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Bill Cash MP
for Stone

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Bill Cash raises concerns in European committee debate on behalf of Staffordshire dairy farmers

Press release 17/03/11

In a European Committee debate at the House of Commons (European Committee A) on Tuesday 15 March 2011 relating to milk and milk products, Staffordshire MP, Bill Cash, who is also Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, raised several concerns with the Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, particularly relating to the code of practice, milk contracts, supermarkets and monopoly on behalf of Staffordshire dairy farmers.
In the debate, Cash made the following points:
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con):  Following on from that point, and also that made by my hon. Friend—he is a friend—the hon. Member for Luton North, having many dairy farmers in my constituency I am naturally very conscious of the fact that supermarkets have many of them over a barrel. I welcome the idea that there should be this code of practice, and follow-through by the ombudsman, in the legislation that would follow. However, is it also not the case that dairy farmers are locked into contracts that compel them to send their market to one buyer, which is the monopoly problem, and that because milk is a perishable product that must be collected every day they do not have the freedom to contract that many others have? Therefore it is important, irrespective of the problems of the competition policy, to ensure that there are compulsory written contracts that mean that the British dairy farmer benefits from these proposals. 
... Mr Cash:  I would simply thank the Minister for concentrating on fairness or unfairness, which lies at the heart of the question of competition. May I refer to a portrait just in front of him that shows Palmerston taking a line on the commercial treaty with France, which dealt with fair competition and trade? Behind him is John Bright arguing against the iron hoof of monopoly. This is the essence of the problem in a nutshell: we must find a way of ensuring that supermarkets do not continue to have a commercial monopoly over dairy farmers, in a way that has done a great deal of damage to them over the past generation. 
… Mr Cash:  On the basis that price is written into the milk contract, does the Minister agree that an agreed method of price variation ought to be written into it? Many people have suggested that that would be a good idea. 
Click here to read the debate in Hansard. 

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