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Milk Marketing

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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17.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on future policy on milk marketing.

My policy will continue to be the maintenance of the existing arrangements for the marketing of milk in the United Kingdom, based upon the Milk Marketing Boards and the doorstep delivery system for liquid milk.

Will the Minister give an assurance that, whatever the future might hold, our market will not be flooded with French milk and that the interest of the consumer will be paramount?

On the question of imports, the United Kingdom holds strongly to the view that the health regulations that we apply are justified and correct, and we shall continue with them. There are varying views about what is in the interest of the consumer. I hold the view that the retention of the doorstep service is of prime importance to the consumer.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way to retain the doorstep delivery service is to retain the link between the milk bottle and the milk inside it? Will he stop the dairy industry from forcing retailers to sell milk in cartons, simply to make matters more convenient for the industry?

That is a topic on which consumers differ in their views. The tradition of the doorstep delivery service, be it in bottles or sometimes in cartons, is of prime importance to our overall milk consumption.

Is the Minister aware that milk production in Britain will soon come to a halt unless there is rain? Will the Government appoint a Minister for drought?

No, Sir. We have no intention of applying for the transfer of a Minister to occupy that position.

Doorstep deliveries are a great convenience to the consumer. However, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that they have a great deal to do with the fact that the margin between the price paid to the producer and the price charged to the consumer is far wider than it is in any other Community country?

I also have in mind that the consumption of liquid milk in Britain is far higher than it is in other European countries.