HC Deb 16 April 1934 vol 288 cc696-8

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many cases have arisen since the introduction of the Milk Marketing Scheme of retail producers being warned against selling their milk below the prevailing price in their districts; and whether, in view of the difficulty in establishing what is the prevailing price in any particular district, he will consider arranging for a more satisfactory legal definition?


I have been asked to reply. I regret that the information asked for in the first part of the question is not available. The procedure for regulating retail prices has been altered in the contract now current by the prescription of minimum distributive margins in place of the provisions relating to "the prevailing retail price." A definition is therefore no longer necessary for retail sales of milk purchased under contract. In regard to producer-retailers whose licences are current to September next and who until then are still subject to the old procedure, it is understood that the Milk Board, while they are watching the situation, do not anticipate that any difficulty will arise in practice.


Can the hon. Member tell us what is the penalty for this new crime of selling cheap milk?


The hon. Member should put that question on the Order Paper.

20. Brigadier-General BROWN

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the dissatisfaction caused to milk producers by the arbitrators' award on milk prices, he will appoint different arbitrators on any similar future occasion, or will take some other steps to secure a settlement fair to all concerned when this contract period expires?


The selection of arbitrators, whose award determines disputes, is obviously a matter of considerable responsibility, and although dissatisfaction has been expressed with the award referred to in the question, my right hon. Friend deprecates any suggestion that the gentlemen who were good enough to accept his invitation to form this panel have not conscientiously discharged their duties. Paragraph 60 of the milk scheme under which the arbitrators are appointed lapses at the end of 12 months from the end of the suspensory period, that is to say, on 6th October of this year. Thereafter there is no provision in the milk scheme for the settlement of prices by arbitration. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any suggestions to put forward with regard to machinery for effecting future settlements in the absence of agreement between the parties concerned, I am sure my right hon. Friend will be glad to consider them.

Brigadier-General BROWN

Is the hon. Member aware that the arbitrators are not likely to be troubled by having to give a decision next October, as the producers will be able to get better terms themselves from retailers. Has he con- sidered the recommendations of the Grigg Commission, who have organised representatives of both sides and three members appointed by the Government, who will be prominently in touch with the whole trade?


Is the hon. Member aware that the prices fixed by the arbitrator are less than the prices which distributors were prepared to give to the producers?

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND TROYTE

Will the hon. Member give the arbitrators a very strong hint to resign before the whole scheme is wrecked?


I should be reluctant to follow the last piece of advice, but I will convey all these suggestions to my right hon. Friend and his Ministry, and I have no doubt that they will be borne in mind.

21. Brigadier-General BROWN

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied that none of the milk sold by the board at cheaper rates for manufacture or otherwise is resold and put back on the liquid milk market at liquid milk prices?


This is a matter which comes within the province of the Milk Marketing Board who have, it is understood, made arrangements, which they believe to be adequate, to guard against the contingency referred to.

Brigadier-General BROWN

In view of the fact that some retailers are supplying London County Council contracts at 1s. 2d., which means 2d. for delivery and pasturisation after the 1s. to producers, how can it be done unless they return an abnormal amount of sour milk to producers or use unsatisfactory milk to make up?


I am answering a question as to whether a particular contingency was likely to arise, and I am informed that the Milk Marketing Board have taken such steps as in their opinion are adequate to deal with the contingency.


Does the Member realise the serious charge made in the question?


I think that the question speaks for itself, and my answer is clear.