HC Deb 14 December 1922 vol 159 cc3346-50

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Milk (Special Designations) Order, 1922, made by the Minister of Health under Section 3 of the Milk and Dairies (Amendment) Act, 1922, be annulled. I am anxious not to detain the House more than a moment or two to say that when I put down this Motion I thought it might be necessary to say a great deal about this Order. Fortunately we have had some conversations with representatives of the Government, and I understand a statement on behalf of the Government will be made that will render it unnecessary for me to say as much as I thought might be necessary. I do want to say this, however, that it would be better if we had a little less Government by Order and Regulation and a little more by Act of Parliament; it would then not be necessary to detain the House at a time like the present. This is the only way we can deal with this question, that is the difficulty with which we have been faced, by a singular handicap that will be placed upon the milk distributors of the country, and in many parts of the trade, if some parts of the Order made under Section 3 of the Act were to remain in force after 1st January. I would ask the Solicitor-General, who is replying for the Government, to be kind enough as to advise us exactly as to how the conditions laid down in the Order are to be applied in the case of Scotland—because the Order cannot be applied to England only—also, will he advise us, or ask the Minister of Health to do so, in due course, what those will have to do who will have to deal with pasteurisation? We are faced with a situation almost of chaos in the selection of the machines that are necessary for the carrying out of the Order. You may have local authorities making different Orders on the matter of the machines. What is the machine that comes within the terms of the Order?


I beg to second the Motion.

The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)

The hon. Gentleman who has raised this matter was good enough to indicate to the Minister of Health the particular point to which his criticism was directed. The matter—if I may say a word in order to explain the statement I am going to make—is one which arises upon Section 3 of the Act passed in the last Parliament with reference to the regulation of milk supplies. By Section 3 it was enacted that the sale of "Certified," "Grade A" or "Pasteurised" milk shall be impossible except under licence granted by or with the authority of the Minister of Health, and it was provided that that illegality would begin on 1st of January. It was, therefore, incumbent that the Minister of Health should make an Order regulating the conditions under which licences should be granted. The Minister of Health made the Order, which was laid on the Table of the House, in accordance with Section 6 of the Act, "as soon as may be" after it was made. The Order was made the day before yesterday, and laid upon the Table of the House yesterday. It provides that "Pasteurised" milk shall be milk which has been treated in a particular manner. In the past, milk has been placed on the market which has not been treated in that manner; in fact, in the opinion of authorities upon that subject, some of what was called "Pas- teurised" milk was really milk that had been sterilised. The difference between the two kinds of milk is that sterilised milk is milk that has been subjected to a heat much greater than in the case of pasteurised milk, and the qualities of the milk and the taste—which is very important to some people—are very different.

There appears to be a difference between rival experts as to the best means of Pasteurising milk. It was thought that if a little more time were given a new method might be tested, and approved by the Minister of Health and the local authorities, which would be lees expensive than the only known method, that is, the positive holder. The Order, as drawn, however, made it necessary that the only known method at the present time should be at once introduced. The Minister of Health has been anxious, if possible, to give a little more time for trial of the Nielsen method, which it is suggested may be used with great advantage. The Minister of Health has been anxious to meet the criticism of the hon. Gentleman and those associated with him. Although the Order provides that licences shall only be granted to persons in respect of milk, which is retained at a temperature of not less than 145 degrees and not more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit for at least half-an-hour, and immediately cooled to a temperature of not more than 55 degrees Fahrenheit, he proposes to add at the end of the Order the proviso that— until the 1st day of July, 1923, the provisions contained in Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Conditions shall be deemed to be satisfied if the milk is treated not more than once by a suitable heating process and immediately cooled to not more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If that variation be made in the present Order, it will be possible for the existing organisations to continue their present method and to assist the Ministry of Health and the experts in trying the new method, which, it is hoped, will secure satisfactory results. I understand that addition will be acceptable to the hon. Gentleman. I will undertake that an Order shall at once be made, and that it shall become effective on 1st January in exactly the same way as the Order to which exception has been taken.

My hon. Friend asked me two questions. He inquired how this Order would apply to Scotland. The Order does not apply to Scotland, as it is made by the Minister of Health for England. No doubt my right hon. Friend will get into communication immediately with the Scottish Board of Health, with a view to action being taken in Scotland on the same lines as those I have indicated. Of course, I am not in a position to give any undertaking on behalf of the Scottish Board of Health, which has its own ideas as to how Scotland should be governed, but I have no doubt action will be taken which will secure the result aimed at.

The last question I was asked was, whether it is possible to secure that the local authorities shall act in the same way with regard to compliance with the Order. The answer is that the Order itself provides that the refusal to grant a licence shall be subject to an appeal to the Minister of Health. If anybody thinks that he ought to be granted a licence because his apparatus is satisfactory, he can appeal to the Minister, and it will be made plain to him what the Minister of Health thinks is unsatisfactory. Although local authorities may have different opinions, the Minister of Health will settle those differences, and I hope, to the satisfaction of everybody connected with the industry.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Five Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.