HC Deb 25 May 1916 vol 82 cc2273-4
27. Sir R. COOPER

asked the President of the Board of Trade if the recent increase in the price of milk is caused by any increase in the cost of production or by a shortage in supply; and, if not, can he say what is the cause of the recent increase, and does he propose to take steps to fix a reasonable price to the consumer?


I discussed the question yesterday with representatives of the London milk trade. I understand from them that the rise in price is partly due to increased cost of distribution, but mainly to the high price of all agricultural produce, and particularly of meat and cheese. If farmers cannot obtain anything like a proportionate price for milk, there is a tendency to sell cows and heifers to the butcher, and this is accentuated by the withdrawal of milkers for military service. If, owing to the disproportion of price, the production of milk were reduced, a shortage would result, which would have far more serious consequences than the present rise in price. There is no evidence of any shortage of supply at present.


Why is it then that in many districts the prices have not risen?


Is it not a fact that the large proportion of farmers in this country are obtaining little, if any, increase on the prices they were getting months ago?


No. This question and my answer refers to London milk only, and it was with the London milk purveyors that I had my conference. I am not prepared, at present, to give any definite facts with regard to other parts of the country. The statement made is that the prices the London purveyors are paying are from 5d. to 6d. per gallon more than pre-war prices.


May I ask whether there is any intention of putting the Milk Act, 1914, into operation in order to give the municipalities the power to supply milk?


If my hon. Friend will look at the answer, he will see that there would be danger in any action which tended to reduce the price of milk unless other agricultural products, at the same time, were taken into consideration.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the price of milk delivered in London to-day is 1s. per gallon at the stations? And why did the hon. Gentleman only meet the representatives of the purveyors after an agitation started by the Press?


The milk at the station sold at this price is surplus milk which, particularly in the month of May, can be got cheaply at the stations.