I accept what my right hon. Friend says, but will he in turn accept that the mere fact that this country imports dairy products from New Zealand must undermine our position in quota negotiations? Even those who, like myself, are not in favour of breaking off our historic links with New Zealand have to accept that the small dairy farmers, who are facing grave financial hardship, might not see the force of that argument.
The full quota for New Zeland butter in 1984 was not decided in the midst of other decisions that were taken in Brussels in March. Indeed, the matter is still progressing. To put it in perspective, my hon. Friend might like to note that the 1983 quota represented less than 4 per cent. of total Community butter production.
I am sure the Minister is aware that British dairy producers produce only 66 per cent. of the butter required by our consumers. Will he tell the House and dairy producers from which country or countries he will import the nearly 40 per cent. required in the next 12 months?
The hon. Gentleman should examine the milk board's latest book on statistics. He will see on page 185 that the United Kingdom was 91 per cent. self-sufficient in butter fat in 1982.
To what extent have imports of New Zealand butter been cut since Britain joined the Community, and what plans are there for further cuts? I believe that there is a lack of appreciation of the realities.
My hon. Friend is right. New Zealand producers have had to take large cuts which make the cuts faced by our producers seem comparatively modest. My hon. Friend might like to know that when we joined the Common Market New Zealand was sending us 165,000 tonnes of butter. Last year it sent 87,000 tonnes, and this year it is intended that New Zealand will send us 83,000 tonnes. That figure will decrease over five years to 75,000 tonnes.
The present Commission proposal—about the details of which I have just told the House—is for the first time, for a five-year period. That proposal is welcome to the New Zealand Government. There are no proposals beyond 1988. In the Dublin agreement there was an understanding that the Community had to give part of its market to New Zealand butter. That agreement had no end date.
Although I accept our obligation to New Zealand, will my right hon. Friend accept that Britain's milk industry would find it more acceptable if there were a long-term pledge to accept that New Zealand imports will have to continue to be reduced during the next decade?
We should be extremely careful before making such statements. I strongly believe that we owe an immense debt to New Zealand and I am not prepared to see us pull the rug from under New Zealand at this or any other time.
Will the Minister recollect and confirm that when the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was Prime Minister he gave certain pledges and guarantees to New Zealand that, when we joined the EEC, New Zealand's position would be respected and protected as far as possible? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we fully support the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup in that commitment? Will the Minister stand firm and not allow any further reduction in imports of New Zealand's dairy products to the EEC?
The undertakings given by the Community when we joined in the early 1970s have been fulfilled. The Commission's most recent proposal, which I have just explained to the House, is one which the New Zealand Government are prepared to accept. We should continue to do our best to fulfill our obligations to New Zealand.