asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if the return for dairy farmers proposed in the statement of 17th February covers the rise in costs over the past 12 months.
Yes, Sir. This is a very substantial award. It consolidates and improves on the settlement last October and I believe it will allow the recent rise in confidence to be sustained.
Has the Minister noted the substantial drop in the number of dairy cows in the last return? In view of the probable shortage of milk for consumption and manufacture in the coming months, has he made an estimate of the increase during the summer? Will it also cover the allowances for additional costs?
I am not sure that I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. Production is up on last year. There is an allowance in the United Kingdom quota, as a whole, of 50 million additional gallons, and there is every sign of confidence in the industry. I cannot predict the yield from every cow, but the dairy industry is healthy, and I am sure that it will continue to be so.
If the Minister is so sure that confidence is returning to the dairy industry, can be say why dairy farmers are selling such large numbers of cows, and why there has been a downturn in the number of dairy heifers coming into the dairy herd in Scotland?
I can never understand why a lot of farmers do a whole lot of things. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is getting beef mixed up with milk. I repeat that the dairy industry as a whole is very healthy and that there is a great deal of confidence—more than there was a year ago.
If the industry is so healthy, why did 270 dairymen apply to come out of dairy and into beef in December?
That is a tribute to this Government. All the farmers are very shrewd at seeing where the best bargains are. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that the beef sector is also a healthy part of agriculture.