HC Deb 08 May 1928 vol 217 cc178-81

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to control the production, distribution, and sale of reconstituted and synthetic cream. I am sure that the House will allow me its indulgence for a few minutes for the purpose of introducing a Bill which very seriously affects a very large number of people in this country. The dairy farmers and the great consuming public are materially affected by this Bill, and, before I explain to the House its general provisions, I should like to state the reasons leading up to its introduction. As is well known to all Members of the House, the Minister of Health, acting, as he believed, in the interests of the consuming public of this country, thought fit, as from the 1st January this year, to prohibit the use of any preservatives in the manufacture or sale of cream in this country, and the effect of that has been two-fold. While it has to a certain extent prevented or diminished the importation of cream from foreign countries and from Ireland, it has at the same time very materially increased the use in this country of synthetic and reconstituted cream, and that is the point to which I wish the House to give its mind this afternoon.

As the House is, of course, aware, we have, up to the last few days, been having a considerable amount of cold weather, and therefore it would be reasonable to suppose that cream without preservatives, if it were going to keep at all, would keep during that period, but I have here a letter from the owner of a large creamery in the City of Birmingham—I do not know whether he is a constituent of the Minister of Health himself—in which he says: The first week that the Order came into force, I had 10 churns of cream sour—a loss of £50, and that during frosty weather. Since then I have lost 50 customers out of 70. He goes on to say that whereas, before the Order came into force, his weekly sale was 500 gallons of cream, it has now been reduced to less than 100 gallons weekly. If that be so during cold weather, it is perfectly certain that worse conditions will prevail during hot weather.

For this reason a very large number of people in this country, comprising bakers, confectioners, ice cream merchants and hotel and restaurant proprietors, are installing machines called emulsifiers. I do not know whether Members of the House are aware what these emulsifiers are, but they produce by mechanical means cream of two distinct varieties. They produce what is called reconstituted cream, which is made from skim milk powder, very largely—indeed, practically entirely—imported from Holland, and from butter, which is generally imported from New Zealand, though a great deal of it is also imported from continental countries, and a certain amount of course, is English butter; and very often the only English product that is used in this particular method of making cream is the water with which it is mixed. The other variety, namely, synthetic cream, is a slightly different product. It is made in the same way, but, instead of butter, margarine is used, or some other imported vegetable oil. Therefore, I say that the public who are buying in the shops of this country what they believe to be cream buns, what they believe to be ice cream, or what they believe to be cream, are, in fact, getting something which has not nearly the same nutritive value. I am certain that anyone with any knowledge of medical matters will know that, as far as synthetic cream is concerned, there is practically no food value in it at all, while, as far as reconstituted cream is concerned, it is perfectly certain that the very important vitamins which exist in ordinary cream do not exist to the same degree in reconstituted cream, so that it is a very much less valuable food for the people of this country.

What I want to impress upon the House is that, while it is stated in the advertisements relating to these machines—I have several of them here—that large extra profits can be made by using them, the general public are being asked to pay the same price for a very much worse article than ordinary English cream, and, therefore, I am asking leave to introduce this Bill, which will put the cream trade in exactly the same position as the dairy trade under the Milk and Dairies Consolidation Act. What the Bill does is, roughly, this: It gives the Minister of Health power to make special Orders for the registration with the local authorities of manufacturers of reconstituted and synthetic cream, and also for the registration of sellers of these articles, the inspection of premises, the labelling and marking of vessels, and the designation of the articles, so that they may be distinguished by the general public from ordinary natural cream. I am certain that there is no Member of this House who would not be willing that the general public should know, when they are buying cream, whether it is real, natural cream, or whether it is synthetic or reconstituted cream. The penalties under the Bill are exactly the same as those which are at present in operation under the Milk and Dairies Consolidation Act.

I should like to give one example, if I may, of some of the things which have happened in my own constituency within the last few weeks. I have seen the manager of a very large creamery in my Division, and he has given me some replies which he has received from some of his customers. This is one of them: I am sorry for not replying to your letter before. The reason we have not taken any further supplies of cream is that we have bought an emulsifier. I have several others of the same sort, and I think that that will give the House a good idea of what is happening. I hope that the House will give permission for this Bill to be brought in, because, first of all, of the effect of these articles on the health of the general public, since the general public are being sold something which they do not understand, and which, while they believe it to be cream, is not really cream at all; and also because it affects the great dairying industry and the farming industry of this country. I ask the House to allow me to introduce this Bill in the interest of the farming industry and the still more important interest of the consumer and the general public.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Everard, Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte, Brigadier-General Clifton Brown, Dr. Vernon Davies, Captain Ronald Henderson, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Riley, Mr. Smith-Carington, and Mr. Alfred Williams.