History in Kent => Life Writing => Topic started by: Mickleburgh on August 15, 2017, 15:18:50

Title: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: Mickleburgh on August 15, 2017, 15:18:50
Does anyone remember, just thirty years ago, the controversy surrounding the distribution of `free` butter from the EU? It arose when Brussels decided to try and reduce the `Butter Mountain` that had arisen from over production in the Dairy Sector. There were dozens of `intervention` warehouses packed to the roof and at any one one time hundreds of lorries were transporting container loads to and fro between them just to create extra storage space.
Following a series of cold snaps across the Continent a decision was taken to make a distribution of free butter to the `poor and needy` in the member countries of the  Community. Not an overwhelming problem if handed over to the social care and welfare institutions of the individual states. However,  in the view of the UK Government  the whole thing stank of `socialism` and would entail admitting that there actually was such a thing as the `poor and needy`. Total anathema! Reluctant participants at best, a throw away comment by the Prime Minister led to the process being handed over to the voluntary sector, particularly the WRVS. Whilst a respected and worthy organisation, the flaw was that the butter consignments were just dumped on them without any clear guidance as to the crtiteria of eligibility or any contribution to the distribution set up costs. The Minister responsible for this shambles was one John Selwyn Gummer, if you remember him.
At any rate, whilst everyone had heard about this `free butter` little or nothing was happening where my mother lived until a certain prominent local lady, councillor of the `blue rinse` persuasion, was overheard to remark that her cats were certainly enjoying their fish cooked in butter!  That did it, next morning my mother was knocking at her door and, ushered in, said she had come for her butter. After protests about it not having been decided, etc, etc, she insisted that as a pensioner and in need that was what she wanted. Grudgingly a packed fridge was opened and one pack graciously handed over, then a second as mother continued to hold her hand out. The irony was that mother was lactose intolerant and couldn`t eat butter, but it was the principle that was at stake.
Ad-hoc distributions were eventually made around the country but with little advertising or organisation it is doubtful if even fifty per-cent of the total ever reached those it was really intended for.
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: AlanH on August 16, 2017, 09:20:04
I don't know or care much about the EU but didn't they have lakes of milk and wine as well? Maybe the blue rinse and other assorted self servers got first pick of them as well.
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: Sentinel S4 on August 16, 2017, 21:18:05
Hmm, 'Just 30 years ago...'? I thought it was at best a year to three, not 30 damn years..... Where the heck has that time gone?...

A puzzled S4..
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: ann on August 17, 2017, 12:17:05
Yes I remember.  I queued up at the Charnal House in Gun Lane for mum and dads allowance (being oap's).
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: smiffy on August 17, 2017, 13:23:38
ann, "queuing up at the Charnal House for mum's and dad's allowance" sounds like something from a horror film  :)
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: ann on August 17, 2017, 14:06:55
yes it does a bit!!!   Can't remember who was allotting it out but think I had to produce their pension books to collect it.
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: 80sChild on August 17, 2017, 15:48:12
I love the idea that Thatcher's arch typical Tory government resisted the idea that the 'poor and needy' should be given it because by doing so it would be admittance that there IS a serious problem with social welfare in British society at the time, which would counteract their 'everything's fine because of us' mentality.

I think the modern equivalent would the Food Banks, and Cameron/May repeatedly saying that that's all been exaggerated.  :)
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: AlanH on August 18, 2017, 10:07:47
All governments love to put a gloss on things and claim credit for the good they do. When things go pear shaped they blame the other lot. I don't like or trust any of them.

PS. "Charnal House"!! The mind boggles. Surely that wasn't it's real name. Was it opposite the Imperial Forces pub on the corner of Military Road? Or am I thinking of the wrong place altogether.
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: ann on August 18, 2017, 11:42:19
Alan H.Look in Forum under ; Emergency/medical and then topic Charnel House, Gun Lane Strood  April 2013, there is lots of information there.

(sorry do not know how to give direct link? Anyone help;)
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: Bilgerat on August 18, 2017, 13:15:59
I remember butter mountains, wine lakes etc and also recall that they were created to keep prices artificially high by restricting supply. It was done for the benefit of mainly French farmers, because their farms were not cost-effective enough to match the prices coming out of more efficient British and Irish farms. This was something to do with the Napoleonic system of distributing assets amongst children, where all had to be given the same amount of land in the will of a deceased farmer, leading to French farms becoming ever smaller and less efficient.

I'm of the view that had the EU remained what it was sold to us as, ie. a 'Common Market', things would have been fine. Unfortunately, the politicians of the day lied to us, the Treaty of Rome has always committed members to work towards 'Ever Closer Union', which meant that a United States of Europe, governed from Brussels and protected from the will of the people by a labyrinthine beaurocracy was always on the cards. I for one think getting out was a good idea. Thats my two-penny'th anyways....
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: MartinR on August 18, 2017, 21:18:46
There are some interesting parallels with the corn laws of 1815-46.  Rigging the market to keep prices artificially high for the benefit of farmers.
Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: conan on August 18, 2017, 23:12:07
Here you go Ann 

Title: Re: The Butter Mountain 1987
Post by: ann on August 19, 2017, 16:29:18
Thank you.