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Butter

Volume 124: debated on Thursday 17 December 1987

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4.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much butter was in intervention stores in the United Kingdom at the latest available date.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Donald Thompson)

On 31 October 1987 accepted intervention stocks of butter totalled 184,816 tonnes. On the same date in 1986 the equivalent figure was 258,781 tonnes.

With all this butter in store, will the Minister explain the logic of why we can sell this produce to the Soviet Union at 6p a pound, when my pensioners cannot afford the market price of more than £1 a pound? The stocks sold to the Soviet Union have been subsidised by the taxpayer by 82p in the pound — that does not include storage charges. Is not this economic madness an insult to pensioners and taxpayers?

The sooner we can get rid of these huge stores of butter and other materials, the sooner pensioners will be paying less to keep these huge mountains of food in store. That will directly benefit us all.

Can my hon. Friend say whether there will be a more effective scheme for giving surplus butter to pensioners this winter? Last winter the scheme did not work very well. As we have considerable amounts in stock, will my hon. Friend try to improve the scheme so that all pensioners receive their share?

Last year this country spent most of the money that was available in Europe, and this year the limit will be £10 million. If the scheme is taken up, we shall discuss with the charities and other bodies the most cost-effective and efficient scheme by which to distribute the butter. At present, we are discussing the whole scheme.