HC Deb 18 December 1934 vol 296 cc940-3

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether in order to allay the general uneasiness, he will now make an announcement that it is intended to give the Scottish Milk Marketing Board powers to discourage excessive increases in production, as recommended by the committee of investigation?

8. Duchess of ATHOLL

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether in view of the height to which the levy per gallon was forced during last season through an unrestricted increase in the production of milk in the area of the Scottish milk marketing scheme, he will empower and advise the Milk Marketing Board to impose a limit on production for next season, based on the standard of some previous period?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether in view of the exceptional circumstances of the milk trade in Scotland to-day, he is prepared to advise some limits to increased production in the meantime in accordance with the recommendations of the committee of investigation?


The recommendation of the committee of investigation for Scotland relating to production raises issues too wide and too important to be the subject of temporary amendments of the Scottish Milk Marketing Scheme, but this recommendation, amongst others, will no doubt be examined by the Milk Reorganisation Commission.

Captain RAMSAY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that to most people who are concerned with this scheme the crux of the problem is that there is surplus production and that it affects the weight of the levy? Will be give some assurance to the producers that there will be some sort of regulation which will keep the levy within bounds?

Duchess of ATHOLL

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that, if anything like the same increase of production takes place next spring and summer as apparently took place last spring and summer, there may be such an increase in the levy to be paid by the level producer as to wipe out all the benefit of the reduction of the levy?


I am well aware of the concern shared by hon. Members on this point. I made a very full statement on this subject last week, and, among other things, I said that the whole question of milk marketing in Great Britain had been referred to the Reorganisation Commission. This particular point no doubt will be considered among many others by that commission. Pending that inquiry, I cannot go any further than I have already done.


Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a plentiful and cheap supply of milk is essential for the poor people of this country?


I can assure the hon. Member that that was very present to our minds when we came to the decision that we did.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Scottish Milk Marketing Board have yet devised a plan to provide for payment by a system of instalments of the amounts due for unpaid levies or, if not, whether they have signified their intention to devise such a plan?


I am informed that the board consider that it is inadvisable to lay down any precise rules in this matter. Each case will be considered on its merits, and producers who desire to obtain special consideration should communicate as soon as possible with the board.

4. Mr. FOOT

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the difficulties now being encountered by milk producers in the East of Scotland, the Government will take steps to ensure that the proposed milk reorganisation commission, when appointed, shall give its first attention to the working of the Scottish milk marketing scheme in the East of Scotland?


While the proposed milk reorganisation commission will deal with the whole country, the hon. Member can rest assured that due attention will be given to the situation in the East of Scotland.


In view of the breakdown of this scheme, would it not be better if the whole scheme were scrapped and the former selling of cheap milk resumed?


No, Sir, I do not think that that can be said.

7. Captain RAMSAY

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that the chief cause of the serious discrepancy between the estimated and actual burden of the milk levy was the unexpected magnitude of the surplus production; and will he state how any more reliable calculation for the future can be made unless some standard of production is fixed, at least temporarily?


While I am aware of the allegations as to misleading estimates made prior to the producers' poll, it is clear that at that time no reliable estimate could be prepared, and statements to that effect were made by the promoters. With regard to the latter part of the question, I refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply already given to-day to other questions on this subject.

Captain RAMSAY

Is it not a fact that this muddle which has resulted in such a serious position for many farmers, occurred on account of uncertainty as to the quantity of surplus milk that was going to be produced, and is the hon. Gentleman aware that that uncertainty will be further increased unless an early announcement can be made as to what surplus milk may be expected? Otherwise, in spite of the hon. Gentleman's recent statement, the position may be even worse in the next six months than it has been before.


I shall not attempt to deal fully with that argumentative question across the Floor of the House. There is, of course, a certain element of uncertainty as to the total amount of milk which will probably be produced at a given moment of glut, but I think it would be possible to have steps taken to reduce that uncertainty to the lowest possible amount.


Has not the glut itself been brought about by the indiscriminate subsidy which was given?


Are we to understand then that this milk scheme as far as Scotland is concerned has broken down and is a failure?


No, Sir, certainly not. There are difficulties which have been made familiar to Members of the House both by Questions in the House and in other ways, but we hope those difficulties are being met for the moment and, for the future, the whole question will be reviewed by the re-organisation commission which has been announced.