HC Deb 23 July 1930 vol 241 cc2163-6

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928. In submitting this Bill for the consideration and, I hope, the acceptance of the House, it is only right to state that it is merely intended to rectify a slight omission in the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, which unfortunately escaped notice at the time. Indeed, I have very little doubt that, had the facts been before the Ministry at the time, there would be no need for me to bring this matter before the House to-day. I think it well to explain the exact position, because it is a very unusual one and only applies to Liverpool and, I understand, part of Sheffield.

Being familiar with the position in Liverpool I will state it as simply as I can. As the House probably knows, the population of Liverpool is about 900,000. The amount of milk consumed in Liverpool is between 40,000 and 45,000 gallons per day. Of that some 20,000 odd gallons come into the City by motor, by road, another 10,000 gallons or so come by rail, and the remaining 12,000 or 13,000 gallons a day are supplied from cows which are kept within the City by what are known in Liverpool as cowkeepers. These cowkeepers produce milk of at least equal standard and quality to that of the farmers outside. Indeed, a bacteriological examination of milk produced in the City of Liverpool shows 3.1 per cent. of contamination as compared with 6.9 per cent. in the milk from sources outside the City. A large number of these cowkeepers in the City have no land at all. It has been taken away from them for City improvements. They keep their cows in shippons, as they are called in the north, but I think the ordinary southerner calls them cowsheds. They keep and exercise their cows in their yards all the year round and in place of grazing in the summer feed them on hay, new cut grass, mangolds and various expensive cattle foods. They are under the direct eye of the veterinary and public health services in the City, whereas the farmer has laud out in the country and away from such supervision.

The cowkeeper in the City produces milk which is retailed in his immediate area as against having to send it miles by rail or road to a town. There is, therefore, much less risk of contamination, and the milk is fresher because it reaches the consumer more rapidly. During last year, of the cowsheds in the City, which number about 276, there were 2,114 inspections, or roughly eight inspections per cowshed per year, and I can testify, from personal experience and knowledge, that the cowkeepers' milk is looked upon as better milk than any other available in Liverpool. For practically all other purposes, except de-rating, cowkeepers without land have been recognised as carrying on an agricultural pursuit. For instance, they have been classed with agriculture as having to pay agricultural rates of wages, and the Milk Distributive Wages Board have agreed that they come under the same category as agriculture for the production and distribution of milk. They are also exempt from contribution under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, because they are regarded as carrying on an agricultural occupation. Unfortunately for them, in drawing up the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Bill, the expression "agricultural buildings" was used, which very naturally carries with it an implication that these buildings had land attached to them. The alteration I have to propose is very simple, namely, that the expression "agricultural buildings" in the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, Section 2 (2), shall not be held to exclude any building (other than a dwelling house) being or forming part of the shippons or other buildings without any land adjoining thereto or occupied therewith used for the housing of dairy cattle solely for the purpose of the production of milk.

I realise fully the importance of not opening the door to extension of the Act for border-line cases, but I think this wording will strictly limit the matter to what, I am sure, all will agree was simply an oversight in the original Bill. At the moment, producers of milk—and the best milk—have been placed in the unfortunate position of being handicapped against the farmer and even against their brother cowkeepers, whose land has so far not been appropriated by the City for improvements. I trust I have made it clear that a real injustice exists, and one which can easily be removed by this House, which hardly ever fails to take the fair view in such cases. I hardly expect, at this stage of the Session, to have facilities for getting this Bill into law, but I hope that I may be granted the opportunity of getting it before the Members of this House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir John Sandeman Allen, Mr. Tinne, Mr. Hall-Caine, Colonel Sir James Reynolds, Mr. Mond, and Mr. Logan.