), the rot will set in on these rounds.
Does my hon. Friend realise that it is inevitable that within a relatively short time we shall have a milk surplus similar to that in France. Is it imagined that the French will be as prepared to take our surplus milk as we seem prepared to take theirs?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I listened to the contribution by the Minister, but it seems that he has not considered the matter.
France and other EC countries which are wallowing in a milk surplus — I emphasise that we are not — can almost afford, providing that they cover their transport costs, to dump the stuff in Britain. They have had their greedy eyes on our differently organised liquid milk market for years and have been working out ways of how to enter it. My complaint is that we have given them the keys to the gate. Britain has the finest liquid milk market in the world. It is the envy of Europe, and the Minister is prepared to gamble with its future.
The Minister was asked to be more specific about the way in which the regulations will be tested and policed. We have experience of other areas in which the Minister is concerned, such as the export of live food animals. He has been unable to satisfy the House that the regulations, however comprehensively drawn, are being adequately policed. How many extra staff will be employed in the ports of entry? Will there be any extra staff? What type of training will they receive? Answers are required to these questions.
We must be concerned, although we do not have a responsibility in the matter, about the conditions on the farms from which the milk originates. That point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes), about which the Minister made light.
Is the Minister asking consumers to put their trust in a completed form which will be presented at the port of entry, amidst all the other duties for which the new staff will be responsible, a staff which will not have received adequate and proper training? How many consignments will be involved, what will be their frequency and by whom will they be inspected? We deserve answers to those questions.
Strong doubts and criticism have been expressed by Conservative Members about the regulations. I appreciate that the matter is well-understood, but I shall repeat it. There are no second chances when dealing with the regulations. If the regulations are passed, they will come into operation. If Conservative Members have doubts about the wisdom of the regulations and to where they may lead, the doubt belongs on the side of the consumer and daily doorstep deliveries. Those Conservative Members should take their courage in their hands and go into the same Lobby as Opposition Members.
I contribute to the debate as a Member of this place and as a housewife. As a housewife, who is the person in mast households with responsibility for balancing the family budget, I look to buy quality food at the best possible price. I look also for certain standards of service for the community. The delivery of milk to our doorstep is a necessity. The British milkman provides a social service for the sick and the elderly by ensuring the supply of a basic food item and at the same time keeping a watchful eye on their health and mobility.
I suspect, from European and American experience, that should doorstep deliveries disappear, milk consumption will fall. The delivery of milk to the doorstep—to about 16 million doorsteps every day —encourages the young housewife with young children to use milk as a means of providing a balanced and basic diet. If milk did not arrive daily on their doorsteps, I am convinced that the diets of many young children would suffer. That is something that we cannot allow to happen.
I am seriously concerned about the way that milk imports have been handled. I clearly understand the ruling given by the European Court of Justice that British health and hygiene regulations can no longer prevent the import of UHT milk. As we are in Europe and committed to it, we must comply with the court's ruling, but that is as far as we need to go. At the best of times UHT is a poorly flavoured product, and I understand that it has about 2 per cent. of the British liquid milk market. It is a milk that is not really to the British taste. I know from my own experience that British UHT milk is no better and will have no greater attraction to the British housewife.
The Minister need have gone no further than the original regulations because we could have complied with the European court ruling. The British housewife would have rejected the product and British farmers would have been moderately happy with a challenge to a small part of their market. By introducing regulations allowing the import of sterilised milk and frozen pasteurised cream, the Minister is taking steps that he need not take—steps not required by the European court. Sterilised milk, with a 7 per cent. share of the national market, has much greater significance in the west midlands, Tyneside and parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, where it has a much larger share of the market, than elsewhere. In these parts of Britain milk producers and dairymen will come under pressure unnecessarily. It is in these areas that sterilised milk has traditionally been sold from the retail milk float or from the corner shop. With the regulations we are to get an invasion of French and other European sterilised milk, which will head inevitably towards the large supermarkets, to the serious disadvantage of the milk round and the corner shop.
I suspect that French sterilised milk will be cheaper, at least to begin with. French farmers' co-operatives will embark on a marginal costing exercise for an export market that will not affect profit margins in France. They will take the view that cheap sterilised milk is a better bet than making butter or milk powder, which is the usual use for this milk. Inevitably, our supermarkets will take the opportunity to use French sterilised milk as a loss leader by selling at or near the price they pay for it, so grabbing a larger slice of the British milk market from the dairies. That is something that they have wanted to do for years.
On the face of things, the British housewife should be happy. She should be able to buy cheap sterilised milk, but I do not suppose that she will be able to do so for long. The French farmers will get greedy. The British supermarkets will become tired of handling large volumes of milk that take up valuable shelf space for a poor margin, and up will go the prices. In the meantime, milk rounds will have gone and the corner shop will no longer sell milk. For these reasons, the Minister should reconsider the regulations.
I cannot understand the logic of allowing the import of frozen pasteurised cream from other parts of Europe when it has been arriving for some years from the Republic of Ireland. The housewife finds frozen cream a useful item to have in the freezer, and when it is produced from British milk it is obviously a first-class product. However, when produced from European milk there must be some doubt. The regulations, by implication, continue to ban the import of pasteurised milk, and as the process of pasteurisation has a similar effect on the bacteriological safety of milk and cream, with or without freezing, there must be a potential health hazard from imported pasteurised cream.
The regulations need more consideration. I wish to have the best value for the British housewife, continued delivery to our doorsteps, and the safety of imported milk products. That is impossible under the regulations as they are framed.
The Government's decision to allow the importation of UHT milk into the United Kingdom will have serious and far-reaching effects on the milk industry for many years. It is hard enough to accept the importation of UHT milk, but, as the regulations also propose the importation of frozen pasteurised cream, they are unacceptable to me and to my colleagues.
The British and Northern Ireland housewife has come to expect the doorstep delivery of milk as part of her way of life, which is quite right, since it is fresh and of high quality. It is helpful to both the urban and the rural dweller, and perhaps the rural dweller gains most benefit because he does not have equal access to shops and supermarkets. The service is also of great benefit to the elderly and the disabled. Any move to destroy the service must be opposed vigorously and never allowed to reappear. Unfortunately, only a small reduction in doorstep deliveries will make them uneconomical.
The effect of the regulations in Northern Ireland will be great, because not only will we be open to imported UHT milk from all members of the Community but our markets will be easy prey because of our long frontier with the Irish Republic. The Government's decision to allow the importation of UHT milk, although damaging to Northern Ireland industry, could have been understood in the light of the European Court's judgment, but I cannot understand what possessed the Minister to allow the importation of pasteurised cream into Northern Ireland. It will have a disastrous effect on our disease-free status, especially as cream will be admitted from countries that have endemic foot and mouth disease. Northern Ireland is extremely proud of its achievements in disease control, and I pay tribute to the Department of Agriculture for the role that it has played in that. However, it was not achieved without great expense and sacrifice, and these proposals have thrown away all that has been achieved.
An illustration of our success is the brucellosis eradication scheme. To the best of my knowledge, only four out of the many herds in Northern Ireland are restricted because of brucellosis. That status is worth preserving and protecting. The Republic of Ireland has no such achievements, and the other European countries are even worse, especially with the dreaded foot and mouth disease. At present the only raw milk imported into Northern Ireland, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said, comes from one creamery in the Republic and is for manufacturing purpose only.
Will the Minister clarify further his statement on the three points of entry into Northern Ireland? He mentioned the port of Belfast and also Newry and Armagh. The last named is the name of my constituency, and I can understand Newry being one of the points of entry, but I do not know how Armagh can be one.
The creamery that was importing the milk is close to Londonerry on the Donegal-Tyrone border. That means that if the milk is imported through the points of entry that have been named it must be carted right across the Province before it reaches the creamery.
I welcome my hon. Friend's valuable comment. What he says is true. The milk will have to be driven right through the country to reach the entry point at Middletown.
If the regulation is implemented, lorries will be travelling all over Northern Ireland. How will controls be exercised if a tanker of imported milk is mixed with milk produced in Northern Ireland in a milk silo? The regulation is a recipe for disaster.
The regulation states that raw milk can be imported from the Republic of Ireland when the Department is satisfied that such milk, or any skimmed milk derived from it, will not be used for sale for direct consumption as liquid milk or cream. It would therefore appear that pasteurised cream derived from this imported raw milk can be used for sale for human consumption as cream. If that is not so a processor in the Republic of Ireland can produce frozen pasteurised cream and sell it in Northern Ireland, but a processor in Northern Ireland cannot produce frozen pasteurised cream from the same milk and sell it in his own country. That will have serious consequences for the Northern Ireland milk industry.
Inquiries that I made recently into the effectiveness of freezing from a bacteriological point of view all point to the same answer—freezing has no bactericidal effect. Nor does it have any effect on viruses. If imported frozen pasteurised cream contains pathogens, its being frozen will not afford any protection. Indeed, when the cream is thawed the organisms will be reactivated and multiply rapidly. Does the Minister intend to allow the importation of pasteurised cream? If so, how will he stop the importation of pasteurised milk? If he allows the importation of the one he will have lost the argument if he does not want to allow the importation of the other.
The hon. Gentleman's point about frozen heat treated cream is important. I should like to add to what I told the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross). Frozen pasteurised cream will not be allowed in from countries where the health status or the heat treatment is in doubt. As to foot and mouth disease, I can confirm that, for Northern Ireland, that product will not be allowed in from countries where foot and mouth is endemic.
What control or monitoring will there be of imported milk, in whatever form? I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) that other European countries have excellent standards of hygiene. I do not wish to cast aspersions on any other European country, but it is widely accepted in Northern Ireland that standards of hygiene in the United Kingdom as a whole, including Northern Ireland, are the highest of all and that the milk produced in the Republic of Ireland comes nowhere near that standard.
We are told that there will be designated crossing points, but will they be constantly manned, or will there be a spot check system which will not be fully effective? Will the Minister assure the House that any certificates issued by the Department will be effective and not just window-dressing, so that they will improve the high standard of disease control in Northern Ireland rather than dismantle all that has been achieved?
I am told that at no point in the consultations between interested parties were the implications of imported frozen cream seriously discussed. I implore the Minister to think again about the implications of the regulations, especially in regard to frozen cream, because that is the nub of the problem. Will he consider the serious consequences for the dairy industry of the United Kingdom as a whole and Northern Ireland in particular?
I am delighted to be able to get into the debate at this late stage. I shall try to finish by 10.50 pm when I understand that the winding-up speeches are to begin.
The debate has been fascinating, especially for the magnificent rhetoric from Opposition Members. I wish that they had been such strong and avid critics when their right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) was sliding through the moves which allowed the pass to be sold and completedly undermined the Government's position. It is difficult to launch an attack when standing on quicksand, and the Opposition's attack had the power that one expects from people in that position. My right hon. Friend the Minister was dealt a Yarborough and he deserves the sympathy of the House for having to try to make tricks when there are very few to be made. We must now give as much constructive thought as we can to finding ways to resolve these issues.
Leaving aside the schizophrenia and selective recollection of the Opposition, I assure my right hon. Friend that I shall support him in the Lobby on this, but that does not mean that I am not critical. I am worried about the UHT specification. I understand that the dairy industry would accept the higher specification. I hope that that is so and that the Minister will press the case and secure the higher specification because I believe that it is right.
Much has been said about frozen pasteurised cream. I especially welcomed the statement of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, that there would be no imports if the health status of the exporting country was in doubt. I hope that that is correct because I never want to witness again the devastation caused by foot and mouth disease in 1967, when such a vast proportion of the country's beef herd was destroyed with all the ghastly funeral pyres and burials involved. We must ensure that that never happens again.
Chemical content has not been mentioned so far. Are the batches imported capable of being identified so that if a sample is found to be below specification every part of that batch can be returned? One worries about residual pesticides and antibiotics in products from countries in which the regulations may not be so strict.
No speech would be complete without mentioning the doorstep delivery. In my view, it is under attack even now from our own dairy industry. People in that industry are queueing up and falling over themselves to tender supermarkets for the supply of fresh, pasteurised milk which undercuts the doorstep delivery.
That is the dilemma facing the dairy trade and the country—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Why compound it?"] If the damage is being done now, what happens is immaterial. We must take steps now. Marketing is the answer. The challenge lies with the National Dairy Council, the Milk Marketing Board, the Dairy Trade Federation and the Glass Manufacturers' Federation. They must come together to devise a PR campaign that makes it clear that if we do not use the doorstep delivery system, we shall lose it.
It is no good people experimenting and saying, "I shall not use it this week. It is cheaper in the supermarket", because if they do, the service will disappear. That is the message to get across. Anything else is a red herring.
This has been a lengthy debate which has been significant for many things, not least for the fact that the Government have been supported by only one hon. Member who did not have a pecuniary interest in doing so or had not benefited by obtaining some ennoblement for a previous display of loyalty.
Virtually every hon. Member has been dismayed at the Minister's feeble attempt to make the best of a bad job. Our misgivings about membership of the Community have been underlined by the fact that we have considered these regulations under the negative procedure. As a result, we have been afforded no opportunity to amend them.
The regulations are the result of rushed legislation, which we now know to have been passed on a misunderstanding, because some of the areas that we had assumed would not be considered are now included.
In the dying days of the last Parliament, the Government felt that unless they acted speedily in response to the judgment of 8 February, something even worse would befall us. We can only surmise what our French friends would have done had they been faced with a similar challenge from the European Court. I doubt whether they would have acted with the same celerity.
We must decide whether United Kingdom systems of controls will be adequate, as paragraph 29 of the judgment said, to protect the health of our consumers. Our contention is that they are inadequate to meet the responsibilities placed on the United Kingdom Government. We shall endanger the economic viability of the British dairy industry, which at the end of the day is the only sure and safe defence of the health of the British consumer.
The manner in which the judgment has been phrased inhibits the right of the British Government to take reasonable precautions to protect the consumer by ensuring that the powers to insist on the reprocessing and repackaging of milk are not open to us. Had they been, many of the misgivings of the British glass manufacturers might well have been met. That would certainly have allayed the fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who was concerned about the production of glass bottles in his constituency.
We are not satisfied with the Minister's complacency or that of his office. In a letter of 24 June to the chief executive officer and general secretary of the Co-operative Union Limited, his office said:
I am sure the response you have received"—
this was a response to a petition which attracted more than 850,000 signatures in defence of the doorstep delivery service—
is a true reflection of the very strong measure of support among consumers for the continuation of doorstep deliveries of milk, and this should prove to be the system's greatest safeguard.
We have heard from the Minister this evening various statements like this. In the two speeches of support we have heard the reiteration of the humbug that somehow the traditional loyalty of the British consumer to the service will withstand any challenge. Yet we know that the dairy industry is on a knife edge and it will take only a small movement from one source to another, from British milk to imported milk, to make a tremendous difference to the fragile economic structure of the industry.
This is an efficient sector of agriculture. We drink more milk than any other part of the Community, apart from Ireland. We are all conscious of the fact that there will be more dumping of surpluses by continental producers. The skimmed milk we have heard about will be what is left after the cream has been removed for the production of butter for intervention buying. Continental producers will get rid of the milk which they cannot sell in their own countries by dumping it in the United Kingdom at the expense of British producers and at the end of the day of the British consumer as well. Once they have broken the back of the British dairy industry they will seek to raise prices.
We recognise that legal constraints are imposed upon the Government. Requests have been made for a transitional arrangement. We have heard from the Minister a feeble excuse that if we were to ask for a transitional arrangement nothing would happen, and we would probably end up in a worse position. Yet when the Transport and General Workers' Union met two of the commissioners, Mr. Tugendhat and Mr. Richard, in Brussels, Mr. Richard said that he was prepared to seek the agreement of other commissioners to lessen the impact of the new milk regime. We are told:
In that regard the discussion concentrated on a transitional period of, say, five years. His support"—
that is, Mr. Richard's support—
was conditional on obtaining the agreement of the UK Government to a transitional period. Unless the UK Government was prepared to support such a transitional period Mr. Richard felt that he had no chance of gaining support for the proposal in Europe.
We would be grateful if the Minister would tell us what he told Mr. Richard and whether he offered to back him in his attempt to defend the Britsh dairy industry by seeking the transitional period we need. If the Minister would care to intervene I would be happy; it might assist the smooth running of the debate. If instead he wishes to use his 20 minutes, then I look forward to hearing what he has to say.
The demand for these products is limited in many parts of the country. There is a limited demand for UHT milk. We are told that the British consumers are resistant to change, but, given the prevailing economic circumstances, when they are faced with a cheaper alternative people will initially buy UHT milk as an additive for tea and coffee. Then they will use it as a substitute for British milk with cereals and the like. One can only guess at the impact that UHT milk will have on institutional cooking and on the catering and baking industries. The denial of such opportunities to the small dairies, and even to the larger producer-processors, can only endanger a great number of our dairies and, ultimately, the retail dairies that are so dependent on their connections with producer-processors.
Many of my hon. Friends have spoken of the problems that will be created for the doorstep delivery system. We heard a courageous speech from the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), who showed such a lack of enthusiasm for the Government's proposals that she may join us in the Lobby. She said that the doorstep delivery was a unique social service. In many parts of the country it certainly provides an informal social service, on which many elderly people and single parents depend.
In Scotland doorstep deliveries are only about 50 per cent. of sales, and much is made of that fact. But the areas of low penetration mainly consist of tenements and multi-storey blocks that make delivery difficult. Throughout the country there is a tremendous dependence on the work of the milkmen. If the doorstep delivery system is removed, we could go down the same road as the Netherlands where, since 1967, milk consumption has fallen by 27 per cent. and the number of milkmen almost halved from 9,000 to 4,900. During the same period in the United Kingdom, the consumption of milk fell by less than 12 per cent.
We know that, because of demographic changes, consumption will fall in the near future. There are likely to be fewer children. We hope that they will drink more milk, but it will not be enough to sustain the present level of demand. We have a responsibility to consumers and to the protection of their health. That protection will be afforded through milk consumption.
If the doorstep delivery system is removed or considerably reduced, there will be a massive change in the fortunes of many of the co-operatives. I am a member of the Co-operative party, although not sponsored by it. I am conscious of the tremendous emphasis it places on its dairy activities. It is the largest farmer in the country. It is responsible for 25 per cent. of dairy produce. In some areas small, franchise dairy companies deliver co-op milk. The co-op plays a substantial role. It is right that my hon. Friends should seek to defend that organisation and come to its assistance when it is under threat. It is right to point to the levels of unemployment that could be created by a change in the fortunes of the dairy industry.
But we also recognise that there are legal constraints. That is why we ask the Minister to reconsider a transitional period. Under article 30, the Government are running scared in case further proceedings take place. We want specific assurances that inspections will be robustly applied.
I have been given a copy of the Press Association tape, which states:
Milk rules may deter imports.
I do not know whether the individual who reported that was in the House when the Minister was speaking. He failed to convince many of his colleagues about the robust way in which the inspections would be applied.
We have heard that 17 ports in England and Wales and two ports in Scotland are to be used for access. Many of us are shocked that there should be so many access points. There has been a dramatic rundown in the support for many of the environmental health services provided by local authorities and so on because of local government cuts. Many of the ports may have great difficulties in meeting their responsibilities. It was suggested that people should go abroad to look at the point of production, and that we should go to the farms abroad and see what happens. That was pooh-poohed by the Minister. At the moment proper inspection facilities are made available in abattoirs on the continent. At one time inspectors even went to Argentina to inquire about the quality of the meat that was being imported into this country. One could suggest that if we can send inspectors to Argentina to look at the meat that we used to import, milk could be imported through Port Stanley if we wanted to do the job properly. The French have been meeting their obligations. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) said that if we wanted to "do a Poitiers", it would be difficult for the national sponsors of the Union Laitière Normande to complain about the way in which their opponents were behaving.
The hygiene provisions have failed to convince the House that adequate protection of the British consumer will be provided through the regulations.
If the hon. Gentleman had been here earlier, he would have had the opportunity to speak to the spokesman for the co-operative movement, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). I understand that it has plenty of milk that it could convert into UHT and sell if it wished, but from its own processing and production plants. That question does not arise. If the hon. Gentleman had done the House the courtesy of being here for most of the debate, he would have been in a better position to ask the question.
The Government's defence of frozen pasteurised cream is that we need a permanent and defensible regime, and we cannot afford to have any more alterations. However, we feel that the contrary is the case. In the past we allowed UHT cream and flavoured milk into the country without second treatment. It is argued that there is now no reason why we should not allow in UHT milk. A Ministry of
Agriculture. Fisheries and Food circular of 3 March 1976 said of the importation of UHT and cream and flavoured milk:
This proposed amendment would have no effect on existing arrangements relating to milk for liquid consumption.
The point is simple. The reason why the Dairy Trade Federation was prepared to go along with the deal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) was that it was clear that there would be no question of endangering the provision of milk for liquid consumption. No problems would arise. No such assurance has been, or can be, given by the Minister.
The fundamental weakness of the Government's case is in the regulations providing for fresh pasteurised cream. If one accepts the logic that if one has UHT cream, one must agree to have UHT milk — that is what the Government are arguing—it follows that if we agree to pasteurised cream, we agree to pasteurised milk. There are two possible scenarios. One is that the allowance and acceptance of UHT milk will result in a decline in pasteurised cream and milk, and the other is that the importation of pasteurised frozen cream will lead to pasteurised milk. Either way, we shall see the collapse of the United Kingdom pasteurised milk industry.
We said earlier that the regulations go further than what was agreed before the general election. The grudging consent that we granted did not extend to the range of options included in the regulations. There is now a danger to the financial framework of the dairy industry that did not exist before, and inadequate protection for the health of the consumer. The unhappiness of the House is shown by the almost total rejection of the regulations by almost every speaker tonight. We recognise that the regulations have been pushed through with indecent haste. If we believe in the protection of our industry, of the dairy workers, the processors and the farmers, we must prevent the dumping of continental milk in this country. To do that we must throw out the regulations.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are, I understand, the protector of the interests of Back Benchers. May I point out to you, and ask you to take this point back to Mr. Speaker, that 39 per cent. of the time of this debate will have been taken up by speeches from the Front Benches? Is that fair to the Back Benchers—particularly on the Government side of the House. because we are in a majority—who wish to express strong views on a subject in which they have taken a considerable interest for many years, and who wish to vote against the Government tonight?
I understand the frustration of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), because I found myself in that position on many occasions in the past. However, many issues have been raised in the debate, which make it necessary for me to reply to them, in fairness to those who have raised them. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister was prolonged by the fact that he gave way many times to the legitimate questions put to him.
I welcome the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) to the Front Bench, and congratulate him on his speech. I look forward to many exchanges with him in the future. The hon. Gentleman and I are agreed on five issues. The first, and I was glad that the hon. Gentleman said this at the outset of his speech, is that the Government and the House must abide by legal requirements and court decisions. The second is that we cannot use import restrictions for health reasons, made under the legal process, to achieve economic or other objectives. That is an important point, to which I shall refer in answer to some of the things urged upon us. The third is that we must accept UHT milk, although many of us agree that it has an awful taste, and it is not likely to appeal to the United Kingdom consumer.
The fourth point is the importance of the doorstep delivery, and I stress its importance. I understand the point, and agree with all those who emphasised the employment reasons for it, and the other industrial reasons, as did the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). I recognise, too, its importance to many consumers, and especially to those in need and to our senior citizens, a point to which several of my hon. Friends drew attention. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) singled out the importance of the doorstep delivery as a social service. I could continue to wax lyrical about the doorstep delivery, but I shall have to move on. However, all these important aspects of this service were emphasised in the debate.
I hope that we are agreed, certainly on the Government Benches, on the fifth point—the importance of selling the tremendous benefits of British fresh milk and my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) in a cogent and powerful speech, brought this point out. We must not sell our product short, because that helps none of us. Those are five points on which we can agree.
No. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) made his speech and in fairness to other hon. Members—because I have much to say—I will not give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am endeavouring to answer the debate. I have singled out the five points on which we are agreed — [Interruption.] —and if I am not interrupted I will answer the rest of the debate. I would like to go into detail on all the points that hon. Members have raised, but I shall not be able to do that through lack of time. I will therefore deal with three specific points now and go on to what I regard as the three key themes of the debate, and that will enable me to answer many other points.
The first of the specific points was raised by the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) who asked about allegations in a Farming News article. I am aware of that article and my Department is investigating the product, which I understand may be home-produced despite its name and label. The position on fresh pasteurised cream, if that is what it turns out to be, from abroad is clear. For animal health reasons, imports would be permitted only under the terms of a specific licence and no such licence has been issued.
Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) made allegations about certain aspects of the dairy trade. We have been hard pressed by a part of the dairy trade—as it was in confidence, it would be wrong to give details — to include in our regulations a general provision for new imports of raw milk for processing. It was illogical for certain sections of the dairy trade to do that at the same time as they were pressing for stricter controls elsewhere. My right hon. Friend had no hesitation in turning that request down.
The third point concerns the aspect raised by the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) about a transitional period. Although the commissioner to whom he referred may have favoured a transitional period, there is no evidence that he could have delivered a majority of the Commission in favour of it. But in any case, even if the Commission had been persuaded to agree to a transitional period, the court's judgment would not have been affected and we should have remained exposed to legal action by other member states and individual traders. Thus we had to move straight away.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way. I have much to say. For the reasons I have given, that was not the appropriate way to tackle the problem. We heard how the Labour Government responded within a short period to a court decision——
—and they did not ask. For all those reasons, it is right to go ahead with the regulations.
I come to the three key issues in the debate, and I shall answer them all. The first key theme has been the question why the Government have gone beyond just UHT. References have been made to the debate on 10 May 1983 when the Second Reading and further stages of the Importation of Milk Act, as it now is, were carried through the House. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said in that debate:
For those reasons"—
which were reasons of need to consult not only the Commission and member states but the domestic industry—
we are unable to give a detailed statement as to the contents of the regulations. However, their main effect"—
and that was the phrase—
will be to provide for the importation of UHT milk and cream and flavoured milk from member states subject to…requirements".—[Official Report, 10 May 1983; Vol. 42, c. 743.]
We had then to consider carefully the detailed regulations, and for the reaons that my right hon. Friend spelt out clearly, we concluded that the additional aspects had to be put in, and I shall deal with those because the first is sterilised milk. This has been criticised as going beyond the strict letter of the judgment, but as my right hon. Friend pointed out, our new regime needs to comply with the general principles of Community law and there are no legal or scientific arguments for excluding products that have been treated at 108 deg C for 55 minutes, which is at least as rigorous as the UHT process. The important point is that to seek to exclude them would have taken us
straight back, if the case had not been watertight, to the courts. Therefore, it was important for us to ensure that our case was as watertight as possible.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North made the point clearly that it would not be too long before the importation of pasteurised cream would lead to pasteurised milk coming into the country. I do not believe that that will be the case. Had we not drawn up these regulations in a watertight manner, so that they would stand up in the courts, it would not have been long before we were again challenged and we would have been on a difficult, slippery slope. It is important to our industry, the doorstep delivery services and others affected that we introduce regulations that stick. My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West referred to the possibility of a retaliation on our food products in other Community states if we were seen not to be playing the proper game according to the law.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North talked a great deal about frozen pasteurised cream—it may have been a slip of the tongue at the end of his speech to talk about fresh pasteurised cream—which has been criticised as a dangerous precedent for pasteurised milk. I do not believe that this is the case. The first problem that faced us is that imports of pasteurised cream had been permitted by the previous Government. In these regulations, we are tightening up the regime that we inherited. Fresh pasteurised cream—admittedly, this is a small amount—will not be included in these regulations. Secondly, I understand that it is not possible to produce frozen pasteurised milk. We are drawing the line on frozen goods on health grounds. Even if it were conceded that milk does not have to be frozen, this line will not slip because there are no adequate health safeguards for pasteurised fresh milk. That is why the regulations will not lead to a change in this area. I believe that we were correct in drawing the line there.
A number of hon. Members have asked about the heating of milk to 140 deg C and have said the Milk Marketing Board has pressed this regulation on us. In our discussions with the Board, we discussed UHT cream and milk-based products, not UHT milk, and I believe that that is an important point.
Understandably, many of my hon. Friends have raised the subject of botulism. The conditions for the manufacture of sterilised milk, UHT cream and milk-based products are safe from botulism. I understand that UHT milk is not a substance that supports botulism, but two other aspects are important in this context. Heating milk to a temperature of 132 deg C has been applied in this country for many years, and there have been no outbreaks of botulism for 20 years. The Minister has said that we shall have a review of the 140 deg C stipulation, and this aspect will be covered in the review.
Certain parts of the industry are unhappy about the imposition of a temperature of 140 deg C because of the burdens that would be imposed upon them. We have often talked about not imposing additional burdens unless we are sure that they are correct. We must have full discussions with the dairy industry before we move to imposition of 140 deg C. There are still disagreements in our domestic dairy industry.
Foot and mouth disease has been referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for Torridge and Devon, West and for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro).
We are assured by the Animal Virus Research Institute at Pirbright, from which we receive expert advice, that heat treatment of 80 deg C for 15 seconds makes pasteurised cream safe from foot and mouth disease. That makes imported pasteurised cream safe because it will have to undergo that heat treatment before it is frozen. There is the safeguard.
With UHT cream and milk-based products, on animal health grounds the advice of my veterinary staff and Pirbright is that the regulations provide an adequate safeguard against foot and mouth disease. We are assured of adequate safeguards there.
There have been only two outbreaks of foot and mouth disease during the past two years in two parts of the Community. If there were an outbreak of the disease we should take the same action as for any other food product. That is partly an answer to the Liberal spokesman.
We have a double system of checking at the ports. We have certificates which will cover the processing and bottling conditions and also the sampling and testing arrangements. Our staff will visit other member states to study those arrangements to provide a double check. If we discover through the sampling and testing arrangements that there has been reckless certification, we will apply more rigorous and regular testing of the products from that area. We will send back the product and make representations to the Government of the member state. Those are significant safeguards.
It is important to stress that in the note it sent to all Members of Parliament the National Farmers Union made a particular point of saying that
we would seek specific assurances that the procedures themselves will be robustly and fully applied, and that the necessary resources in personnel and equipment will be supplied and maintained, to ensure this.
That point was important to the National Farmers Union, and I can give those assurances tonight.
One or two hon. Members urged that we should have fewer ports for entry of these products. I cannot resist saying that the Poitiers argument does not stand up, because although that arrangement applied to a non- member state, it was able to last for only a few months. We are seeking to provide lasting arrangements to reassure our industry. If we had reduced entry to one or two ports it would have been open to immediate challenge on the ground that we were not doing that not for health but for economic reasons. That is precisely what the Opposition accepted we should not do.
My final theme is doorstep deliveries and the effects on producers and dairies. I am bound to say that the predictions of the hon. Members for Bassetlaw (Mr.Ashton) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) were hysterical and extremely unhelpful to their industries and members.
An analogy has been drawn with the Netherlands. I shall make a number of points on that. It is more interesting to have an analogy from Scotland, which is closer to home. Doorstep deliveries have decreased there in the past 12 years from 74 to 50 per cent. but the consumption of milk per head compared to 1970 has risen slightly. That is a sign that the consumer approves of fresh, pasteurised milk. Provided we maintain our support we shall continue to have that level of consumption.
It is important to recognise that we have a number of plants producing our own UHT and sterilised products. My right hon. Friend pointed out that sterilising takes place under a wide range of conditions. Our domestic milk production has a less strict heat treatment requirement because deliveries can be more immediate than products from abroad. The important point is that a significant proportion of our sterilised milk production have the less strict heat treatment applied. If an equivalent restriction were applied to our exports by other member states the likelihood is that only a small proportion of our products would be exported. If the position were reversed, the indication is that the threat would be nowhere near as great as the Opposition have suggested.
I wish to pay a tribute to everyone involved in doorstep deliveries. Hon. Members have suggested, correctly, that other market forces are a far greater threat to doorstep deliveries than UHT. I recognise the concern that has been expressed about doorstep deliveries. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture faced a difficult decision. I believe that doorstep deliveries, when supported by the consumer, will remain a valuable part of the British social system.
The Government are drawing a line which is defensible, which must stick and which must give proper protection to legitimate British production interests and to the British consumer.
|Division No. 70]||[11.30 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Alton, David||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Anderson, Donald||Deakins, Eric|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dewar, Donald|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Dixon, Donald|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Dobson, Frank|
|Ashton, Joe||Dormand, Jack|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Douglas, Dick|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dubs, Alfred|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Barron, Kevin||Eadie, Alex|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Eastham, Ken|
|Beggs, Roy||Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n SE)|
|Beith, A. J.||Ellis, Raymond|
|Bell, Stuart||Evans, Ioan (Cynon Valley)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Ewing, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fatchett, Derek|
|Blair, Anthony||Faulds, Andrew|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Flannery, Martin|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Foster, Derek|
|Caborn, Richard||Foulkes, George|
|Campbell, Ian||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Freud, Clement|
|Cartwright, John||Garrett, W. E.|
|Clay, Robert||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Golding, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Gould, Bryan|
|Coleman, Donald||Gourlay, Harry|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Hardy, Peter|
|Corbett, Robin||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Craigen, J. M.||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Crowther, Stan||Hawksley, Warren|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Dalyell, Tam||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Pendry, Tom|
|Home Robertson, John||Penhaligon, David|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Pike, Peter|
|Howells, Geraint||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Prescott, John|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Radice, Giles|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Randall, Stuart|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Redmond, M.|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|John, Brynmor||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Kennedy, Charles||Robertson, George|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Kirkwood, Archibald||Rooker, J. W.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Litherland, Robert||Ryman, John|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheerman, Barry|
|Loyden, Edward||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|McCartney, Hugh||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McCusker, Harold||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Short, Mrs B.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|McGuire, Michael||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|McTaggart, Robert||Snape, Peter|
|McWilliam, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Madden, Max||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Maginnis, Ken||Stott, Roger|
|Marek, Dr John||Strang, Gavin|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Straw, Jack|
|Martin, Michael||Taylor, Rt Hon John David|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Maxton, John||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Meacher, Michael||Tinn, James|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Torney, Tom|
|Michie, William||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wallace, James|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Wareing, Robert|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Welsh, Michael|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||White, James|
|Nellist, David||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Nicholson, J.||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Winnick, David|
|O'Brien, William||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|O'Neill, Martin||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Woodall, Alec|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Parry, Robert||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Patchett, Terry||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Mr. Harry Cohen|
|Adley, Robert||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alexander, Richard||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amess, David||Bendall, Vivian|
|Ancram, Michael||Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)|
|Arnold, Tom||Benyon, William|
|Ashby, David||Berry, Sir Anthony|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Biggs-Davison, Sir John|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Body, Richard|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Bottomley, Peter|
|Baldry, Anthony||Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hannam, John|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Browne, John||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hayes, J.|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hayward, Robert|
|Budgen, Nick||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Heddle, John|
|Burt, Alistair||Henderson, Barry|
|Butcher, John||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Hickmet, Richard|
|Butterfill, John||Hicks, Robert|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hirst, Michael|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Chope, Christopher||Holt, Richard|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hooson, Tom|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hordern, Peter|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Howard, Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Colvin, Michael||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Conway, Derek||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Coombs, Simon||Hunter, Andrew|
|Cope, John||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Cormack, Patrick||Irving, Charles|
|Corrie, John||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Couchman, James||Jessel, Toby|
|Crouch, David||Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jones, Robert (W Herts)|
|Dicks, T.||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Key, Robert|
|Dover, Denshore||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dunn, Robert||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Durant, Tony||Knowles, Michael|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knox, David|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Lamont, Norman|
|Eggar, Tim||Lang, Ian|
|Evennett, David||Latham, Michael|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Favell, Anthony||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Forman, Nigel||Lightbown, David|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lilley, Peter|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Fox, Marcus||Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)|
|Franks, Cecil||Lord, Michael|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Luce, Richard|
|Freeman, Roger||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Fry, Peter||McCrindle, Robert|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||MacGregor, John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maclean, David John.|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Macmillan, Rt Hon M.|
|Gorst, John||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Gow, Ian||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Madel, David|
|Gregory, Conal||Major, John|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)||Malins, Humfrey|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Malone, Gerald|
|Grist, Ian||Maples, John|
|Ground, Patrick||Marland, Paul|
|Grylls, Michael||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Mellor, David||Shersby, Michael|
|Merchant, Piers||Silvester, Fred|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Sims, Roger|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Mitchell, David (NW Hants)||Speed, Keith|
|Moate, Roger||Speller, Tony|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Spence, John|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Spencer, D.|
|Moore, John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)||Squire, Robin|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Stanley, Jonn|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Steen, Anthony|
|Mudd, David||Stern, Michael|
|Murphy, Christopher||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Needham, Richard||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Neubert, Michael||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|Newton, Tony||Stokes, John|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Norris, Steven||Sumberg, David|
|Onslow, Cranley||Tapsell, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Philip||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Ottaway, Richard||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Parris, Matthew||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Pawsey, James||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Thurnham, Peter|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Tracey, Richard|
|Porter, Barry||Trippier, David|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Powley, John||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Viggers, Peter|
|Price, Sir David||Waddington, David|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Raffan, Keith||Walden, George|
|Rathbone, Tim||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Waller, Gary|
|Renton, Tim||Walters, Dennis|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Ward, John|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Warren, Kenneth|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Watts, John|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Whitfield, John|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Whitney, Raymond|
|Rost, Peter||Wilkinson, John|
|Rowe, Andrew||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Wood, Timothy|
|Ryder, Richard||Woodcock, Michael|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Yeo, Tim|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Scott, Nicholas||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)|