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Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

5. What his Department's policy is on the effects on the environment of the sale of fresh milk in the UK; and if he will make a statement. (160574)

DEFRA is working collaboratively with all parts of the dairy supply chain to reduce the environmental impacts of the production and consumption of fresh liquid milk.

The Minister will know of reports that civil servants proposed either to persuade or to coerce the British public to move away from fresh British milk towards UHT milk. Will he take this opportunity to inform us either that there was no truth in those stories, or that he has told the civil servants concerned to throw their proposals very firmly in the waste-paper bin?

I am grateful for the opportunity to answer my right hon. Friend’s question. There was a discussion document about the proposal, but it is not Government policy, never has been and never will be. Reports suggested that we would force people to drink UHT milk—which is considerably inferior to the fresh milk produced by British farmers—but I can tell my right hon. Friend that the story was and is a load of old bullocks.

What is the cost of the product road-mapping? Would the money not be better spent on supporting the dairy sector, which has already been hit by bluetongue, foot and mouth and bovine tuberculosis? If refrigeration truly is an environmental problem, is the hon. Gentleman really going to be the Minister to tell people to drink their lager warm?

Not lager, not milk. No, I am not going to tell consumers to do that. However, we do need to examine the environmental impact of farming. We have worked with representatives of farmers’ groups from across the industry, and we are very grateful for the hard work that they have put in. There has been a good collaboration between DEFRA and the industry, and we want that to continue. If we can identify costs—particularly energy costs—and savings, that will be good for not just the environment, but the farmer.