Milk Quotas

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside 12:00 am, 21st November 1985

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his policy towards the new EEC outgoers scheme.

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

I have received representations on the proposed Community outgoers scheme from hon. Members, interested organisations and individual farmers. These have reflected a number of concerns, including the position of tenant farmers and landlords. The Commission's proposals for the scheme have only recently been published. I am still considering the detailed provisions.

While in principle I am in favour of measures aimed at bringing supply and demand in the milk sector closer together, I am equally concerned to ensure that any such scheme operates fairly throughout the Community. It is important that the scheme should reflect the interests of all concerned, and in particular that a careful balance is struck between the interests of landlords and tenants.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside

I welcome that reply. I am glad that no decision has yet been reached. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the basis of his policy on this matter will be that no tenant shall be allowed to surrender or transfer his quota without his landlord's consent? Otherwise, we shall risk damaging the viability, profitability and earnings potential of farms, which will be to the detriment of the relationship between landlord and tenant—a partnership which has served this country well over the years.

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

I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend has said. I believe that there is general agreement throughout the industry that in most cases both landlord and tenant have contributed to the quota. It would be right to try to ensure that a careful balance is struck so that our landlord-tenant system is not jeopardised.

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

Will the Minister confirm that he will not oppose a special redundancy payments scheme for dairy farm workers if the EEC decides to introduce an outgoers scheme for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

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

The hon. Lady will be aware that I have on many occasions answered questions about redundancy arrangements. She knows as well as anyone in the House that there are already widespread redundancy arrangements and that many companies involved in agriculture have redundancy arrangements more generous than the basic state scheme.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is considerable anxiety within agriculture about the knock-on effect of a further outgoers scheme, desirable though that might be? Will he bring forward his review of United Kingdom agriculture in order to give a better sense of direction to those involved in making important decisions in that respect?

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

Yes, Sir. I understand what my hon. Friend says about that, and I have some sympathy with it. Even with the milk quota scheme which is in place Community production still exceeds consumption by, in broad terms, 13 per cent. Measures are necessary to bring supply more closely in line with demand. Any such measures must be applied fairly throughout the whole of the Community.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

We understand the need to bring dairy surpluses under control, but is the Minister aware that quotas and outgoers payments are only part of the story? First, is there not an urgent need to provide special compensation for the thousands of farm and creamery employees who are being thrown out of work as a result of what is happening? Secondly, does he accept that there is a need for positive guidance to avoid the transfer of the land of up to 2,000 farmers into commodities such as cereals and beef, which are already in surplus? The Government treated the dairy industry disgracefully last year. Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will try to get it right in 1986?

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

I understand that the hon. Gentleman has a new rival on the Opposition Front Bench, but there is no reason to use such extravagant language.

As I said to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard), there is a redundancy arrangement which applies throughout the industry. I understand that many of our dairies, including the Milk Marketing Board, run their own redundancy schemes, which are more generous than the standard arrangement.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many representations he has received in the last six months about milk quotas.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My right hon. Friend and I have received a substantial number of representations in the past six months about milk quotas from hon. Members, the industry organisations and individual producers.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Italians are still not enforcing dairy quotas at farm level and that there are suspicions that the French are not enforcing the quotas properly? Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that that causes great resentment among British farmers, who have suffered greatly from the quotas?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

It causes great resentment if anyone feels that the system is unfairly imposed. For that reason, we have taken every measure to ensure that these complaints are followed up rapidly. The Commission is considering them closely.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Is the Minister aware that a group of tenant farmer brothers who took over a small farm shortly before the quotas were introduced are now living on the breadline? They came to see me to tell me of their position. I wonder just how many small tenant farmers are suffering as a result of milk quotas.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows how careful we have been to try to use any extra milk that is available to provide help for those who have specific problems. If instances of specific problems had come to his notice, there were methods by which they could have been examined.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

The scheme has not worked very well.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman should say that it has not worked very well. The industry, as a whole, thinks that it has worked extremely well. Measures were taken on the basis of the advice that was received from the industry. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are adequate powers under the treaty of Rome for ensuring that when member states are in default in these matters action can be enforced against them? Will he make inquiries to ascertain whether we have been able to do that?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

There is no doubt that we shall take any action that is open to us to ensure that these schemes are carried out properly. We need information, rather than vague reports which undermine what is otherwise an equitable scheme.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Will the Minister give a guarantee that our producers will not be penalised because there may be a shortfall in production under quota this year as a result of bad weather during the summer? We understand that we may be as much as 2 per cent. under quota. It would be atrocious if that shortfall were to be added to any overall cut in quota next year or after that.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The hon. Gentleman knows that we have made it clear that we do not consider that any shortfall in quota should be taken into account in that way.