Milk Quotas

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 1985.

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Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford 12:00 am, 18th July 1985

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will issue advice to dairy farmers with milk quotas who wish to acquire further quota by means of leasing or purchase.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

I am actively pursuing in Brussels changes to the Community regulations to allow quota to be transferred separately from land. There is resistance, however, and I cannot predict the outcome of our negotiations at this stage.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that one of the fundamental planks of the solution to the problem is knowing how long the quotas will stay, or whether quotas will be taken off or revised? Will my right hon. Friend press that point so that the industry is given the underlying confidence to enable it to plan?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

As my hon. Friend knows, quotas were introduced for a period of five years, with a review at the end of three years. I was interested to see recently that the National Farmers Union issued a press statement saying that it hopes that quotas will remain. I understand that it would be an important matter if there were a free sale of quotas separately from land, but I do not believe that we shall be able to move towards taking a view one way or the other at least until the review at the end of the third year.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North

I am sure that the Minister is well aware that many dairy farmers in Britain are in dire financial trouble because of the Government's policy. He is well aware that he introduced a policy that was unacceptable to the people. Does he accept that many dairy farmers are trying to advise the Government to introduce a scheme to look after the interests of those who were severly hit in 1983–84?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

I congratulate the hon. Member on what appears to be his reappointment as agricultural spokesman for the Liberal party. I note what he said about milk quotas. Travelling around the country as he does, I am sure he has discovered that farmers are becoming increasingly accustomed to working with milk quotas and seem to be attaching some importance to their continuance.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the acquisition by lease or straightforward purchase of an additional quota by dairy farmers is the only way that some of them will be able to remain in business and avoid having to sell some of their land or perhaps the whole farm? Will he give some guidance on, and inject some urgency into, the problem along the lines of the question asked originally by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd)?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

My hon. Friend takes a close interest in these matters. He will know that I have said repeatedly that I should like to move as soon as possible to the leasing and sale of quotas. That will be done when we can get more support from other member states and from the Commission. At the moment, it would mean major changes in both Community and domestic legislation, and the Community and some member states are strongly resisting a sale and purchase scheme. It therefore follows that changes will be difficult to achieve, and I cannot predict the outcome of negotiations. I am pressing as hard as I can to get a leasing of quotas to meet the problem to which my hon. Friend has drawn our attention.

Photo of Mr Jim Nicholson Mr Jim Nicholson , Newry and Armagh

Will the Minister give serious consideration to the plight of the young dairy farmer who is in a position neither to purchase nor to lease a quota? Will he consider giving such people a start on the bottom of the ladder so that they may have a future? Without young dairy farmers coming in, the industry will eventually die.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me say many times that because of the problems of the young man starting in the dairy industry it is important to get more flexibility into the system. I have said that from the beginning, and I shall continue to do what I can to secure that flexibility.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be most helpful if we could get a united front in this country? Does he think that it would be a good idea to bring together the Country Landowners Association and the NFU so that they can reach a common decision? Does he further agree that the Liberal spokesman is probably away discussing the rating of agricultural land?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

Events are moving so fast that I am not sure who is to be the Liberal spokesman on agriculture.

We are doing what we can to get a united view among all interested parties about how quotas could be made more flexible.

Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd

We cannot be sure who many of the party spokesmen will be in the autumn.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the problems with quotas is that in the Community more milk is being produced than is being consumed? Will he bear in mind that that is an urgent problem which meeds to be faced by the Council of Ministers? If it is not dealt with, we shall have another panic measure in a few years' time.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on a most important point. Many people tend to forget that this year we shall produce about 98 million tonnes of milk and consumption will be about 85 million tonnes. That is why the Commission is currently examining the possibility of another buy-out scheme financed either wholly or partly by the Community, in order to cancel that quota and reduce the 13 million tonnes surplus.