HC Deb 03 July 1975 vol 894 cc1661-2
9. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the factory capacity for butter production in Great Britain; what was the actual production of butter in 1974; and if he will take steps designed to increase the supply of milk to increase that available to the butter industry.

Mr. Strang

Production of butter in the United Kingdom in 1974 was 52,000 tons. My Department does not collect details of the capacity of butter factories. As regards milk supplies, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave earlier to the Questions put to me by the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) and others.

Mr. Morrison

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that unless action is taken now to increase the supply of milk, more factories producing butter are bound to be closed? Will he now answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen)? Does he agree that the only way to reverse the current trend is to put up the price of milk?

Mr. Strang

We certainly want to increase milk production, as has been reiterated. But it is not just the decline in milk production which has affected butter production. Increased supplies of milk have been going into liquid consumption and cheese manufacture.

Mr. Marten

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the stocktaking document, referred to by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes), is designed to reduce the supply of milk? Will he persuade his right hon. Friend to have words with the Leader of the House so that we can debate the stocktaking document before the House rises for the Summer Recess, and give a definite instruction to the Minister to veto this ridiculous proposition?

Mr. Strang

I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House are making rather much of this point. Inherent in the idea of the Common Market is that production should be developed where there is a comparative advantage. We have climatic advantages in grass and dairy production and a more efficient industry. Therefore, it is consistent that we should expect to get a higher share of the production of milk and dairy produce in the context of the total Community.

Mr. Joplin

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, due to the decline in the dairy herd over which the Government have presided this year, on the latest estimates butter production in this country will cease at the end of this month and will not be resumed until March next year?

Mr. Strang

Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to be vying with each other in irresponsibility. Of course there has been a decline in the dairy herd, which we are determined to reverse. But it is nonsense to talk about rationing, and no butter production whatsoever.

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