§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I beg to move,That the Scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, for the regulation of the marketing of milk in Scotland, a draft of which was presented to this House on the 1st day of May, 1933, be approved.The House has had a varied bill of fare before it this afternoon. After discussing Private Bill legislation in Scotland and then the administration of justice in Scotland, I am now, at this hour, going to turn their attention to the question of milk. In asking the House to adopt a resolution in favour of the Scottish Milk Marketing Scheme, which is now in the hands of hon. Members, I can assure them that the need for such a scheme is keenly felt and realised by dairy farmers in 1805 Scotland. They have realised by experience that schemes based on voluntary co-operation cannot be made effective and that the powers given by the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1931 should be used. A large and representative meeting of Scottish milk producers met soon after that Act was passed to formulate proposals dealing with the marketing of milk, and last November, when the public inquiry was held in Glasgow, objections were lodged against the scheme. The principal farmers' association in Scotland at that time were divided in their opinion, but since then the position in the milk market has worsened, and to-day the National Farmers' Union of Scotland and the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture are in favour of this scheme.
The scheme itself comprises all the effective milk producing districts of Scotland with the exception of Aberdeen, Elgin, and Inverness, and the area comprises a population of over 4,000,000 people and covers some 15,000 to 20,000 producers of milk. I ask the House to excuse me if I go into a little detail on this question in view of the wide ramifications of the present scheme. I am aware of the anxiety which is to-day experienced by milk producers regarding the present position of their industry. I am satisfied myself that the scheme, if wisely carried out, will enable them to re-establish their industry on a sound footing, and that, in the terms of the Act, it will conduce to a more effective production and marketing of milk. The main object of the scheme is to deal with the gap between the price of milk sold for liquid consumption and the price of milk not wanted for that purpose which is sold or used for manufacturing purposes. One set of prices in practice pulls down the other price. Last autumn the agreed price for producers supplying the Glasgow area was is. 2d. per gallon for liquid milk, while the price for surplus milk was only 6d. per gallon, but even at that rate it is believed that only one-third of the milk producers were getting the higher price. Since then the agreed price of 1s. 2d. in the South-West of Scotland has fallen to 10d. per gallon, and less, while surplus milk for manufacturing purposes has fallen to 4d.
1806 The problem before the new board, therefore, will be to dispose of the growing surplus of milk as well as possible and maintain prices for liquid milk. An essential part of their scheme will be to try to increase the public consumption of milk. May I interpose here a word or two as to the public demand for milk in Scotland? It has been calculated that the consumption per head in England and Wales compares very unfavourably with that in other countries. No doubt the discrepancy is due to different habits. For instance, the consumption of milk would be expected to be higher in countries where coffee is as popular a beverage as tea is in England and, further, extremes of heat and cold are said to stimulate the demand for milk. But, when due allowance is made for all these factors, consumption could be increased considerably with benefit both to the health of the nation and to the milk industry. I have one or two figures if the. House will allow me to give them. The consumption of fluid milk per day in the United States before that country went dry was one pint per head. In Denmark it was one and a-quarter pints, in Norway one and one-eighth pints, and in. Sweden nearly one and a-half pints. In Glasgow, on the other hand, the consumption of milk is only about two-fifths of a pint per day. The problem of trying to increase the public demand may well be studied by producers and distributors.
Passing from the consumption of milk and the means whereby it may be increased, let me turn to the scheme itself. The provisions of the scheme are designed to enable the administrative board, by the exercise of trading and regulatory powers, to regulate the sale and price of milk to be consumed as liquid milk, to arrange for the disposal or otherwise of the surplus supplies, and to pay producers for the total quantity of milk supplied by them, irrespective of its destination, on the basis of an average price, with exceptions for officially graded or other milk which is sold at special prices, and subject to reductions for distant carriage. The cost of operating the scheme is to be met by deduction from the payments to the registered producers calculated at so much a gallon, and the cost of the scheme will not fall, therefore, on the State. Producer-retailers, producer-wholesalers arid the producers of certified milk are to, 1807 be exempt from the provision requiring the sale of milk to or through the agency of the board. That is an exception, but they will be required to observe the scale of prices fixed by the board and to contribute to the cost of operating the scheme. Generally speaking, the scheme itself will be one for the pooling of the milk produced in that wide area. Thus registered producers are in general not to sell the regulated product except to or through the agency of the board. To a large extent, producers will be allowed to continue to consign milk, as heretofore, to the same distributors and manufacturers, but it is assumed that the board will be a party to any contracts made between producers and buyers of milk, and the latter will make their payments to the board.
During recent months the scheme has been criticised on one or two grounds. One criticism has been that the uniform flat rate of payment will work unfairly as between groups of producers now regularly supplying definite markets all the year round and other producers who may be using most of their milk to turn into cheese or more rarely butter. In this connection it may be pointed out that the deduction for haulage rate will operate against producers distant from the main area of consumption. The objection has further been met by a modification to the effect that the producer who undertakes a regular supply all the year round shall get any excess payment agreed to on that account. Another objection was raised on behalf of the distributors, and I understand, we are going to hear more about it this evening They complain that the scheme places a producers' board in an unfairly favourable position for bargaining with the distributors, but let me remind hon. Members that the scheme does no more in this direction than the Act of 1931. The Act of Parliament of that year does not alter the fundamental facts of the situation. The board will not be in a position to arrange for distribution, and milk will still be a perishable commodity which the producers must get rid of very quickly. I think, therefore the distributors will thus still be in strong position. After all the price must be settled after negotiations with them.
The only persons on whom the board can impose prices are the producers, and 1808 this power is needed primarily to save any producer from being tempted to part with his milk at a lower price than the agreed price, because that practice has been followed by certain individuals which caused the voluntary scheme which was in operation a, few years ago to break down. Clause 23 specially directs the board to invite representatives of distributors, manufacturers and others to join together in appointing a joint committee to consider questions of this kind. I think, therefore, the House will see that the interests of consumers and distributors are widely safeguarded. As hon. Members will know, a public inquiry was held in Glasgow in November on this question and lasted for six clays. Full expression was then given to the objections lodged with respect to the scheme. Objections were also raised to the scheme on the ground that it does not apply to the whole of Scotland, but I am advised that the scheme is not likely to fail in its object through the preparation of other schemes for the North and North-east of Scotland. In other words, this scheme can go through by itself and be a success, although there may be other schemes which will shortly be put into operation. Let me turn for a moment to the relationship between this scheme and the proposed milk marketing scheme for England and Wales.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he tell the House how they are to deal with circumstances like these, which may arise under this arrangement? A great amount of milk that at the moment is being used for making cheese and butter, may be rushed into the Glasgow market in quantities greater than Glasgow is able to take at dm moment. It is all very well to talk about a "drink more milk" campaign but as things are I should like to know how a situation such as I have described is to be handled.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
That is the very problem which the board must face. I said in my earlier remarks that the functions of the board would be to study that problem and see how they would deal with it. It is a matter which I must leave to them. It is a matter to be considered by the producers themselves. They are the best judges of how to conserve their own interests. It is undoubtedly true that to rush large 1809 quantities of liquid milk on to the market may smash the price and the scheme has been instituted for the very purpose of avoiding the contingency of the market being smashed and the producers heavily hit. I think we must therefore leave the solution of that problem to the board. It is a business problem which these men will face, I hope with success, directly the scheme goes through.
As regards the relationship between the scheme and the projected milk scheme for England and Wales there can be no doubt that the two boards, acting for the two countries, will recognise that they must arrive at some satisfactory arrangements regarding supplies passing from the area of one scheme to another. The Scottish Scheme prohibits the sale of milk by producers either within the area of the scheme or elsewhere, except to or through the agency of the board. The board therefore has complete power over the sale of milk by producers. The Scottish Board I think are not likely of their own motion to stop sales of milk in England and English sellers of milk from Scotland cannot be debarred directly, under any scheme, from obtaining supplies from Scotland. The utmost that could be done to stop them would be for the English Board, if and when it is set up, to refuse permission to producers in England to supply such persons. It is improbable, I think, that any such action would be taken without consulting the Scottish Board, and, therefore, I think enough has been said to show that the English and Scottish Boards between them will be able to deal with the situation. I may remind the House that the final decision on the question of whether the scheme shall come into full operation rests with the producers themselves. A poll of the producers must be taken and it is interesting to observe that the scheme will lapse until the poll shows that not less than two-thirds in terms of numbers and of producing capacity of those voting are in favour of it remaining in force. I am sorry if I have wearied the House with some detail on this matter, but I was anxious to submit the details not only to this House, but to the large audience outside which is awaiting them. I submit those details with confidence, believing as I do, that voluntary efforts to secure a reasonable price for the producers of this vital commodity in Scot- 1810 land having failed, and as the Agricultural Marketing Act is now in operation, this scheme is necessary. The scheme comes before the House, having been threshed out in detail by those conversant with the subject, and I hope the House will now allow it to go forward to the poll of the producers.
§ Mr. DAVID REID
A certain amount of milk comes to the South of Scotland from the North of Ireland. When I cross from Lame to Stranraer, I see a certain amount of milk in churns and of cream in pails, going from the North of Ireland to Scotland. Is the import of that milk into Scotland to be prohibited?
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
In the Committee which is dealing with the Agricultural Marketing Bill, apprehensions have been expressed on various points, in regard to which it has appeared to those associated with me that effective control would not be exercised. We have generally been referred, when we have raised these points, to the fact that any scheme would have to run the gauntlet of being placed before the House. I respectfully draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the situation which presents itself on the first scheme of this character presented to the House. I refer to the number of Members who are in attendance to safeguard the people of this country in regard to any points which may arise on this scheme and which are to the detriment of the community. It should not be accepted as satisfactory that at this time of the night, the first stage of this scheme is being taken under such conditions, especially when we know that every speaker in this discussion has to be mindful of a request made to us that we should all be brief in order that some other matter may be brought before the House later.
I was surprised at the statement of the Secretary of State which suggested that voluntary co-operation was not capable of being applied in this country. I regret to accept that fact—if it be a fact, because the history of co-operation in Denmark seems to contradict that expression of Opinion by the right hon. Gentleman I agree with him whole- 1811 heartedly with regard to the national interest in an increased consumption of milk but I assert that in securing that end you are entitled to give a proper status to the value of the work of the distributing elements in this country. I oppose this scheme on the ground that I do not think it would be of advantage to the community. Moreover, I am of opinion that it will not be to the best interest of the milk industry. Reference has been made to the public inquiry which followed the completion of the scheme. At that inquiry, detailed reasons were advanced in support of the assertion that it would not work satisfactorily. Details were given with regard to the interlocking of the various interests in order to make for smooth working, and it was pressed upon those conducting the inquiry that joint machinery was essential.
I assert that not only our trade interests, but the communal interests of the people are entitled to have smoothness in this important item of dietary, and anything that will militate against that smoothness should make us very careful before we allow it to interfere. This its a thing in which good will is absolutely essential. We must have the good will of all the people affected, and I am prone to believe that the scheme as it is at the present time will not be conducive to that good will. Without it all the formal regulations that may be made will come to nothing. I would ask the House to bear in mind that the elements which are now asking for co-operation are those which have brought efficiency to this industry. It is not the most inefficient sections which are asking for co-operation. The methods used in the preparation of the scheme were, to say the least, curious. They were secretive, and a policy of hush-hush seemed to animate those who entered into the initial discussions. The complexity of the industry did not appear to them to be such as to call for all the aspects being properly considered and allowed a voice, and the important factor of interdependence in this industry was given scant attention. Had it been given its proper place other interests to which I have referred would have been brought in.
Therefore, I regret that in the initial investigations regard should not have been made to that and a review of all 1812 the aspects of the problem made and all the viewpoints covered in a proper way. The Minister of Agriculture appears to be of the same opinion, because, so far as the milk industry for England and Wales is concerned, he proceeded in a way which can be accepted as a more sensible way. He sought all opinions and he selected for the purpose Sir Edward Grigg and gave that gentleman a commission. Presumably he instructed them to pass under review the experience of the past and the facts of the present and from these two things to bring forward whatever modifications they deemed it desirable to make in order to make an efficient milk industry in this country. They occupied many months at their job and they brought into being a very detailed report. It included suggestions such as I have been supporting, namely, a joint milk council covering producers and distributors with, as a preventive against the possibility of deadlock between these two elements, three independent persons. That method must be accepted by hon. Members as at least reasonable and sane. Why a different procedure was adopted for Scotland I do not know, and I would like to ask the Minister what procedure would have been adopted had it been a national scheme and not a Scottish scheme. If it had been a national scheme would he have adopted the Scottish method or the English method? I am prone to believe that the interests in England and the wisdom of the Minister of Agriculture would have decided that the conditions that appertained in England would have been those adopted.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
The hon. Member is not suggesting that in the draft English scheme there is a joint milk council?
§ Mr. LEONARD
I am suggesting that in the report of the Organisation Commission acting under Sir Edward Grigg part of the recommendations is analagous to what I have put forward as desirable in this scheme. With regard to Scotland no consultation of that character took place. The Minister may say that the public inquiry into the scheme gave the opportunity for all the other interests to bring forward their points of view. That is quite right, and many of the interests, and particularly the interest with which 1813 I am intimately connected—the Co-operative movement—took advantage of that public inquiry. When they went there, however, the chairman ruled out any reference to joint machinery, holding, as I have been told, that it is a producers' scheme and that, therefore, he could not permit a discussion of joint machinery—discussion that must have taken place in England because it is a part of the Commission's Report. I believe that the Minister of Agriculture is endeavouring to remedy this matter in the Marketing Bill which is in Committee upstairs. That is one of the defects about which the Grigg Commission reported in order to get the machinery running smoothly.
I want to revert to the method of conducting this matter in Scotland. Surely it cannot he said that there are no interests in Scotland that have a status sufficient to give them some recognition. In front of the public inquiry there appeared interests, to one of which I will refer. I am going to refer to the evidence of Mr. Downie, the leading witness on behalf of the Scottish Co-operative movement. He stated that the Co-operative witnesses present represented 170 retail societies handling 23,000,000 gallons of milk per annum, including the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, with three creameries taking 2,500,000 gallons per annum; 817 milk producers supplying 16,500,000 gallons a year to the societies; and Co-operative societies themselves, which were farming 10,000 acres in the area covered by the scheme. That was an interest that endeavoured to receive some consideration, and it was not right to pay no regard to interests of that character. I find in the Orange Book, which is a. Government publication, the following statement on page 50:It is obvious, for example, that a national milk scheme will require the cooperation of wholesale and retail distributors, including the consumers cooperative movement, of creamery proprietors and of manufacturers. Divergent interests may stand in the way of effective co-operation, and it would be the duty of the commission as a constructive body standing outside the ring to investigate such difficulties as exist and to make suggestions for their removal.Therefore I suggest that the Governmental opinion in the Orange Book should have had some regard paid to it in the initial stages of this matter. But I want to be a little more emphatic. 1814 Not only did they ignore that expression on behalf of the Government, but they deliberately refrained from allowing the competent section of the co-operative machine any knowledge of the matter at all. They deliberately endeavoured to keep the initial negotiations from the knowledge of the co-operative societies. I base that statement upon the assertion that there is correspondence now in the possession of the Scottish Department of Agriculture which supports the contention. I ask the Minister to look into it, and to give due regard to it. If an opportunity bad been given to us at an earlier stage it is possible that the report and the statement might have contained modifications in line with those to which I have referred as contained in the report of the Grigg Commission.
Then there is the public inquiry. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has referred to it, and to the results. What were the results? He may tell us that. The report of the inquiry has not been published. Efforts have been made to ascertain what the report was. It was a public inquiry. Counsel were briefed to be in attendance, and trouble was taken to prepare the evidence and to see that it was placed in proper hands. There has been the expense of the inquiry. I presume that the Commission reported. What is the report None of the interested parties knows. They are refused any information as to what effect their evidence has had on the report. The Minister may know, but he does not tell us. I think there is precedent for this claim. The Trade Board inquiries are analogous to this inquiry. They have placed before them much detail of a rather intimate kind. Their reports have been published in the past. There is no reason why the report should not be published in this case. The Raeburn Committee, which made an investigation into co-operative societies, conducted its inquiry in private, but published a report. I know that the Government feel very reluctant to publish the evidence given before that inquiry, but the report was published. I ask a specific question. Is the Minister acting on the report or is he acting against the report? Perhaps it is the case that joint control was recommended. We do not know.
§ Mr. LEONARD
Yes, I am asserting that, and I am supported by the Report to which I have referred. It is the same Act, the same machinery, and the same problem which comes under review. With regard to the Commission to which I have referred, if it is good enough for the problem as it applies to England it is good enough for the problem in so far as it applies to Scotland. I want to refer to the scheme itself. The Minister referred to paragraph 23. It says:For the purpose of facilitating the determination of the matters referred to in Sections 20 and 21 hereof, and in order to promote harmony in the relations between the board, distributors of milk, manufacturers of milk products and haulage contractors, the board shall invite such associations representing these interests as may be known to the board to appoint representatives to joint committees to which the board will also appoint representatives.In its initial form it was permissive, and it is now mandatory, and that is good. But there is the possibility of dispute. That is one of the troubles that we are endeavouring to visualise. Power is ultimately to reside in the hands of the producers. That is one of the things to which we object. There is nothing in the paragraph as to the size and the relative proportion of the representation of the various interests. I want to turn to paragraph 20, which is much more important. In sub-paragraph 4 we find:(4) The board shall, as soon as practicable after the termination of the statutory suspensory period intimate in writing to every registered producer whether or not the continuance of the disposal of the regulated product produced by him to the person or persons to whom it was sold immediately prior to the termination of the statutory suspensory period has been approved by the board. In the event of such continuance not being approved, the board shall instruct the registered producer concerned in writing as to the manner in which his supply is to be disposed of, and on receipt of the written instruction of the board, the registered producer shall dispose of the regulated product produced by him in manner provided therein.That is far too wide unless there is joint control. This matter is extremely important. It is not a question of the co-operative societies at all, but for years the co-operative societies and the distributors have entered into direct relationship with the farming interests of 1816 the country. They have told the farming interests the requirements with regard to supply and quality, and they have directed a considerable amount of financial help to the farmers. They have paid bonuses on the quality of milk. They have been responsible in the main for the creation of laboratories in order to guide farmers with regard to quality. That has been responsible for a steady rise in the quality. Now we find it possible for the people who have been interested in this way and have spent money, guaranteeing to themselves a supply and quality of milk, to have the supplies diverted at the source and into the possession of people who have not spent a penny piece in that direction. Therefore we look with great concern to the possibilities under that paragraph. Such powers are only to be exercised by agreement. Failing agreement there should be provision for arbitration, and not only for producers, but for distributors as well.
I want to refer to paragraph 21. Here also a producers' board is given wide powers with regard to the control of transport. We find that the board will be able to restrict the haulage of this commodity. I do not disagree with that, for nothing can be too careful with regard to milk. But the board are given powers to deal with this question of haulage. They will only issue permits for transit of milk to approved contractors. There are people and interests in the country who have performed that haulage for themselves. I mean on the distributive side. We suggest that if the machinery brought into being for that purpose has been efficient and all that could be desired, at least these people should be allowed to stay outside the provisions of this paragraph. Distributors with their own system should be exempt or arbitration machinery should be established for the purpose. The whole system, in our opinion, calls for joint machinery, and those two Clauses in particular support my contention.
Of more general interest, however, is paragraph 39 which deals with accounts. It provides for profit and loss accounts to be furnished to the Minister and for a copy of the balance-sheets to be furnished to any person requiring it. We suggest that, in view of the protection given to the producers, the general public are entitled, if they so desire, to know a little 1817 more than the balance-sheet might display to them, and if they so desire other persons interested should be allowed to purchase a copy of the profit and loss account as well as of the balance-sheet.
I will now deal with a remark of the right hon. Gentleman in reply to the hon. and gallant. Member for Dumbartonshire (Commander Cochrane) dealing with other schemes that can be brought into being. I am of the opinion, and there is a strong body of opinion, that a comprehensive scheme covering the country would be more desirable than the proposals contained in this Measure, and I want to refer to the Grigg Commission again, because they make reference to Scotland, and in respect of the assertion that the national scheme would be preferable, quote the Grigg Commission as follows:We think there would have been substantial advantages to be gained had it been possible to arrange for the preparation of one scheme for the whole of Great Britain.They conclude by saying:We think the scheme we have recommended could, if the need arose, be adapted without difficulty to cover the wider area.We suggest that on that latter point, instead of splitting up, there should be a consolidation of interests, looking at it from the point of view of the national well-being. We consider, therefore, that this scheme should be withdrawn and that the marketing of milk in Scotland should be incorporated under a national scheme.
Paragraph 11 of the scheme provides:The board shall appoint the first auditor, who shall hold office until the first annual general meeting. Thereafter the auditor shall be appointed each year by the annual general meeting. The auditor, who shall be one of the public auditors appointed by the Treasury, shall not hold any other office in connection with the scheme.That point, that he shall be one of the public auditors appointed by the Treasury, is a simple formula which excludes other competent auditors in this country, and I have been informed that the London Association of Certified Accountants are equally capable and have been recognised by both Houses of Parliament as competent to undertake work of this character. There has been given to me a copy of a rather formidable list of corporations recognised by Parliament in the Sessions 1930, 1931 and 1932, including the English Institute, the Incorporated Society, the 1818 London Association and the Corporation of Accountants. I therefore put forward the suggestion that in any future review of this matter this point shall be kept in mind. I understand there are 250 members of the London Association in Scotland who are competent to do the work.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
The last. time I spoke in this House I believe it was for the purpose of opposing the previous scheme introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but on this occasion I am in general agreement with the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, as I believe are the great majority of milk producers in Scotland. As he said, those who are concerned in the production of milk have had a very poor time of it of late, and here, as elsewhere in agriculture, the whole problem has been one of prices, not one of production. They have been able to produce milk, but they have not been able to get a remunerative market, which must have caused loss to the farmer and loss of employment and wages to the farm worker. Under this scheme we agree undoubtedly that better times are at hand, but I would like the right hon. Gentleman to pay some attention to the question of the control of imports. We hope that, as a result of our proceedings upstairs in the Standing Committee on the Agricultural Marketing Bill, we shall be able to get some effective control of imports, because otherwise no scheme of this character can be really effective.
There are certain points of detail upon which I should like to touch. There is a provision whereby a levy has to be paid by all producers who have more than some four cows. Many producers, including some in my own constituency, over a fairly considerable area in the East of Scotland have no surplus milk at any season of the year, and they feel some apprehension that they will be called upon year after year to pay a levy and will never receive anything in return. I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider this suggestion, which I admit occurred to me on the spur of the moment, and which I have not considered very carefully, as to whether the board might not introduce, in some amending Order, some provision whereby, if a producer had paid a levy for a 1819 number of years without getting any benefit, or only a very infinitesimal benefit, in return he should be entitled to claim a reduction or possibly the complete remission of the levy, say, every fifth year. I feel that if there is a whole district which has to pay year after year without getting any return it is bound to become dissatisfied, and at all costs we want to avoid having any one section of the milk-producing trade dissatisfied, because dissatisfaction means lack of co-operation and that means lack of complete success.
There is one other Section to which I would specifically refer, the rather remarkable Section 30. Under this Section, which is headed "Power to board to grant exemptions," it says:The board shall have power to exempt from any or all of the provisions of the scheme producers and sales of such classes or descriptions as they may determine.If that were interpreted in the way the board might interpret it, it would mean that a coach-and-horses could be driven through this scheme, or any similar scheme, and I would like my right hon. Friend to explain what the promoters of the scheme had in mind when they inserted this rather curious Section. It is true that this scheme is probably not perfect in all its details in its present form. We could hardly expect that any marketing scheme would not have to be amended sooner or later and in a greater or a lesser degree, but I believe the whole of the producers in Scotland, with very few exceptions, think that the scheme is going to be of great benefit as a whole, and provided that the board will be willing to introduce an amended scheme if necessary, which I have no doubt this House would pass with as little demur as it is likely to pass the present one, feel confident that we have before us to-night a scheme which will lay the foundation for the reconstruction on a more satisfactory basis of milk production in Scotland, which at present is in such a parlous state.
§ 10.17 p.m.
Scotland has been having an innings to-day. The lawyers have been in twice, and now it is the turn of the land. The Motion before the House illustrates the diversified character of the agricultural industry, not merely in 1820 that there are many branches but that each branch in different parts of the country requires special attention to meet its requirements. The needs of the stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the county of Wigtown differ materially from those of Perthshire, which have just been presented by my Noble Friend. There you have very little surplus milk, whereas in the large dairying area which I have the honour to represent we have ever-increasing quantities of surplus milk. Last night, in a Debate which very materially concerned the dairying branch of agriculture, it was forcibly argued that it was necessary for us in taking into consideration the revival of our basic industries to take the long view. This point was made by no speaker more forcibly than by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart), but I would suggest to him that sometimes that catholicity of ambition, which is always necessary, and very necessary at the present time, sometimes betokens a lack of sympathy and even of interest. To-night, when we are discussing a somewhat narrower Motion dealing with one particular branch of agriculture, namely, dairying, it is very right that sectional interests should be resented, and that, their case having been made, those in authority, the powers that be, should determine just how much of this case should be accepted or rejected.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland alluded to some of the objections that had been raised by producers with regard to the scheme which Parliament is being asked to approve. He alluded to the fact that some critics thought—and, with all due respect to what he said about the recent conversion of the National Farmers' Union some critics still think—it would have been better to have proceeded upon the lines of an equitable rather than an equal distribution of the price to the producers who send in their supplies to the Board. To illustrate my point, I will draw attention to the different conditions of production which prevail in different parts of the country. In some parts it is still possible to produce with comparative cheapness, while in other districts, which are a long way from the centre of distribution, production is carried on at much greater expense. Some critics have feared that the attraction of an equal price may cause a spate of milk to be 1821 poured on top of the heads of the distributors, and it is said that the distributors might not be able, with the machinery at their disposal, to cope with those supplies, and that the last state of the producers, in consequence, regarding prices, might be worse than the first.
It is for the producers, when the moment for them to record their votes arises, to decide whether they will accept or reject the scheme, and they must weigh it on their merits. Those who say that an equitable distribution of prices will be more desirable, suggest that the flow of milk into the pool would not be so great and that you might see an increased manufacture of cheese. That is all very well, but the stocks of cheese in the country are accumulating at the present moment, and unless we institute a drastic control of the imports of cheese into the United Kingdom we shall not be able to dispose satisfactorily of even the existing supplies. If you had this equitable distribution of prices, and a consequent increase in the already far too large manufacture of cheese, a very serious condition would arise, unless you had regulated the supplies coming into this country in large quantities—coming, of course, also from inside the British Commonwealth of Nations.
My Noble Friend the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) has alluded to the necessity of controlling agricultural products which compete with the dairy industry. I heartily associate myself with all that he has said, and I believe that at the present time the general public are not in the least interested in particular fiscal points. In the Debate last night, which, as I have already said, centred so largely round agriculture, we had the same familiar points of view, presented with varying degrees of emphasis by each speaker in turn, from his particular fiscal predilections. At the last General Election, the country, no matter what may be said in this House by those who try to score debating points, emphatically gave to this National Government a doctor's mandate to put into operation any system which it seemed good to them to employ for reviving our basic industries, and most of all, I say without fear of contradiction, the industry of agriculture.
It is the dairying branch, which we are now discussing, that finds itself in the most dire need. We were all delighted 1822 last night to hear the Minister of Agriculture say, in the course of his brilliant speech, that, if we tacitly or implicitly accepted the Danish and Argentine Agreements, the first thing that he and the Ministry of Agriculture would do this morning would be to set about bringing into operation a system of control of those products which are competing with this industry. It is essential that each branch of agriculture should be given its fair Chance, thereby assisting the revival of the industry as a whole. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) poured scorn, if I understood him rightly, upon the idea of making British agriculture a really paying and profitable proposition. He said that, if we had proceeded in the past upon such lines, to-day we should have a population of merely 12,000,000 or 15,000,000—
I accept your Ruling. I was endeavouring to relate a certain point which had been made to the question which is now before us, namely, the very serious position of the dairying industry, and to the Motion which we are considering, the object of which is to bring about a more efficient marketing of dairy produce, and thereby to assist that industry. It is essential that some scheme of marketing for dairy produce should be brought into existence as speedily as possible, and it is for the House to-night merely to approve of this scheme, leaving it to the producers as a whole to accept or reject it.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLAY
There has only been one speech from the Opposition Bench on this Motion, and I take it from that speech that the Opposition are against the scheme. I have no doubt that other Members also are against the scheme, and I regret very much that that should be so, because I welcome the scheme as the commencement of an attempt to bring about among producers a certain amount of order and regulation out of chaos. To my mind it is essential that Capitalism should do this throughout industry, in order to meet the challenge of Socialism and produce a certain amount of organisation and planning in production. The 1823 industry of farming has the choice between going on in the old laissez faire manner—for which, indeed, there is something to be said, though I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages—or of accepting some such scheme as this as an experimental preliminary to what is to follow, because at the moment we can but feel our way. The only other alternative is the acceptance of something similar to what exists in Russia to-day. There individual liberty is completely stifled, and I do not think we wish to see anything similar to that in this country. Such a scheme as this seems to me to be a typically British compromise, inasmuch as it represents co-operation with a maximum of individual liberty; and I think it is along such lines that we shall find our way out of the troubles in which we are to-day.
It will require a very large extent of good will among those who are working the scheme. Such schemes are conceived in a time of depression, when everyone is anxious to co-operate, but the time will come shortly when prosperity will return and the individual will see an opportunity of doing better for himself, and it is in those days that difficulties will arise. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this scheme to take the greatest care as to the two nominees who are to be appointed. It seems to me that that is the most important part of the whole scheme. The consumer will have a great deal of his anxiety removed if he feels that there are two outside persons nominated by the Government having a say in the scheme to begin with. I do not know whether it is the intention after the first year to abandon the two Government nominees, but it is essential that they should command confidence to begin with. In a board with two Government nominees lies the whole success of the scheme.
The Secretary of State said that there was room for a great development in the use of milk for drinking and other purposes. That is so. In America they had a great advertising campaign for consuming milk, and I should like to ask whether the provisions for advertising contained on page 8 would allow the Board to use extensive sums of money for advertising if they chose to do it in 1824 the near future. Sub-section (6) on page 4 provides for the filling of casual vacancies by the board. What about the Selection Committee? It seems to me wrong that the board should have power to do this when the whole point of the Selection Committee was to ensure wide representation. It seems to me that this will give cause for dissatisfaction. You might have the position arising where a member might be appointed by the board and might remain for five years without the Selection Committee having any say whatever.
I should also like to back up what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) regarding Section 30. I cannot see the point of that Section at all. I should like to know whether the Minister is satisfied that under the scheme young go-ahead farmers will not be unduly penalised. One does not want to see too static a state of affairs as the result of such a scheme. One criticism is that it tends to limit production. You may have young, go-ahead farmers anxious o develop but finding difficulties put forward because of the tendency to disturb the whole process of regulation. I would like to know from whoever is to reply whether he is satisfied that no undue difficulties are to be put in the way of such enterprises. The scheme will be welcomed by most people as a way out of their difficulties and will also be watched with interest as an experiment and forerunner of other such schemes.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I am sorry that this very serious question should be rushed through the House at this late hour, but there are only one or two matters to which I wish to draw attention. We on these benches consider that the attempt being made for the regulation and marketing of the milk supply in Scotland will miserably fail because it is to be handled in the same way as the Government have tried to handle the coal question. Just as we require to nationalise the mines, so we shall require to nationalise the whole of the milk supply both in Scotland and in England in order to get over the trouble. The Secretary of State for Scotland gave instances of the consumption of milk in different places. He showed that the consumption of milk in Glasgow was very low, and evidently 1825 deplored the fact. He said that Glasgow consumed per head of the population only two-fifths of a pint per day.
There is one important point which the milk scheme has failed to recognise, namely, the character of the milk. Three weeks ago the veterinary inspector of Glasgow, in a report to the Markets Committee, stated that no less than 14.5 per cent. of the milk samples tested by him contained virulent tubercle bacilli, that many infected cows were sent to the city of Glasgow for sale, and that nearly 9,000 bovine consumptives remained undetected in Scotland. Such a state of affairs exists with the cognizance of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I put those facts in the form of a question to the Minister of Agriculture on Tuesday of this week, and I received this reply:I have seen the report to which the hon. Member refers, and understand that the Department of Health for Scotland hope to publish shortly the results of a recent investigation on this subject carried' out in the four large cities of Scotland.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1933; col. 1355, Vol. 277.]That means that the Secretary of State for Scotland knows of the scandalous state of affairs in the milk supply of Scotland, and yet he is trying to popularise the campaign, "Drink more milk." If the milk supply of Scotland was pure, he could depend upon us using our influence on behalf of the campaign to drink more milk, but in face of the state of affairs to which I have referred, when we know that milk is the staple food of tens of thousands of little children and that that food is poisoned, the situation is very serious. Hon. Members talk about Russia. Russia has bought the very finest herds from Scotland and whenever any animal showed any signs of tuberculosis it was rejected. Russia will not let in tuberculosis, yet we, with all our hypocrisy, with all our Christianity, because it will cost money to alter it, continue to allow this contaminated supply of milk, poisoning our children and filling our hospitals.
We have to pay three guineas a week to maintain a child who contracts tuberculosis as the result of the milk supply, for which the Government are responsible for, according to the reply of the Minister of Agriculture, the Secretary of 1826 State for Scotland is acquainted with the facts. I do not want to take up the time of the House, because we have a very important matter to bring forward. No doubt our opponents would like me to take up the time of the House with this question rather than the question that we are to debate later. I honestly believe that the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Under-Secretary and the Lord Advocate are anxious to do what they can for the welfare of Scotland. Believing that, I hope that they will exercise such powers as they possess to deal with the bovine tuberculosis which is raging in, the Lowlands of Scotland at the moment.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ Mr. BURNETT
I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard). It was a speech from inside knowledge of the Co-operative Movement. I agreed with a certain amount of its criticism, I differed from other parts of it and I also differed from its conclusions. He stressed some of the non-essentials of the scheme. We have to consider whether the scheme, taken in conjunction with the policy of quantitative regulation of imports announced by the Minister of Agriculture last night, makes a policy which will deal with the very difficult situation which has arisen in the milk industry. Production and consumption have lost relation with one another. There is the liquid milk market bringing in remunerative prices. We would willingly increase the consumption of milk, if we could. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put a tax on beer and whisky, which has doubtless reduced the consumption of these Leverages, but I do not think it has done very much to make us a more milk drinking nation. Germany has veered towards milk drinking more than we have in recent years.
Then there is the question of the surplus milk and what is to be done with it. It is manufactured into cheese and butter, condensed milk and other manufactured products. The price of this surplus milk has been going down steadily during the last 10 years; the gap between the price of milk for liquid supply and the price of milk for manufacturing purposes has been increasing. If you look at the Orange Report you will see that in 10 years the average price of milk for 1827 manufacturing purposes has gone down from 9d. per gallon to 4¾d.; it has gone down 50 per cent. a very serious matter. There is also the struggle that is made to get on to the liquid market in order to get the higher prices which that market affords, and the farmer who is selling his milk over the wall at prices which undercut the standard price. These are some of the problems we are up against, and which we shall have to solve. We have to devise some scheme by which the farmer will get a just return for his outlay and labour and under which the consumer will be safeguarded in a pure milk supply at a not expensive price.
This scheme, in the main, is statesmanlike and constructive, but I agree with the hon. Member for St. Rollox that there is a certain neglect of the distributive side. In the report of the commission it was urged that we should carry all interests with us in order to get harmony. It stresses the importance of a co-ordination of the efforts of all concerned, producers, distributors and manufacturers, and it also points out that no reorganisation can serve the real interests, either of the milk producers or of the public, which does not give due weight to the needs and interests of the distributive side of the industry. In the case of England it is suggested that there should be three boards; a producers board, a board of distributors and manufacturers; and a Joint Milk Council to unite the two. This may not come strictly under the Agricultural Marketing Bill, but I think it leaves a loophole for distributors to be added. It says in Clause 12:All or any of the members thereof shall be persons chosen by a body or bodies elected by registered producers.It does not say that all have to be elected by producers, but some of them; and that seems to give a loophole which may allow us to add distributors. That is an important point. It is to be regretted that they should only be allowed to assist in a consultative capacity for, after all, they have a very big interest in the matter of capital, and they also look after the interests of the consumer. Anyone who has gone through a large dairy in one of our cities will have seen how much has to be done. There is the question of pasteurising—raising milk to a certain heat and bringing it down to a certain heat. Then there is the purify- 1828 ing. Purifying is not a work of supererogation, as anyone who goes into a large dairy realises from the amount of dirt and manure taken out of the milk. Then there is the testing to see that the milk has a strength of at least 3 or 3½ per cent., as the case may be, of butter fat. There is also the inspection of cows. All these are matters of considerable importance in which the distributor is trustee, to a certain extent, for the consuming public. In that way I think they should be taken into account in connection with the contracts for prices.
There is one other point. It was suggested by the hon. Member for St. Rollox that we should have one scheme for the whole country. The view of the Orange Report is rather that there should be a number of regional schemes. It bas been pointed out that to have a flat rate price all over the country favours the remoter farmers and producers at the expense of those in the towns having special expenses. They supply liquid milk very largely, while the remoter producers of milk are concerned with manufacture. If we were to even the price all over the country, the result would be hardship to the suburban areas where rents are high, high prices have to be paid for farms, and there are other expenses. I have said enough on the main point I wanted to mention, but let me again emphasise that I think reorganisation is really necessary, and I believe that this is a scheme which we should put into operation as a constructive scheme. It should do a great deal towards placing on a sound and stable basis the milk industry, which certainly is in need of reorganisation.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I rise as a supporter of this scheme, but before I deal with the general subject I should like to refer to one point raised by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) with regard to the cleanliness and character of a part of our milk supply—which is a very important point. It must be plain that, whatever else this scheme will do, it cannot worsen things in that regard or make the supply of clean milk more difficult. Therefore, I will not say any more on that point, though I agree with the hon. Member that it is one of very great importance. The point I wish to deal with 1829 has been dealt with first by the hon. Member for St. Bollox (Mr. Leonard) and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) just now, and that is the question of the composition of the board which is to carry out this scheme. While the hon. Gentleman opposite was speaking, I ventured to put a question to him. I asked if he thought what he was proposing came within what was permitted under the 1931 Act? He said that was his intention and, clearly, I had misunderstood him, because I think the proposal he made was of such a character that it could not be brought within that Act. That being so, I feel there is really not a very great deal of difference between our views.
I am encouraged in that view, because the hon. Member for St. Rollox, after some criticism of the scheme, ended his speech on the note of wishing to see it extended to the rest of Scotland. He also said that good will was an absolute necessity if the scheme was to be a success. The point at issue is how we are to gain the necessary measure of good will. He suggested what may be described as a sectional board, including so many producers, so many consumers, and so many representatives of the retail or distributive trades. I do not think that would be a success. The only way in which a scheme of this sort can be worked is by having a board in whom everybody will have confidence. It does not matter what label they have. By the Act of 1931 they must be, technically, workers. They must certainly be elected or appointed by producers. That is essential because it is a producers' scheme, but, as regards the personnel of the board, there is a technical qualification that they must be producers. To be a producer of milk, however, is merely a matter of owning two or three cows, and is not a difficult qualification to fulfil.
If we have a board composed of people in whose judgment and fairness everybody has confidence a scheme of this sort can be successfully operated. I do not think it could be done, however, under the proposal of the hon. Member, who clearly envisages three separate parties meeting round a table and, of necessity, manoeuvring and bargaining to put forward their own special interests. I do not believe that is the way to get agreement and success. In launch- 1830 ing this scheme it is most unlikely that it will remain for the whole of its life without amendment. That would be impossible, even if the present draft were perfect. It is unlikely that conditions will remain so stable that amendment would not be necessary. As a matter of fact we are unable to judge to-night whether the scheme is the most perfect one or not and, for that reason, our procedure, by which we either approve or reject but do not amend a scheme of this sort, is satisfactory at this time. The scheme has been drawn up with the greatest of care. It is now up to the producers in Scotland, in conjunction with all others interested in the production and distribution of milk, to bring it into force and make it a success.
The interests of all parties are that the scheme should be a success, and for that reason if for no other we may rely on a great measure of good will and co-operation. I am certain that is the general desire. We in Scotland are starting the first important scheme of this character. I do not forget that which has been referred to by my Noble Friend the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) but this is of a different nature. I believe from the way in which the scheme has been received in Scotland and in this House that it will go forward to the producers and all others in the industry, with the strong recommendation that they should take it up and make it the success which we all wish to see.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. SMITH
It seems to me that when we have a draft agreement, the title should define what the scheme contains. The title of this scheme is:Scheme for the regulation of the marketing of milk in Scotland under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931.Paragraph 1 says:This scheme may be cited as the Scottish Milk Marketing Scheme, 1933.It is not a Scottish Milk Marketing Scheme, for it applies only to parts of Scotland. Paragraph 3 lays down the area to which the scheme applies. When we have a scheme of this kind the title should be correct and should say to what part of Scotland it applies. I want to refer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Maclay) because it is an important one. I have always held that the failure of co-operative 1831 schemes has been lack of confidence of the small producers, and that if our co-operative schemes are to be a success under the Marketing Act we have to see that the small producer has confidence in the board which is to manage it. The hon. and gallant Member for Dumbartonshire (Commander Cochrane) said that the board in this scheme would be composed of producers, but I see nothing in the scheme to suggest that. In fact, as I read it, it will not be entirely composed of producers. It will be a great mistake if in such a scheme the board is limited to milk producers, because probably a man who has nothing to do with the production of milk might be the best person to be the chairman of the board.
§ Commander COCHRANE.
I thought that I made it plain that if there were such a qualification it was only technical, because anyone owning a couple of cows would become a producer of milk.
§ Mr. SMITH
I think it is necessary that the board should have on it those who are not producers so that we may have the best brains for dealing with the selling of milk. That, of course, makes a difficulty, for the scheme covers a large area and the board is to have only eight members. At the bottom of page 3 of this scheme it says:The Selection Committee shall make such provision as they deem adequate for the representation on the board of the registered producers in the various parts of the area of the scheme.The various parts of the area of the scheme are defined in paragraph 3, and it is a very large area, and how it is going to be properly represented, I fail to see. There is to be a selection committee consisting of not more than 50 registered producers, and it seems to me quite pointless if you are only to allow them to appoint the board at the beginning. They will have no power to appoint in the case of a vacancy if a person dies or resigns. At the bottom of page 4 it says that vacanciesshall be filled up ad interim by the board.If this occurs the person appointed will hold office only as long as the original holder would have held it. But a person may refuse to accept the position, and the vacant place may not be filled. You are taking away from the registered pro- 1832 ducers the selection, and therefore the management, which I think is very serious. You create the feeling that they are not allowed to choose their board of management. There are some people in my part of the world who are worried about the selection committee. I think the selection committee should be the body to make these ad interim appointments and that appointments should not be left to the board. Then it is not laid down in the Bill what is to be a quorum of the selection committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] This matter is of vital interest to Scotland. I think that more care is required in drawing up the details of the scheme. It is provided that the board may appoint a secretary, but it is not stated that the secretary must not be a member of the board. At the start he should not be appointed from the members of the board. I am sorry to have to take up time with these details, but unless we get the details right now the scheme will be a failure.
§ 11.9 p.m.
§ Mr. SKELTON
There are one or two matters to which I must make a short reply. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] They are matters that were raised when some hon. Members were not present. I understand that the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) and his friends propose to divide against this Resolution. I regret very much that the first large marketing scheme brought forward under the Act of 1931, for which the Labour party were responsible, should be opposed by that party. We are putting into operation a scheme which, judged by the provisions of the Act, is absolutely beyond criticism. There is, so far as I know, no provision in the Scottish Milk Marketing Scheme which in any degree contravenes the provisions of the 1931 Act, nor indeed could there be, because by this time it would have been exercised. Therefore, I cannot but think it lamentable that the first example of a large scheme under their own Act should not be supported by the party which passed it. I am aware, as is the House, of the cause. That cause is the anxiety as to whether the interests and importance of the co-operative movement as a distributive organisation are sufficiently considered under this scheme.
My hon. Friend tried to draw, to the detriment of this scheme, a contrast 1833 between it and the proposals of Sir Edward Grigg's Reorganisation Commission. I want to make it quite plain to the House that the Minister of Agriculture has made it clear that he cannot support the special proposals of this Reorganisation Commission in so far as they involve the erection of a Joint Milk Council, and nobody knows better than does my hon. Friend, who has attended in the Committee upstairs many discussions on this matter, the considerations which have made it necessary, for the present at any rate, not to give effect to that part of the Reorganisation Commission's report. They are that, whereas under the marketing scheme you will have the producers organised and as it were under control—the House will understand what I mean—so that the orders and the decisions of a board can be carried into effect, there is no similar situation under the Marketing Act with regard to the distributors, because there is no distributors' Marketing Act; there is only a producers' Marketing Act.
Therefore, you cannot, as my sigh, hon. Friend said in Committee this morning, build up a structure on two pillars when one of the pillars is not really in existence at all. That is the real reason why it is impossible to put into operation the concrete proposals for a Joint Milk Council put forward by Sir Edward Grigg's Commission. There is put in its place this scheme, the very nearest provision that I think you could have. You have a provision that the board shall erect negotiating committees and consult representatives of the distributing organisations, putting it broadly. That is not merely permissive, but mandatory, and I do not think the House would have any doubt that, once you erect a committee of that sort, you will have the best possible means of producers and distributors coming to practical arrangements among themselves.
We have had in Scotland a voluntary milk organisation, which, as all Scottish Members know, came to an end because, under a voluntary system, it was impossible to maintain its cohesion, but its relation, broadly speaking, with the distributors was not one of the causes which brought it to an end. Anyone who has attempted to make himself 1834 familiar with the position as between producers and distributors in Scotland will, I am sure, be satisfied that with a scheme containing u, provision for a mandatory committee which will include distributors there can be no question that the problems which will arise for producers and distributors will be amicably settled in the spirit to which the hon. Member for St. Rollox referred at the end of his speech.
The hon. Member asked me one or two other questions. He asked why there was not a reorganisation commission instead of a marketing scheme. The answer is that the Act of 1931 presupposed that marketing schemes would be organised without the interposition of a commission. Milk farmers in Southern Scotland, aware of the advantages of a scheme, but their own voluntary scheme obviously suffering from its voluntary nature, took the earliest advantage of Dr. Addison's Act and initiated a movement for a scheme almost immediately after that Act was passed. For my own part, had there been delay on the part of the farmers of the South of Scotland. I should not have regarded a reorganisation commission as necessary, for two reasons. It was quite obvious, that if we were going to have a milk scheme for England, with its very much greater area, and its wider diversity of climate and conditions than the South of Scotland, and with the complete inexperience of previous schemes—which was the position South of the Tweed—there was indeed, good reason, apart from the rapidity with which these Scottish farmers got into action, for a commission in England. I do not think there is any ground for either surprise or complaint that the farmers in the South of Scotland made the earliest possible use of Dr. Addison's Marketing Act.
One other criticism was made by the hon. Member. He complained, first, of the secrecy in originating the scheme, but even more strongly did he complain of the secrecy with regard to the public inquiry. Let me be quite plain about the matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture feel confident that it is essential that the reports of the Commissioners should be kept confidential. The House will recollect that the scheme does not proceed upon that report, but, 1835 rather, the decisions of the Ministers concerned, and unless from the outset the Commissioner knows that he has the advantage of confidentiality I venture to say that the report would be not nearly so valuable from the point of its advice as it is when it is known from the outset that it is confidential. I am confident that if my hon. Friend were faced with the problem of whether or not the Commissioner's reports should be confidential he would answer the question precisely in the same way as my two right hon. Friends did.
There is one further point. He complained a little, though I do not complain of his complaining, that there was not one scheme for Scotland, but only one for the south of Scotland. I do not think there is any cause for complaint there. I understand that it is in contemplation that there should be a similar scheme for the north of Scotland. I have inquired as to whether those who are experts in the matter of marketing organisation expect that any difficulty will arise, on account of there not being only one scheme, but, so far as I have been able to probe the matter, there is no reason why any difficulties should arise. In the same way, as my right hon. Friend developed in his speech, I do not think that there is any reason for anxiety as to the situation which will arise if and when a milk-marketing scheme is in operation. In all these schemes you must have sensible men on the board, and if you have, they will deal with the other boards in a sensible and practical way. The men who run these schemes, and on whom so much depends, will realise what immensely important and practical questions they have to deal with, and I do not think that you will find them dealing with their affairs, or with the affairs of other boards, with their heads in the air. I think that you will find that they will deal with all those matters in a practical and business-like way.
My hon. Friend referred to the fact that the accounts, under one paragraph of the scheme, have to be audited by accountants appointed from those made use of by the Treasury. That is merely a way of saying that the accountants who will be employed will be the best available. That is not so much a matter of detail as it might appear. We are all aware that registered producers might be 1836 jealous and anxious as to the accuracy with which the accounts are kept. We know, in another region of industry, the tendency towards suspicion with which certain coal accounts are looked at by certain of the miners—accounts upon which their percentage depends. I am not suggesting that this suspicion is justified. But I say that such suspicions are not unnatural, and that the best way of avoiding any such suspicions is to lay down that the accountants are the best accountants you can get in this country. My hon. Friend will agree, I hope, that I have answered, not at unreasonable length, the questions raised by him. Let me turn to the questions raised by the other speeches in this Debate.
I am not going into the smaller details, for the reason that our function to-night is either to approve or reject the scheme. We are not in Committee on details of the scheme; we are giving it either our complete approval or disapproval. The House will exonerate me from going into the method by which an interim vacancy on the board might be filled. So far as I have any knowledge of the constitution of companies or associations, those practical points do not seem to have been badly set forth in the scheme. Those are committee points. The House's function to-night is one of Second Reading Debate.
The hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Maclay) asked me one question which I think might be well worth mentioning. He asked whether the sums which the Board could use would be spent in advertising to any considerable extent. As I understand it, advertisement is one of the things which the Board can do, and the extent to which they advertise will no doubt be limited by the same considerations which limit the power of everyone else to advertise, namely, the amount of money that they have to spend and the amount which they think it right to spend. What that amount will be I do not propose to suggest. I am not unaware that the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) referred also to the Joint Milk Council, but perhaps be will take the observations I have made in reply to the hon. Member for St. Rollox as covering the points in that context which he made.
Without going into Committee points, which I think, if I may say so, it would 1837 be out of place for me to deal with now, I venture to commend the scheme to the House, in the first place because it is essential to the producers of milk in the great milk-producing parts of Scotland that a reasonable price should be got for their product, and that reasonable order should be brought into the industry. I commend it to the distributors of Scotland because I am confident that the provision with regard to mandatory committees gives them a definite locus in the scheme, and I am sure that in the negotiations which will naturally proceed on the subject of prices and so on the distributors of milk are very well fitted to hold their own with the producers. I think that, if there has to be a discussion, it will be a discussion between two well matched sides, because, if the distributor depends on the producer, how much more does the producer depend on the distributor, for without his action what is to happen to the milk which with such rapidity goes sour? I do not think, therefore, that there is any ground for alarm on that point. The only fear that I have, and that I think the House need have, on the whole matter, is lest any rash words of ours may make it less likely that the producers should vote in favour of the scheme, and I am bound to say that I do not think that, although there have been valuable criticisms and interesting speeches have been made this evening, any word has fallen from any Member which should deter the Scottish producers from giving the scheme the necessary majority. In the first place,
§ however, the House must give the scheme a majority, and that I now ask it to do.
§ 11.28 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I hope I may be allowed to make one observation upon something which fell from the hon. Gentleman in the early part of his speech. He expressed some surprise that we on this side proposed to carry this matter to a Division. Of course it is true that this party is fundamentally a supporter of the principle of marketing schemes. We have argued about that for a long time, and it is too late for us now to go back; but I want to make one thing clear. We must make a protest in relation to one aspect of this matter, and the only way in which we can do so is by voting against this Motion to-night. I understand that there is a very serious complaint concerning the way in which the Co-operative Society of Scotland has been treated in this matter. I gather that at no point have the very substantial co-operative interests been consulted. They are distributors to the extent of something like 23,000,000 gallons of milk per year, and farmers to the extent of 10,000 acres, but at no point were they consulted until the stage of the public inquiry was reached; and I am invited to say that, in view of that very serious disregard of this very great interest in Scotland, we have no other course open to us than to express our formal protest against that treatment here and now.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 152; Noes, 30.1839
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[11.30 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Carver, Major William H.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Agnew, Llaut.-Com. P. G.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Cook, Thomas A.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Copeland, Ida||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Ballour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Craven-Ellis, William||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Crooke, J, Smedley||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Bateman, A. L.||Cross, R. H.||Horsbrugn, Florence|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Dalkeith, Earl of||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Bossom, A. C.||Davles, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Ersklne, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Janner, Barnett|
|Bralthwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Everard. W. Lindsay||Jennings, Roland|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Leckle, J. A.|
|Brown,Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Goff, Sir Park||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Burnett, John George||Gower, Sir Robert||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Graves, Marjorie||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Ormiston, Thomas||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Spent, William Patrick|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Patrick, Colin M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilst'n)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|McKeag, William||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Stevenson, James|
|McKle, John Hamilton||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Stones, James|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Rankin, Robert||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Rea, Walter Russell||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Magnay, Thomas||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Maklns, Brigadier-General Ernest||Held, William Allan (Derby)||Sugden, Sir Wllfrid Hart|
|Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||Remer, John R.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Templeton, William P.|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Robinson, John Roland||Thorp, Linton Theodora|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Mllne, Charles||Ross, Ronald D.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mltcheson, G. G.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyree||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wedderburn Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Murray-Phillpson, Hylton Ralph||Scone, Lord||Womersley, Walter James|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Nunn, William||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Mr. Blindell and Commander|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Soper, Richard||Southby.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Malnwaring, William Henry|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, Sir William||Milner, Major James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dagger, George||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Dobble, William||Leonard, William|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. Groves.|
That the Scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, for the regulation of the marketing of milk in Scotland, a draft of which was presented to this House on the 1st day of May, 1933, be approved.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.1840
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-one Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.