How British is your cheddar cheese?

DID you know that every year Britain imports 30,000 tonnes of milk to make “British” cheddar cheese?

Until a few weeks ago when I began investigating the state of the British dairy market I didn’t know either. It seems madness that something as quintessentially British should be made with the basic ingredients brought in from abroad.

This astonishing fact is just one symptom of what’s wrong with the market for liquid milk in this country and helps to explain why many dairy farmers in my constituency, including the many I recently visited in Wensleydale, are receiving such low prices.

Far too much of the cheese, yoghurt and butter we buy is not made with British milk. Fixing this situation and ensuring our farmers’ milk is processed into these higher value-add products, is just one of the ten steps in my plan for the industry which is reported elsewhere in this week’s D&S.

We need to see more operations like the superb Wensleydale Dairy Products at Hawes. I regularly visit the Creamery, most recently last week when I had the honour of being part of the welcome party for the Prince of Wales on a gloriously sunny day.

Prince Charles’ Dairy Initiative recognises the importance of successful businesses like the Creamery which makes premium dairy products, markets them successfully here and abroad, and in doing so helps shield its Wensleydale farmers from the worst extremes of the global milk market. And the vital by-product of that is preservation of the Wensleydale landscape that all know and love.

On Monday in the House, I spoke in favour of the Government’s Trade Union Bill. Contrary to what some would claim, this legislation is not all about shackling the unions. It will help them by making them more transparent, and importantly, more democratic.

Strikes inevitably cause huge disruption to families, especially when they affect the vital public services that we rely on. The right of union members to strike must be balanced with the right of ordinary working people to go about their daily lives without undue hassle. Last year the country experienced a national strike supported by just 27 per cent of members who had voted for strike action almost two years previously - that doesn’t seem right to me.

Industrial action should be a last resort, and by requiring that at least 50 per cent of those eligible take part in a recent strike ballot, the Bill ensures trade unions will have a strong, current mandate for any action they wish to take. I was pleased to see the Bill pass.