§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I hope the Minister of Agriculture will be present to explain the terms of this Bill before any Member on these benches is expected to make any observations in regard to its contents. It is not my intention at this moment to address the House on this Bill, and we must, I think, wait for the Minister's arrival, or for some other Member of the Government to make some reference to this very important Measure.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I assume that the hon. Member is rising to a point of Order, as I gather that he does not wish to exhaust his right to speak.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Then I will make some comments on the Bill itself. We are dealing with a Measure which involves an expenditure of £5,000,000—a very important Measure. The authority I have for saying that the Bill means an expenditure of £5,000,000 is my hon. Friend the Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who, I am sure, we are all pleased to see back again. The first Clause deals with Exchequer payments in respect of milk sold for manufacture. If the Minister of Agriculture were present I should ask him what exactly is meant by "milk sold for manufacture." There are many changes which take place in the production of milk and in the handling of milk. I speak with a little knowledge of co-operative societies, which handle large quantities of milk, and if they proceed and succeed as they have done in the last year they will be able to control practically all the milk which is produced in this country. Now that the Minister of Agriculture has arrived, I will put to him at once what I think is the most important question that will be put to him in connection with this Bill: What is actually meant by manufacturing milk? I thought milk came from the cow, and until I saw this Bill I never heard that milk was manufactured at all. I hope I shall get an answer to that question.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Elliot)
I must apologise to the House for not being in my place and thank the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for having commenced and continued the Debate until I was able to be present. I was attempting to stimulate the consumption of milk by consuming a little of the commodity myself in the tea-room, but owing to a lag in the indicator I was caught away from my post. I thank the hon. Member for his courteous intervention. I gave the House an outline of the milk position when presenting the Financial Resolution, and I do not think it is necessary to go over that ground again. I have just 1126 heard in the tea-room—it is one of the advantages of a visit to that spot—that there is no subject which would justify a speech of more than half an hour, and therefore I will confine my remarks within those limits.
The main objectives before us are, of course to secure an increased consumption of clean liquid milk in this country, upon which we are all agreed, to secure the confidence of the public in the purity of its milk supplies, and, thirdly, to hold the position while these two campaigns are got under way by advances for the manufacturing of milk. We do not require to argue the case for the two first proposals, an increase in the consumption of milk, and a clean up of the herds of the country, but I see that there is an Amendment on the Paper indicating that exception is taken to the advances for the manufacturing of milk, and to the rate at which we are proceeding in the campaign for cleaning up the herds, and I will devote a little time to these two points. It will be for the convenience of the House if I run over the Clauses of the Bill itself. Clauses 1 to 8 provide the machinery for paying out the advances for manufacturing milk which this House sanctioned in the Financial Resolution.
§ Clause 1 provides that payments shall be made by the Government in the case of sales of milk on contract by registered producers or of sales of milk by the board, if in either case the milk has been sold at less than the standard price. The opening words of the Clause provide that the Minister shall prescribe the evidence required to satisfy him that payment is due to the boards, and the Minister for this purpose is a composite body consisting of myself and the Secretary of State for Scotland acting together, with the approval of the Treasury. There is no danger of the two of us getting into a corner and writing out enormous cheques on the Treasury without consent. Clause 2 deals with the special case when payments are made in respect of milk manufactured by milk marketing boards. There may in such cases be no actual purchase or sale of milk. In the case of milk consigned to a board for manufacture the producer will eventually receive his share of the pool, and it is therefore necessary to make provision for calculating the price at which it can be 1127 assumed the milk has been sold. Clause 3 deals with the special case of payments in respect of milk manufactured into cheese on farms. The boards have agreed to accept responsibility for such milk and propose to enter into contracts with farm cheese-makers. This is important, first, on account of the quantity of milk which is here concerned, running into many million gallons, and secondly, because of the desirability of preserving this ancient and characteristic rural industry. There are many consumers also who like a bit of English cheese, and it would be a pity if this valuable foodstuff were removed from our tables.
§ Clause 4 defines the cheese milk price, and the standard price, and requires the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland, acting in conjunction, to certify the cheese milk price every month. Subsection (3) of this Clause requires the Minister to state the method by which he has arrived at the cheese milk price and to publish his certificate. The definition of the standard price is one which has been customary in the trade for many years past and I do not think that any exception will be taken to it. Clause 5 provides for repayment to the Exchequer during the years 1936 to 1938, if and when the cheese milk price rises, and it has to rise by 1d. over the standard price, because the price of cheese milk to-day is so low that it is only reasonable that repayment should not take place until it has gone as high as the standard price, and slightly above it.
§ It may be worth while here to deal with a criticism which has been made by several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), that we are here guaranteeing a profit to an uneconomic surplus. I do not think anyone will suggest that these prices give a profit or avoid more than a fraction of the loss which has been contracted. That answers in a word the criticism made by several hon. Members, that we are increasing the surplus by guaranteeing a remunerative price for it, and that consequently we are tempting the production of greater quantities of milk. No practical agriculturist in the House will contend that these prices represent anything like remunerative prices, or prices at which 1128 milk producers would be tempted to extend their production.
§ Clause 6 provides for Exchequer payments to the Government of Northern Ireland to be used in assisting milk producers in that country. No guarantee is given by this Government to make up prices in Northern Ireland to a standard price; the provision is only that a certain sum will be available to help the Government of Northern Ireland to guarantee a standard price. Sub-section (1) of the Clause shows that it is the intention of the Government of Northern Ireland to use the Exchequer payment only to assist the manufacture of cream or butter at registered creameries. The Government of Northern Ireland already has its proposals in legislative form, and they are extremely interesting. In some respects they go much further than the proposals which are laid before this House. They prohibit altogether the sale of liquid milk for consumption below Grade C and even on the Grade C milk, which is the lowest grade of their milk, they provide for a levy, running as high as threepence per gallon, to be used to assist the better qualities of milk. I may say also that even in the case of Grade C milk the cows will be inspected twice a year. It will be seen that these are very drastic proposals and go far beyond what we can look forward to introducing immediately in this country. It will also be clear that this money is not being paid over for any standards lower than those which we are enforcing in this country.
§ Clause 7 provides for the enforcement of payments due by milk marketing boards to the Exchequer. Sub-section (1) of that Clause requires a board to comply with the directions given by the Minister, after consultation with the Treasury, for ascertaining the amount and securing the repayment of all repayable advances. Clause 8 strengthens the security of the Treasury by providing that where one scheme is revoked by another, the debt of the first scheme shall be assumed to be the debt of the new scheme. So much for Clauses 1 to 8 dealing with the financial proposals which, in our judgment, are necessary, and which I think we can show to the House are necessary, if the industry is to be preserved. It is no use demanding a higher quality of milk and looking 1129 forward to a greater consumption, unless the industry is preserved as a going concern. The danger just now is far more low levels of prices leading to a general wilting and shrinking of the industry and a diminution of the supply of home-produced milk, rather than the fear that we shall not be rapid enough in improving the quality and increasing the consumption of the home-produced milk.
§ Accordingly, with this foundation given, Clause 9 enables the Minister to spend up to £750,000 during a period of four years in such ways as he thinks will improve the quality of milk for human consumption. That is to be done in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Treasury approval has to be obtained. In order that the work shall be continued after the expiration of the four years, the Minister is empowered to require boards to continue the campaign without further assistance from the Exchequer. Sub-section (1) of Clause 9 leaves the Minister a free hand as to the spending of the money but Sub-section (2) indicates that it is the intention to pay sums, by way of premium, to producers of milk of defined quality. Sub-section (3) requires the Minister to lay particulars of his plan before both Houses of Parliament.
§ Clause 10 amends Section 3 of the Milk and Dairies Amendment Act, 1922, so as to enable the Minister of Health to revise the designations of milk, a point which has been pressed upon us both by the Re-organisation Commission for Milk under my hon Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and by the Cattle Diseases Committee of the Economic Advisory Council. Each of these bodies has recommended a reduction in the number of grades, including the elimination of the present Grade A which, of course, is the lowest grade of milk although it has the rather anomalous designation of "Grade A". No one is ever willing to admit that he should be classed in any category other than the highest, and consequently this grading began with the highest category, but since then a series of higher grades have been superimposed upon the original Grade A to the great confusion, I think, of the purchaser and without the least advantage to the producer.
§ Clause 11 contains provisions for increasing the demand for milk, and on this 1130 question we shall, no doubt, hear a great deal in the Debates which are to follow. I consider myself very fortunate in having been able to bring forward these proposals since for many years now I have taken a keen interest in this matter both professionally and in the House of Commons. I acted as chairman of the Sub-Committee of the Empire Marketing Board which carried out the great series of school-feeding experiments by means of which we were enabled to get the statistics upon which a great part of this work has been based. I was also responsible, when in Opposition, for a small Bill allowing for an improvement in the provision of milk in the schools in Scotland. I am not therefore to be taken as having referred cavalierly to this matter as I think I am accused by my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) of having done in my speech on the Financial Resolution. I think the Financial Resolution itself means as much as or more than any laudatory phrases by a Minister. For the first time, in this Measure we have provision being made towards this end, which is a great event in the history of public health and nutrition in this country.
§ The Clause does not refer specifically to the provision of milk in schools but it was announced by me on 22nd February that the Government would only make grants in aid of an approved programme of publicity to be submitted by a milk marketing board, and that programme would be required to contain, among other things, provision for the supply of milk to schools at reduced rates. That assurance stands, although I did not think that it was necessary to write it into the Clause. If the House requires any further assurance from me. I repeat here and now the assurance which I was able to give on 22nd February. I am required also to lay before both Houses of Parliament particulars of schemes which have been approved for securing an increased demand for milk. Clauses 12 and 13 deal with general and supplementary provisions and because the provisions of the milk marketing schemes at present in force do not permit boards to make payments of any special premiums to producers, that is provided for in Clause 12.
§ That, briefly as I can make it, is a review of the actual legislative proposals 1131 of the Government. I now have to deal with the Amendment which is to be moved by my hon. Friends opposite. I am indebted to them for having put down a reasoned Amendment. I think the Financial Resolution was debated on a non-party basis and since there are many points of the greatest interest to be elicited in these discussions, a reasoned Amendment makes it possible for me to see those points to which my hon. Friends wish more particularly to direct criticism. Their objections are, first, that we are encouraging the production of milk products in preference to an increase in the consumption of fresh milk and, secondly, that we fail to make adequate provision for the eradication of disease from cattle. To take the second point first, I am assured by my technical advisers that in the provisions which we are now making we are proceeding as rapidly as is reasonable, considering the supplies both of men and money available for the eradication of disease from our herds.
§ The programme laid down by the Cattle Diseases Committee envisaged a plan covering a considerable length of time. For instance, on pasteurisation, they suggest that large municipalities ought to have the right to require that after two years notice all milk except sterilised milk sold within their boundaries which is not derived from herds free from tuberculosis shall be pasteurised, but that the power to exercise that right should be deferred for three years, making a total of five years before they would consider that it was possible to arrange for any large supply of tuberculosis free cattle. Our programme, providing, as I say, for the payment of premiums to attested herds, should, I think, bring us perhaps 1,000 herds in the first year and that number may be considerably increased in the subsequent year. If it increases rapidly no one will be more pleased than I, but I think it only fair to say that the conditions, as all practical agriculturists know, must be meticulous, and the difficulty of providing and maintaining these herds is so considerable, that it is unlikely that any rapid expansion may be looked for in the provision of this stock. Secondly, I think it fair to say that the financial provision here may well cover expansion, certainly in the preliminary years, to the utmost 1132 extent which we can hope for under such conditions. As for a general campaign of slaughter and the killing out of infected cows in this country, this is not possible—apart from any question of a lack of men or a lack of money to carry it out—because of the lack of milk which would ensue, and clearly it is useless to discuss measures which could never be applied in practice.
§ If we are to start on this very big programme, we must have the assurance of continuity, and that assurance I think we have. We shall be able by means of our programme to launch the scheme, but the main work will have to be done by the organised industry itself, and work upon the Marketing Board's roll of accredited producers is in fact taking place. It will be necessary to ensure a progressively larger supply of milk of a progressively higher quality and, while it is true that certain bodies such as the Cattle Diseases Committee recommended that the premium should not be paid by the Government but entirely by the board, I am sure that practical producers will agree that, at this moment, it is necessary to have a certain sum from the central authority. The board and the producers are in no condition at this moment to spend the sums which will be necessary to launch this campaign at the rate at which we hope it will be launched. Further, by means of a central grant we shall be able to meet the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) who said that the herds would never be cleaned up if it were left entirely to the farmers and to the councils elected by the farmers. By finding a certain amount from central funds, we thereby have considerable power of central direction, and that will be very valuable, not merely in speeding up this reform but in obtaining one standard and that the highest throughout the country.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
In order to make that point perfectly clear, will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House what other central direction there will be, apart from the payments of premiums, to ensure expedition in the cleaning up of the herds?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The report of the Cattle Diseases Committee is just out. I would hesitate at the moment to sketch in any detail the proposals which we shall sub-sequently 1133 have to lay before the House. I can assure hon. Members that we are proceeding as rapidly as possible with the sketching out of the skeleton plan, which can only be followed after consultation with the authorities, both Government and scientific, on whom we shall have to rely for the framing of this scheme. We are putting forward our general scheme which is to raise the standard by the payment of premiums, thereby getting the farmer chasing the "vet" rather than the "vet" chasing the farmer; and we shall lay the proposals subsequently before the House as and when they are worked out, and I am sure they will satisfy the House as, step by step, we put them forward.
I will speak last of the proposals for increasing the consumption of liquid milk, and I will deal more particularly with the criticisms of my hon. Friends that we are making proposals designed to encourage the production of milk products in preference to an increase of consumption of fresh milk among children in public elementary schools. Taking alone the calculations of my hon. Friends which they brought forward on the Financial Resolution, I would say, in the first place, that the cost of their proposals is vastly greater than that of the proposals which we put forward. My hon. Friends said we could carry out their scheme for no more than the cost of the proposals which we have outlined. The figures put forward by them would run to £9,000,000 per annum.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The Noble Lady is a well-known battler when it comes to the Treasury, and I shall be glad to have her on my side in this matter. These are very large sums, and nothing is gained by ignoring the challenge which my hon. Friends threw out. My hon. Friends said that milk could not only be given at the schools but at the homes, which raises an entirely different problem——
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
I think the suggestion that children should have milk during the holidays is made on the supposition that they would fetch it from the schools.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
No. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They bring forward a proposal for relieving the industry. It will not relieve industry to distribute milk at 3d. per gallon. I am basing the sum I gave on the figure at which it is being supplied now.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Two shillings per gallon, and there are 1,000,000 children receiving milk in those conditions just now. I want to bring the House back in the consideration of these proposals to the fact that we have to deal with the stress upon the industry as well as the desirability of providing milk in the schools. Assuming the full contention of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley which raises the great question of distribution, it is not completely met by the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham that the difficulty of distribution could be met by children calling at the school for the milk in the holidays. Even supposing that were so, his figure and the figure of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley covered something like 80,000,000 gallons—a very large figure. But that does not deal with the surplus with which we have to deal.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am willing to take the figure of 90,000,000 gallons. The deficiency will not in any way be solved by that. The quantity of milk covered by these repayable advances is estimated to be about 180,000,000 gallons. Therefore, 90,000,000 gallons still leaves the problem which this scheme is designed to solve of finding some way of carrying this quantity of milk for which the industry just now has no outlet except at these very low levels of 3d. and 4d.
§ Sir E. GRIGG
Does my right hon. Friend really mean that the surplus which fetches the lowest category of manufacturing price, which is therefore affected by this scheme, is 180,000,000 gallons?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
That is the lowest category. That takes no account of manufacturing milk sold in the higher categories, which does not qualify for advance. We estimate it at between 160,000,000 and 180,000,000 gallons. It must be clear to the House that a scheme which, at very great cost and under tremendous problems of distribution, certainly cannot be brought into operation in 12 months, or, I venture to say, an even longer time, and only deals with half the problem, leaving the other half absolutely unsolved, is not a scheme which faces up to our difficulty. That is the difficulty of ensuring that while we are discussing the milk industry, the industry itself does not founder and disappear and leave us nothing to discuss except how we are to make imported milk powder into milk for the taxpayers to distribute to the children.
The low price of surplus milk has grown up in a very strange manner. It has grown up because milk for liquid consumption continues to sell at prices which are based upon the home price in the home market, and the surplus milk is sold at prices based on the world price; and in these days world price is not merely a subsidised price, but an enormously subsidised price. This country has the cheapest butter and cheese in the world. I want my hon. Friends in all parts of the House to grasp that that involves a higher price for liquid milk, for if you fraction the supply and sell one fraction at a very low price, you drive up the price of the other fraction. I ask my hon. and learned Friend's attention to this, and I hope to command his sympathy, because unless he grasps this fact he will not understand the case which we put forward as to why money is given to manufacturing milk. It is given because, unless we underpin the price of manufacturing milk, the price of liquid milk will be driven up higher and higher by the low price of manufacturing milk. The price of liquid milk will go higher and higher so that it will go further and further out of the reach of the consumer. The consumption of liquid milk will be reduced, the demand for it will fall, and consequently we shall get into a vicious spiral of which none of us can see the end.
It is with the intention of breaking that spiral, of underpinning the market at the weakest point where it meets the 1136 competition of subsidised milk products from all over the world, that we have produced this scheme. It might be said that the simplest thing is to exclude these products entirely from our markets. Then, however, the case of those who are putting forward the case of the consumer would be enormously reinforced because the consumer has been educated over a long period of years to these uneconomic prices and to quantities of milk at prices far below those at which it is possible for any producer to produce. To guillotine the foreign products in sufficient quantity to bring about a relief to the milk producer of this country would set up economic stresses which it would be impossible for the House to contemplate. If I have carried the House with me in that argument I shall be glad. I have set out the line of argument, an unfamiliar line, which has led us to the proposal to underpin manufacturing milk, not because we love manufacturing milk the more, but because, unless we support the market there, the price of the liquid milk will be driven higher even than it is to-day, and the return to the producers will be lower correspondingly. Therefore, neither will the consumer have the advantage, because his milk will be higher in price, nor will the producer have the advantage, because he himself will have to provide a subsidy for manufacturing milk which will enable him to compete against the subsidised manufactured milk from all over the world.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
My right hon. Friend said that the consumers have been accustomed for many years to abnormally low prices for milk products. Is it not a fact that we never had a low price for butter until the year before last?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am not thinking merely of butter, but of condensed milk, which is one of the important outlets for milk products in this country. As we have found in the case of bacon, three or four years are quite enough to accustom the consumer to an uneconomically low price, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the strain of guillotining imported supplies on a large scale would undoubtedly set up a reaction against the producers themselves of which they would be well advised to be aware. I am sure the producers feel that, and for that reason are anxious 1137 to find an escape from the problem which besets us.
I do not pretend that these proposals are in any way final, but for the first time we have organised the industry in this country. That is to say, the solution is to be found in a better market, and an organised market is the one obvious way by which we can bring about a better market. It is useless for a Government to go to the distributors and tell them that they can run their business more profitably than they themselves, and that they can find unsuspected sources of profit. A commercial man will be always ready to discover, by skilful accountancy, ways to show he is not making any profit on the transactions in which he is engaged. The interest of the organised producer in the low cost of distribution is far greater than that of almost anyone else, because with low costs of distribution he can obtain a remunerative price for his products and still get larger consumption owing to the decrease in prices to the consumer. The organised producer is in a position to go into that problem with far more authority than any investigation which we may set up in this House.
Therefore, from all sides I ask support for our proposals since I am sure that the organised producer is the only person who can go into and investigate the variety of problems of distribution which, as the Commission of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham has said, and as many other inquiries have shown is the true solution of the difficulties in which we stand to-day. I must apologise to the House for having taken longer than I intended. This is a subject in which I feel the greatest interest, and always have done. I can only say that I feel myself greatly honoured and privileged to have brought these proposals before the House of Commons at this time. I am sure that we are on the right road. I am sure that these are worthy proposals that we are laying before the House. They are proposals which are flexible and capable of development. I am certain that the House will not regret having started upon this road by giving a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of schemes being laid on the Table of the House; will they 1138 need a Resolution of the House before they come into force?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I hope that the House will not insist upon that. Clause 11 is not so drawn as to require a Resolution to be passed before schemes come into force. They will often be highly technical, and I think the laying of them before the House will be quite sufficient; but that is a Committee point which we can well discuss when we come to Clause 11.
§ Miss RATHBONE
When the right hon. Gentleman told us that the price hitherto paid for the milk supplied to schools was 2s. a gallon, did he mean us to understand that with any increased supply of milk to schools so high a price as 2s. a gallon is contemplated? The estimate of £9,000,000 was based on 2s. a gallon.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Obviously, the exact price which is to be paid will depend upon the scheme brought forward by the Milk Board. The price will have to be remunerative or it will not help the milk industry. The exact quantity and the exact sum necessary will be the subject of close investigation as soon as the Marketing Board bring forward their proposals; but it cannot be at the low price of milk for manufacturing purposes.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:whilst this House is of opinion that the wider distribution of a pure and efficient milk supply is an urgent necessity, it cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which is designed to encourage the production of milk products in preference to an increase in the consumption of fresh milk amongst the children in public elementary schools and at a price within the reach of the poorer households, and which, in view of the recent Report of the Economic Advisory Council, fails to make adequate provision for the eradication of disease from cattle.We are much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his clear exposition of the Bill, and the principles on which he has acted in putting the subsidy upon the basis upon which it is. I call it a subsidy because I do not think any of us really look upon it as being a loan. Also, I am sure that all of us 1139 will pay the Minister the tribute that we know he is as anxious as everybody else that school children should get an adequate supply of clean milk. That is a subject about which he has always shown anxiety, and he has always done his best to accomplish that object; but we may legitimately have different views as to the best way of securing that end, and we do not believe this Bill is making anything like the best use of the money which is to be found by the community. We are all out for the same objective, to get the best use of milk and the best milk to use, and as we are to spend something like £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in a year or two in trying to achieve that object we ought to remember that it is the community generally who are entitled to the full value of the £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 and not merely the farmers or the landowners who are receiving a subsidy in support of their business. It is obvious that under our existing system this business must be supported, but we cannot look at the position purely from that point of view.
There are two main points to take into consideration in deciding whether this Bill is the most desirable way of tackling the problem—first, the question of purity, and, secondly, the distribution of liquid milk. Those two do to some extent go together, because no one wants to distribute milk which is not pure or is a source of disease. The recent report of the Economic Advisory Committee on cattle diseases, following upon an earlier report by a special committee of the People's League of Health, shows the extreme necessity for action in cleaning up the herds. Most of us had a rather general and somewhat hazy idea that there was a great deal of impure milk on the market, but we had no conception as to how much of it was impure or as to how far it was responsible for disease. But now that we have these authoritative reports we have a proved set of circumstances which must be called appalling. I do not propose to reiterate the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in the earlier stage of these discussions, but I would like to read one passage from a speech by a very well known surgeon, because I think some hon. Members may not realise even now how serious is this question. Lord Moynihan, speaking at a 1140 meeting at the Mansion House nearly two years ago, just after the first of the reports I have mentioned had come out, said:It is also true that a very large amount of surgical tuberculosis is caused by the drinking of contaminated milk. I have some figures here which show that 59 per cent. of cases of glandular enlargement and 35 per cent. of bone and joint disease in England and Wales are due to the drinking of contaminated milk. In Scotland things were far worse; there, over 90 per cent. of glandular enlargement and over 60 per cent. of diseases of bones and joints were found to be due to the drinking of such milk. What we are accustomed to call 'surgical tuberculosis,' that is tuberculosis of the glands, bones, joints, skin, intestines and so forth, is due in large measure to impure milk. It has also become quite clear that a certain proportion of that form of tuberculosis which was supposed to be due to the contact of an individual with an already contaminated individual—that is to say, human tuberculosis—is also due to the drinking of milk. Therefore, against milk a heavy indictment may be brought: that it is the cause of a large proportion of surgical tuberculosis and of a certain proportion of medical tuberculosis.That is a very serious statement indeed to be made by one of the leading surgeons of this country, and it is to be noted that it does not deal only with bovine tuberculosis, but also with human tuberculosis. That state of affairs, which is perhaps aggravated by the disclosures as to the lack of inspection even under the existing inspectorate in the county areas, calls for some far more drastic action than the Minister is proposing to take. Ministers are not always accused of not taking enough power unto themselves; the accusation is often the exact opposite, but we believe that a really determined attack ought to be made upon this state of affairs, and that that cannot be done adequately by offering a premium for milk which is relatively or completely pure, free from infection from tuberculosis. It is, of course, a difficult task inside any individualistic system of farming, where there are an enormous number of owners of small units who are not very amenable to the discipline even of so vigorous a Minister of Agriculture as the one we have at present; and we believe the Minister ought to take very much greater powers to deal with this matter than he will have under this Bill. It is true that a great deal might be done temporarily by means of pasteurisation and 1141 by other methods of getting rid of the disease which is in the milk, but, obviously, everyone would prefer to get milk which is clean at its source instead of impure milk which has to be purified subsequently. Under the Bill we do not believe the Minister will be successful in making any very effective onslaught on this state of affairs.
If this cleaning up is to be successful, it is essential that it should be done nationally from the centre. It will not be enough to do it through local government centres in various parts of the country, as is shown I think by the inefficiency of the present inspectorate and the small amount of work they put in. We suggest to the Government that this should be treated as a disease which is not only a cattle disease but which is infectious and harmful to the human being. In cases of foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever the central Government exercise very large powers of isolation and slaughter if necessary—not necessarily slaughter, though slaughter if necessary; but isolation above all things. One of the difficulties as regards outbreaks in cattle is the infection which even a decent herd, which has been got free from tuberculosis, may suffer from herds which are not kept free from tuberculosis. We believe that the Minister ought to take powers similar to those which he has for dealing with foot-and-mouth disease, not necessarily ordering slaughter in every case, but with a right, if necessary, to condemn, and especially with the right to isolate—the right to isolate areas if necessary—and with the administration carried out under a central inspectorate. The work should be put under the Livestock Department of the Board of Agriculture and be a direct responsibility of that Department. Even if it is necessary to spend a good deal more money in setting up an inspectorate it is an absolutely first essential in dealing with this problem. By attacking it by the method of giving an extra premium for milk we are tackling it from the wrong end. If we are only to spend a small sum of money that money would be spent much more usefully by dealing with this disease among cattle as other cattle diseases are dealt with, and, indeed, we believe it would be well worth while to spend a very much larger sum on setting up an efficient system on these lines.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend will recollect that I indicated that we should be working centrally. It was one of the points I made.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I quite understand. What my right hon. Friend said was that the Government would control the purse-strings as regards the premium money for better milk, and that we should therefore work to a central standard in that matter; but that is not my point. The point I am making is the control of the herd side and of the inspectorate side. I am dealing with the inspection of the animals. The Livestock Department of the Board of Agriculture does the work now in the case of foot-and-mouth disease.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I agree completely. Every attention possible will be given as regard attested herds by the Central Department.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am sorry that I have not made my meaning clear. Merely keeping a roll of tested herds is not good enough. It is the untested herds that are a danger. With a tested herd we have a man who has already done his best to get his herd free, and once he has appreciated the advantage of that he will no doubt do his best to keep it free. The danger is from the rest of the people who make no effort to get their herds free, and who take no trouble to try to cleanup their herds. It is people who send tuberculous cattle into the market Where they may infect everybody else's cattle in regard to whom I want to give the Minister power; in bad cases of tuberculous infection he should have the power to make an order for them to be slaughtered—not wholesale slaughter. When you go about the country you can see tuberculous cows, starved-looking, lean animals, which some small man continues milking, especially in village areas. I want the Minister to have the very fullest powers, just as he would have to deal with any other serious disease in cattle. If he cannot spend the money on those powers, at least let him have the powers, in order that he may step in and make a really effective onslaught. I should like to see the greater part of this money spent on the exercise of those powers.
Let me come to the second point, the question of distribution. It is clearly unnecessary 1143 to wait until all the herds in the country are cleaned up before we consider the wider distribution of liquid milk. Besides that, there are other means by which some guarantee can be obtained that the milk will not infect children. In this country at the present time there is a fantastically low consumption of milk per head. In the United States, twice as much is drunk per head of the population, in Canada three times as much, and in the Scandinavian group of countries roughly six times as much per head. Obviously, there is very much leeway to be made up, in order to improve the health of the people of this country. The low consumption per head is not evenly distributed over the population. It is very largely the lower and poorer-paid classes who find that they are unable to get the liquid milk which they require. In other words, it is not merely a question of taste, but of ability to pay the money. The very remarkable figures which were quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) from the investigations on the consumption of milk in Cardiff by Mr. Jones and Mr. Cowie of the University College, Aberystwyth, proved conclusively that the incidence of the lack of milk very largely falls upon the families with children in the lowest grades of consuming power. There seems to be very large scope for the expansion of the consumption of liquid milk.
Perhaps I may remind hon. Members of one or two of those figures, which were given when some hon. Members were not present. The report, as the House will remember, divides the population into four classes: (1) good middle-class; (2) good working-class; (3) new housing area; and (4) poor working-class. The interesting fact about the new-housing-area class is that the consumption of milk is almost as low as in the fourth class, owing to the high rents or the high rate of purchase which is being paid by those individuals for their houses. The figures are these: The total expenditure on all milk and milk foods per week, that is condensed milk, liquid milk, dried milk, and all the other milk foods, is, in the first class, practically 12½d; per person; in the second class, 6d.; in the third class, 5d.; and in the fourth class, 5d. The consumption is less than half in the last two classes than in the ordinary 1144 middle-class families. On those figures the report says:Further it is almost certainly wrong to assume that the poor classes would not take considerably greater quantities of fresh milk if they were financially able to do so, and there is no reason to believe that the consumption of milk in those regions could not approach that attained in the more prosperous districts.That is to say, if the purchasing power for liquid milk were there, consumption would follow. A little further on the report says after further analysing the different classes:Not a single one of the remaining 22 households obtained any kind of milk food other than tinned skimmed milk, whilst only four of the children living in those homes, are supplied with milk at school. It is therefore apparent that 24 children, 10 of whom are under seven years, have to depend entirely upon tinned skim milk for their requirement of milk.Obviously, in a country where it is said that there is a surplus of 118,000,000 gallons of milk a year, that is something which no community can tolerate, if there is any means of putting it right. We believe that this is an opportunity, when the community is about to spend money to assist the dairying industry, to cure to some extent this very serious evil, as regards the health of the school children.
If one looks a little further, one finds that the amount spent per head on milk falls very rapidly, as one would expect, when the number of individuals in the family is greater. Where there are children, the consumption of milk per head is much smaller in the poorer families than where there are no children. In a family where there are two people, generally husband and wife, the consumption in pence per head per week is just over 8d.—8.7d.; where there are five persons, that would be three children, the consumption falls to 5d. per head. The more children there are, the worse is the share which each child gets of the small amount of milk which goes into the home. The state of affairs thus disclosed must lead us if possible to do something to expand milk production. The right hon. Gentleman has said that that is quite impossible from a financial point of view to face the expenditure that would have to be made if we were to try to provide children—which is the obvious way to do it—with a free supply of milk. I would be very glad if he will follow me 1145 in the figures which I want to take up and which he gave us.
He says that the excess is to be taken as 180,000,000 gallons. I thought that that was rather a maximum figure. Of the 160,000,000 to 180,000,000 gallons, 90,000,000 gallons would go to supply those children if it were distributed free, and he assumes that the other 90,000,000 gallons would go at 2s. There is the present position; 90,000,000 gallons are going for 3d. and the other 90,000,000 gallons is what we are to subsidise. It is suggested that we should subsidise it at 1s. 9d., and the hon. Gentleman says that that would cost £9,000,000. That would be a fantastic proposition, I agree. What we have to do to meet the hon. Gentleman's position is to give to that 180,000,000 gallons somewhere about 5d. per gallon, and that is what he is seeking to do in the Bill. Let us assume that half of it is sold for manufacturing purposes at 3d. per gallon; how far have we to go in order to bring out the average at over 5d. a gallon?—8d. a gallon. That is to say, if we give 8d. a gallon, we shall be giving the same amount of subsidy as is provided in this Bill for 180,000,000 gallons. It is suggested that if you do that, the 90,000,000 gallons will not fetch 3d. I do not think so. If the 90,000,000 gallons were taken off the manufacturing market at a higher price, the manufacturing objective would absorb a very great portion of the 90,000,000 gallons, and it might be that the cheese makers would be short of milk.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is a very interesting point, but it would stabilise the price of milk at what would become the general level for all milk, and that would ruin the scheme completely. I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman to appreciate the full weight of the argument. If you distribute any such quantity as 90,000,000 gallons at an average price such as he suggested it would be impossible to get other consumers to pay the higher price, and you would have to subsidise every gallon of milk which is sold in this country.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
That would not frighten me if it were necessary. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has looked at this matter as it actually is. If a scheme is devised for the distribution of free milk to school children, on special contract entered into by the 1146 Milk Marketing Board at a special price, taking manufacturing milk, as it is called at present, for that purpose, he is not going to affect the liquid milk in the least. How are you going to use the surplus? The right hon. Gentleman said he hopes, by paying more for the manufacturing milk, to reduce the price of liquid milk. If he is going to pay more for this milk, it will gradually reduce the price of liquid milk, as he has just told us, but it will not tend to bring it down to the special contract price, and if the milk consumer thinks that he is going to get this reduction by reason of the fact that it has been decided to give this special service for school children, he will be disappointed. The Milk Marketing Board will be there to fix the price, if it can, at 8d. It can, as it has done before, fix a price of 1s. 2d. or 2s., but surely the hon. Gentleman is not going to say that this scheme is so futile that if I, or someone else, determines that it is a proper use for this milk at a price which is far more remunerative than is given now, it cannot work, because everybody will want it at the same price. The whole scheme of milk is differential price, and it always has been.
The right hon. Gentleman is very good over the wireless. He has only to put across about three speeches to explain to people this special scheme for giving milk to school children, and he might even get a few votes for the National Government. I am sure that he would have the country 100 per cent. behind him for that scheme, and that if the Milk Marketing Board found themselves in difficulties because of this, they could get any extra powers in order to make the scheme satisfactory. The farmer would have the advantage not only of getting an extra price but of educating every school child to the milk habit, so that when they come out of school they would become purchasers. I can imagine no more valuable form of advertisement, because to create a habit is the most valuable form of advertisement. That is exactly what this would do; it would create a habit for liquid milk. The right hon. Gentleman himself is going to try to encourage it in schools, because it is part of his advertising scheme for milk and because it is good for the school children, but he says he cannot go more than a certain distance. 1147 We say to him that, if he is bold enough to go the whole distance, the farmer will not suffer, for the same amount of money spent will give the farmer as good a return—indeed, I am not certain that the same amount of money might not give him even a better return, because the price of manufacturing milk might actually go up if this quantity were removed into the liquid milk market. It is only if the right hon. Gentleman says that neither he, nor the Board, nor the Government, nor the milk marketing scheme, nor the producers, are capable of putting across a scheme like this without the consumers demanding an immediate reduction of price to the same level as is adopted for this scheme, that he has any argument to put against it.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It would be wrong for me, naturally; to enter into a contravention of the elaborate argument which the hon. and learned Gentleman is putting forward, but I assure him that I could do so, and should not have any very great difficulty in destroying it. I would merely enter a caveat now. The picture which he has drawn is a most enticing one, but I assure him that it has no connection with the facts of the case.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The right hon. Gentleman says that it has no connection with the facts of the case. Its connection may not be one of which he approves, but it has some connection with the facts, because I have taken his figures to work upon.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not taken the cost. He says that the same amount of money might be spent with very much greater benefit, and outlines a scheme which admittedly would cost very much more—I only take that as one point—and he assumes that this manufacturing milk is some special kind of milk in some special kind of pool. It is merely the ordinary milk of the countryside. The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot assume that there is this special kind of milk, which can be drawn upon at 3d., or even 8d., and has no connection with the ordinary milk supplies of the country.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; he has given me a very good argument. I agree that 1148 any gallon of milk may be either. It is not pink, or blue, or anything else; you could not distinguish it if you saw it in a churn. And yet the manufacturing milk has not brought down the price of liquid milk to the same price as manufacturing milk; the consumers have not demanded, because manufacturing milk is sold at 3d., that they shall not be called upon to pay more than 3d. Why, therefore, should they, because school children's milk is sold at 8d., demand that they should not be called upon to pay more than 8d.? That is precisely the argument which the right hon. Gentleman is putting forward, and, really, it will not square.
This surplus milk is milk for which the farmer is bound to accept a lower price. All that we are suggesting is that, instead of its being all at one lower price—that is not so even now, because this is only a part of the manufacturing milk, and manufacturing milk itself is sold at different prices—we are suggesting that it should be divided into two halves, some of it at a lower and some at a higher price; that the half at the higher price, which on the average evens out the subsidy, should be sent to the school children, and that the subsidy should be paid to the Milk Marketing Board, who should be allowed to apply it so as to get this volume of liquid milk for the schools. It is exactly the same from the farmer's point of view whether it is applied in that way or not, so long as he gets his share, and, if he gets an average price of 5½d. a gallon, the fact that half the quantity is paid for by the State at 8d. per gallon in order to supply school children, and half is paid for by manufacturers at 3d. in order to make cheese, will make no difference to the farmer at all. The Milk Marketing Board can average it out and pay every farmer 5½d. a gallon, so that there would be no difficulty in working the scheme at all, while, on the other hand, there would be the vast advantage that not only would the fanner get the benefit of having his dairy herds continued and sustained, but the community would get the vital advantage of milk for children who at the present time do not have it, and who, as every one admits, ought to have it. The right hon. Gentleman is as anxious as anyone else that they should have it.
Why, in these circumstances, are we to say we are very sorry, but they cannot 1149 have it, that it has to be put into a tin or made, into cheese? That seems to me to be a most fantastic admission of inability to deal with material things; the mind of man would seem to have sunk to a lower status than the tuberculous cow if we are going to take that attitude towards this Bill. I have stated the two main objections that we have to the Bill. We agree that in the existing circumstances something has got to be done to help the dairy industry, but we say that, if it is done, first of all let the Minister take full power to deal with the whole veterinary and disease side of tuberculosis in cattle, and, secondly, if this subsidy is to be given to the farming industry, let it be given in such a way that it will also enable the supplies of liquid milk which, we all admit, the school children should have, to get to those children.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
I am rather tempted to try to deal with the misunderstanding—because that is rather what it is—which has arisen between the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and the Minister, but I think I had better leave that to him. There is, however, a (misunderstanding which I think lies at the base of some other misunderstandings which have arisen, and to which I should like to refer. It has arisen in the minds of a good many people, if one looks at the Press, as a result of something which was said by the Minister last week in the discussion on the Money Resolution. He said that the object of the subsidy was to insure the milk producer against the disastrously low level of 3½d. a gallon, and to raise it to a minimum of 5d. He rather suggested last week, and again to-day, that there was no fear that a subsidy for that purpose would tend to encourage the production of manufacturing milk, and it seems to me that that reads, to anyone who does not know the methods of the Milk Marketing Board, as though, without this subsidy, the producer would only be receiving 3½d. a gallon for his milk, and as though the subsidy would bring the price up to 5d.
If that were so, truly it would be a disastrous position and a disastrous price, but, surely, that really is not the position at all. The producer, surely, gets the 1150 district pooled price, less deductions for transport and administration and all the rest of it. That is what he gets without his bonus for regular quantities and superior quality, and he gets it whether the milk is used as liquid milk or as manufacturing milk. Surely, we must start all these debates with the understanding that, as compared with the position as it would have been if there had been no Milk Marketing Board, the position of the producer whose milk actually goes for manufacturing purposes as been enormously improved; and that improvement is only rendered possible by considerable deductions from the selling price of the man who sells his milk as liquid milk. That is one of the grounds for the dissatisfaction with the operations of the board—that, in order to even up the price of milk, and give a better price for that which goes for manufacturing, they have had to give, to the man who sells his milk as liquid milk, such a very small proportion, as he thinks, of the actual price paid by the consumer of that liquid milk.
If that be the real structure of the machinery, and there is no question of the producer getting only 3½d. a gallon, to be raised only to 5d., it leads me to a further point which I think is worth making. This proposed subsidy for two years seems to me to be something more than would be necessary merely to tide the industry over this summer, and over the difficulty into which it has got owing to the levelled district pool price system. It is to last for two years, but it seems to me that after that time the producers will certainly expect it to continue, and it will tend to become a habit. The question is whether, as the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol suggests, the subsidy will encourage a good habit, or whether it will tend to encourage a bad habit. My fear is lest it may tend to lead the industry in the wrong direction—not towards producing high-grade milk for human consumption, but towards producing even larger quantities than the present surplus of factory milk for cheese or butter. There is already, as we know, talk of the Milk Marketing Board, encouraged by this subsidy, building cheese or butter factories. If that is done, it can only be by making, upon those whose milk is sold as liquid milk, a levy heavier than it otherwise would be, and causing more disappointment with the operations 1151 of the board even than there is now. The levy, as we know, is very heavy already, and is tending always to become heavier.
It seems to be that the problem for the board is always likely to be the problem of the surplus, that is to say, the problem of the summer months, and that this subsidy is likely to make it more acute rather than less. The board undoubtedly had a modest success at first, because they dealt with the winter months, coming into operation just before the winter period, during which the liquid milk is normally absorbed, and is likely to go on being normally absorbed, to the extent of about 80 per cent. of our home supplies. But, when the principle of the levelled pool price was applied to summer supplies, it produced the position which has led to the very big change in the personnel of the board which came about at the recent election.
A uniform price in summer, increased, as it will be, by this subsidy, will tend to encourage and to perpetuate irregular supplies without regard to questions of quality; and, as regards that large summer surplus, there will be little, if any, incentive to improve the quality and eradicate disease. Therefore, I think we shall get a vicious circle, or vicious spiral, as the Minister called it, though not quite the same vicious circle as he described. We shall have manufacturing milk depressing the price of liquid milk to its producer; we shall have the price to the consumer remaining rather high, and so there will not be much more liquid milk consumed; but we shall have the subsidy tending to bring about an artificial increase in the general price level, and so stimulating a new surplus of manufacturing milk, which will in its turn lead to a fresh depression in prices and a fresh demand for a fresh subsidy to hold up prices and so on. I believe there were good reasons for tiding the Milk Marketing Board over this difficult summer, I believe the Milk Marketing Board sooner or later will have fundamentally to alter the basis of its prices. I believe that what the Minister told us to-day as to the system prevalent in Ulster is right and that the board will have to check the production of the lower grades of milk by a very stiff differentiation in the price given for those grades. I believe that time to work out methods of that kind as Northern Ireland has 1152 done might reasonably have been given. I am certain that the sooner any subsidy that is given goes to encourage high grade milk for human consumption instead of lower grade milk for factory use the better it will be for everyone concerned.
What prospects are there that in those particular years, 1936 and 1937, the subsidy provided in Clause 5 can be repaid? The answer really, of course, is "None." Is there anything that we have been told that leads us to expect that the price of New Zealand cheese will suddenly rise in those two particular years, so that the subsidy can then be repaid? If there are no particular prospects of it being repaid in those two years, surely there are two alternative things each of which will be better than what is suggested in the Bill, namely, either to make the subsidy generally repayable, regardless of any two particular years, as and when circumstances may enable it to be reasonably and fairly repaid, or admit outright that it is to be regarded as a subsidy and not as a loan at all and to put in some figure like £4,000,000 as a limit, which will show us where we are and make it necessary for the Government to come back if they want to go beyond that figure.
The cleaning up of herds simply by eliminating reactors to the tuberculin test is bound to be a terribly slow and uncertain process. I very much doubt if you will have half the herds cleaned in 25 years by that method. But, if you can clean up by immunising by inoculation, that of course will be a very much speedier and more effective process. I think we are nearer to that than the report of the Economic Advisory Committee would suggest. I have been going into it, and I can say with some authority that, if those responsible would consult Doctor Nathan Raw and Doctor W. M. Crofton and would conduct experiments with proper scientific controls we could quickly discover methods of building up herds immune from the risk of subsequent infection. It would have to he applied to new-born calves, but, once that had been done, those calves would not be infectible by an ordinary infection and you could Build up immune herds. I hope that the first money spent, and the £750,000 that we are now asked to vote for this process of cleaning up herds, may be spent on the work of testing the possibility 1153 of immunising herds by inoculation.
My last point concerns the distribution of milk in schools and to necessitous children under school age and to expectant and nursing mothers, to whom some of us want the scheme to be extended. With regard to children under school age, I should like to tell the House something that fell within my own personal experience. The county of Devonshire was appointing an assistant medical officer. Several candidates came before the selection committee, and I had to ask each of them in turn a sort of test question, and I asked them, if money were no bar, and if they had their own way with regard to matters of health, what they would concentrate on as the thing that would do most to improve health. Their answers were interesting. Some said rural housing. Some said rural water supplies. The man who gave the best answer, for which he could give the best justification—he was the best man, and he got the appointment—was a man who said he would concentrate everything on the children under school age. That shows the importance of extending anything that we do in the way of milk to that class. Last week I stressed the importance of seeing that the supply to children was a safe one for fear that, if it were not, it might lead in some cases to an outbreak of tuberculosis of bovine origin, and that we should therefore get all the medical officers of health against the scheme and so waste the £1,000,000 that we are proposing to spend on advertising. My point to-day is: as and when a sound supply becomes available, let it not be distributed grudgingly but in a way which will really make an impression on the public mind and on the public health. I believe, if you are to do that, it is very necessary that milk should be made available for all children and for expectant and nursing mothers and for children under school age who need it not at a charge, whether 8d., 1s. or 2s. a gallon, but for a certain period free. I am bound to look at it from the point of view from which I have come across it most, namely, as Chairman of a County Education Committee.
I ask the House to consider the administration of the distribution of milk in schools. If all along the benches at half-past 1154 eleven in the morning there is an automatic distribution of little bottles of milk and straws and everyone consumes it at the same time under the same system as part of the school routine, just as they get Scripture or drill or anything else that is supposed to be for their good, the teachers will manage it perfectly well, and it will be done. But I ask the House to realise the alternative to that under the scheme proposed. I am assuming that there will be a scheme under which the payment will be a halfpenny for a third of a pint bottle per day, which would work out at 1s. a gallon. There will be in all schools three classes of children. There will be those who at present get milk free under the certificate of the school medical officers. They, presumably, will continue to get it free. There will be children paying a halfpenny per day, and there will be a third class, those who need it most, who will not be able or willing to pay a halfpenny per day, and therefore will not be getting any milk at all.
That division of the children into three classes is an administration which it will be very difficult to ask the staff of the schools to undertake. I do not like the idea of the teacher having to say, "No halfpenny, no milk," and, when Tommy says, "May I divide my milk with Emmy in the girls' school?" the teacher saying, "No, the girls' school is 150 yards off, and it cannot be done." Under that scheme, you will get the inevitable claim every week that more bottles have been delivered than halfpence have been collected, and the teacher will make it up out of her own pocket, and that is not an easy thing to do. Teachers will do an enormous amount, apart from their ordinary duties, when the health of their children is concerned, but you cannot ask them to do miracles. I ask you to consider it from the point of view of the difficulty of administration, every class consisting of three sets of children who have to be dealt with differently.
To sum up, I think the subsidy is wrongly conceived. It is neither a short-term subsidy to help the Milk Marketing Board to get its house in order and to get on the same sort of basis as that now worked in the North of Ireland and to prevent prices being killed, as they are bound to be, by a great increase of the summer flow of milk, nor is it a subsidy 1155 directed to encourage the sort of milk on which we ought to specialise, namely, sound liquid milk. There is a danger of the advertising £1,000,000 a year being wasted if you spend it in advance of really getting a supply of clean milk. Thirdly, let the investigation of and immunisation of herds by inoculation be vigorously and properly pursued, and, as the supply becomes available for schools, let it be for all the children and for the mothers and for the children under school age who most want it, and let it be free. If you advertise by distributing your product, do it in a way which will really strike the public eye and have a real visible effect on public health.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
We have heard a considerable amount about the distribution of milk. One agrees with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite that we should like a plentiful supply of pure milk, but this afternoon it has all been distribution. What about production? You will not be able to distribute pure milk unless producers can produce it at a profit. That they cannot do to-day. I am not going into the elaborate argument between the Minister and the hon. and learned Gentleman. It seemed that on some points the hon. and learned Gentleman got the best of it, because he is really a fullblown Socialist. I am not going to say how far the right hon. Gentleman goes in that direction, but I want to ask the Government, when they are spending these large sums of money, to think a little more of the producer. Producers are really at their wit's end, and the Milk Marketing Board up to now, though it has eased some of the difficulties, has not solved them by any means. I have the report of the Milk Marketing Board here, and the Commission's Report has not been fully adopted. I want to put this to my right hon. Friend, who has established a central producers' board, that the Commission recommended much more elaborate machinery. The Commission recommended a central dairyman's board in addition, plus three independent members, one appointed by you, Mr. Speaker, one by the Minister of Agriculture, and the other by the President of the Board of Trade. If that had been carried into effect, it would have avoided the dissatisfaction 1156 at the arbitrary award the other day. Those arbitrators made the award, I am afraid, in ignorance of the conditions,
Under the present system, clean milk producers are penalised because they have to contribute to a pool drawn on by those producers whose milk is not up to their quality. That is wrong. In my own county of Devon, we have great agitation on the part of milk producers, so much so that the National Farmers' Union candidate for the milk board was defeated in our area. Here may I warn the right hon. Gentleman that the Farmers' Union up to now has been conducted with remarkable skill. This milk marketing scheme is not entirely the Farmers' Union scheme, and some of the most respected members of the Farmers' Union retired when the scheme was put into operation.
Of course, as an old Liberal, I dislike subsidies. I would much rather the industry was put under fair conditions of production. I would prefer fair play to what has been called a dole. I see that the proposals of the Government are only temporary. What is going to happen when they come to an end? Are we to have a flood of products coming in? If so, I suggest that for any practical purpose, though this seems a large sum, the contribution will be inadequate so far as any profit to producers is concerned. Putting the figures broadly—I do not propose to go into the 80,000,000 or 90,000,000 figures thrown across the table—374,000,000 gallons of milk were dealt with by the Milk Board in the six winter months, and that will be greatly increased in the summer months to a figure I put down at 430,000,000 gallons. That brings the total to 800,000,000 gallons of milk dealt with by the board during the year. There is a great deal of milk that does not come under the milk board at all, and this figure does not include Scotland. A sum of £1,500,000 was proposed as a subsidy. For the milk coming under the milk board itself that is less than a halfpenny a gallon, and for the whole of the milk of the country probably just over a farthing a gallon. If any hon. Gentleman thinks that by increasing milk by a little over a farthing a gallon the whole of the producers of the country are going to to lifted into prosperity, they are making a great mistake.
1157 I do suggest that we should get fair play. The Milk Board themselves have stated that they wish the Government could carry out their portion of the programme; that is, to regulate imports. They ask that in their report which I have here. Take the competition which we have to meet: There is Soviet butter, sold at from 40s. to 50s. a cwt.—41s. a cwt. It takes 2½ gallons of milk to make a pound of butter, so that the Soviet sells milk from 2d. to 2½d. a gallon. It is impossible for the British producer under decent conditions to compete with anything like that. Take another country, Denmark, and we get a large amount of butter from Denmark, which has a depreciated currency. They have endeavoured to meet competition in this market by depreciation. Australia has a depreciated currency and also a bounty of 3d. a pound on butter. Is that fair play to the British producer? I am only asking for fair play. Let us think of the children, but you must give the producer fair play in the first place. At the present moment we are being subjected to ruinous competition. My right hon. Friend the other day gave the figures of this industry, which is a very large one, with 320,000 persons engaged in it and an annual value of £63,000,000. We are entitled, when dealing with such an important product as milk, to fair play. There is no one more clever at fencing off questions than my right hon. Friend. I asked him the other day if he could ascertain the cost of the production of milk, something like the average cost, but he fobbed me off with something about the Milk Board. I do suggest that there should be an inquiry into the cost of milk; then no one would be able to say that the producer is getting too much.
Last Thursday I took up the question of distribution. The distributors have been, what shall I say, coddled on every side, while producers have been harassed and hampered on every side. I have figures from the report of my right hon. Friend's commission which shows that a roundsman just delivering milk, part of the cost to the consumer, in the country districts receives 42s. for a week with a day of eight hours, in a town of 20,000 he receives 52s. a week, and in London 53s. a week with an eight hours day. That roundsman is just carrying milk round. What about the producer, the 1158 man who looks after the cows. Do they get 42s. a week? Everyone who knows anything about cows knows that they have to be looked after seven days a week.
I was very interested in the distributors' profit, and I looked it up in one of the financial papers to find what were the profits of the United Dairies which distribute milk to London. In 1924 they had a profit of £476,541, and in 1933 it had risen to £583,439, an increase of over £100,000. I know a good many gentlemen in the Ministry of Agriculture who think they understand farming. I suggest that here is a field for them. Let them do the distribution. I was going to suggest to some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of the Socialist party who have a Socialist London County Council, what better opportunity have they to attempt Socialism than by taking up the distribution of milk for London, saving this enormous profit. It would be a good working model for Socialism, though I expect the people of London after three years would not vote for any more Socialism. May I put it again that you are regulating the imports of many of the requirements of farmers. Feeding stuffs are taxed 10 per cent. churns, cream separators, and all that paraphernalia are taxed 15 per cent. Why is it that the milk producer is the only person not to have protection?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
But Dominion products are coming in free, and milk products from Australia and New Zealand have increased.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Not much feeding stuffs come from the Dominions, but a large amount of finished products. I am afraid we shall have to give my right hon. Friend instruction on this matter.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am sure. I hope he will follow my advice and apply this treatment. We have heard a great deal about doctors. They are creating a great deal of prejudice against milk. This 1159 Economic Council has talked about there being no effort made to clean up herds. I beg to differ. This would apply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who says that the local authorities have not done their duty. If you were to compel all the cow-keepers in the country to slaughter all tubercular cows, compel them to keep cows in full condition to produce absolutely pure milk, it could not go on, for producers could not sell the milk at the price it costs to produce. You can get pure milk, but you must pay for it. I believe that there has been a great deal of exaggeration by these doctors. If the doctors would drink more milk and talk less about it, it would be a great deal better. We have regulations which are very strict, but, if they are carried out, the cost of the production of milk must go up. Indeed, instead of plentitude, there will be a scarcity of milk. May I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that we are getting milk products from all over the world, and do they mean to tell me that they are all produced under conditions which will satisfy the Economic Advisory Committee's report. If not, why not? Why is not the same meticulous examination made of the purity of the products which come into this country as you are endeavouring to make of the products which art produced here? Why is there not fair play?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The supplies which come into this country are examined by the Ministry of Health, and there is a very thorough examination. I am anxious to get the strongest case for the farmers, but exaggeration does no good.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether milk produced in countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Russia is produced under perfectly healthy conditions, and that butter is made under pure conditions? That is not exaggeration, and I am surprised that my right hon. Friend has said so. We ask that as regards the production of 1160 milk abroad the same regulations should be applied, as are applied here. If that cannot be done, why not? I do not understand it. My right hon. Friend may have some ingenious argument about it. I was reading some little time ago about some conditions in a factory in Russia. It was a cutting from the "Daily Telegraph," which is not a stunt paper, and said that the management of a factory in Russia had an ambitious programme for manicuring the working girls, but meanwhile there were no washing facilities in the factory, no soap and no towels. If this is what goes on in a factory, what must go on on small farms in Russia? Do you mean to say that the product which comes here is of an entirely healthy description? Can you say that the so-called butter that comes into port can be certified as healthy and contains, at any rate, the same nutriment as our fresh butter? I am amazed at the Minister of Agriculture suggesting that these foreign products are pure and fit for human consumption. I do not believe it for a moment. I would not eat them. We have been talking about the nutritive value of milk. Everybody agrees upon it, but the poor people do not get it. They buy skimmed milk and milk powder, and heaven knows what is in those tins. Give the producers of this country fair play and a fair price for their products, and you will get a plentiful supply of pure milk.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Sir E. GRIGG
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) for what he said in the course of his speech in support of the main recommendations of the Milk Reorganisation Commission. I am afraid that it is the fate of commissions to receive much praise for the brilliance and cogency of their arguments, and then to find Governments deciding to do something else. That was certainly, in part at least, the fate of the Milk Reorganisation Commission. I do not wish to pursue the arguments the right hon. Gentleman advanced upon that subject to-night, but I express my thanks to him for having reminded the House that the marketing scheme which is working at present is not the scheme recommended by the Milk Reorganisation Commission.
I propose to say a few words on the Amendment which is before the House. 1161 I do not support the Amendment, though I have considerable sympathy with at least a part of the argument which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) advanced in support of it. I am not going to support or to vote for the Amendment, because I am convinced that it is necessary, as an emergency measure, to buttress manufacturing prices. The right hon. Gentleman made an unanswerable case on that point, and, since the Amendment ignores the urgent character of the emergency, I think that it is failing to face facts. I also think that hon. Gentlemen who drafted the Amendment are wrong if they suppose that one of the effects of the proposals of the Government is to encourage the production of low quality milk. That would not occur unless the Government's advances were about to cause some substantial rise in the pool price for milk. It is generally agreed—it is a generally accepted calculation at any rate—that the Government's advances will not have the effect of raising the pool price by more than something in the neighbourhood of a farthing a gallon, and that is not likely to encourage a great increase in the production of surplus milk. For those reasons, I have no sympathy with the Amendment and shall vote against it, and shall most certainly support the Second Reading of the Bill.
I confess, however, a little disappointment at the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his remarks, said nothing to suggest that he regarded the Bill as in any sense a makeshift Measure and that it will be necessary after this Measure to bring in something to deal more permanently and thoroughly with the troubles of the milk industry. This Bill it is true will give temporary help to the industry, but it will create liabilities for the industry most of which will begin to mature in two years' time. These liabilities are really serious. First of all, there is the liability for repayment which will mature in two years' time. The price will have to rise a penny above the standard price both in summer and in winter, but if that occurs the liability will fall upon the board. It is no use blinking the fact. Another liability is the payment of premiums. Under this Bill part of the premium on milk of good quality will be paid by grants from this House, but in two years' time these 1162 premiums will presumably have to be paid out of the sales of milk, and they will become another liability for the Milk Marketing Board. Finally, and perhaps this is the most important of the liabilities which will be incurred, is the liability for supplying cheap milk in the schools. The Government are to assist in that for a period of two years. The milk habit is to be created, I hope, in a very considerable number of schools. Clearly, if the Milk Board have done anything to promote the sale of milk in schools at a special price, they will have to continue that system even after the Government grant has expired. These liabilities, most of which mature in two years, will, I believe, necessitate a very considerable increase in the pool price if the board is to deal effectually with them.
I should like to repeat the argument which I expressed in Committee last week, that that rise cannot possibly be expected to come from an increase in the manufacturing price. I said just now that it was a generally accepted calculation—and I think it is—that the advances now being made by the Government to buttress the manufacturing price will not produce more than about a farthing a gallon on the pool price of milk. The subvention paid by the Government on the milk which is going to earn this subsidy is an average of 2d. throughout the year—l½d. for six months and 2½d. for the other six months—and a subsidy of 2d. in regard to that part of the surplus which earns the subsidy is only equivalent to a farthing a gallon on the pool price of milk. That shows what tremendous rises are necessary on the manufacturing side if you are to produce an effectual rise in the pool price of milk. It is on that I based the argument which many hon. Members disputed last week, that you cannot expect to make an adequate price to the producer of milk simply by dealing with imports and supposing that when you have done that you will find that the producer receives an adequate price. I hope that the Government will begin to face the issue next year and will deal with the question of helping the producer to secure a larger share of what the consumer pays for his milk—that is the vital question of the milk industry— 1163 and that they will also go further than they are at present prepared to go in supplying the schools.
I do not wish to wrangle over gallonage with the right hon. Gentleman, but I am bound to say that some of the figures which he used in his speech when moving the Second Reading of the Bill astonished me. He said that the surplus which we must take into consideration if we were to deal with the question of school milk was 180,000,000 gallons. That was the figure he used. I rose and asked him whether he meant by that the surplus earning the lowest category manufacturing price, and he replied that it was the surplus in the lowest category manufacturing price, which is to say 3½d. According to the Report of the Milk Marketing Board, the total surplus dealt with by the board for the first six months was 63,000,000, and of that at least one-third was milk paid for in the higher manufacturing categories. Not more than two-thirds, that is to say 40,000,000 gallons, was milk earning the lowest manufacturing price. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's figures are correct, in order to get his 180,000,000 gallons surplus in the lowest category, it is necessary that the surplus should rise by 140,000,000 in that category alone during the six summer months. That really seems to be an inconceivable figure, and I was astonished to hear him basing his argument against the provision of milk for schools on a calculation of that kind. I very much hope that he will go into the figures and possibly revise them.
Another thing which astonished me was the fact that he based his calculations on the cost of supplying milk to schools on a price of 2s. a gallon, and he supported that calculation by saying that the farmer was entitled to a fair price. I entirely agree with him that the farmer is entitled to a fair price, but 2s. a gallon includes more than a fair price to the distributor as well. Is anybody going to suggest that the Government must also subsidise the distributor in giving milk to schools? The argument has always been that in supplying milk in quantity for schools the cost of distribution should be enormously reduced. It is not reasonable to take the normal price of 2s. a gallon as the basis of 1164 calculating how much it will cost to supply milk to schools.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I was not giving it as an ideal figure, I was going on the basis of the 9,000,000 gallons of our present supply. Although the cost of distribution in respect of the supply of milk in schools includes certain abnormal items, I gave the figure not as an ideal figure but merely as the figure upon which we are working now.
§ Sir E. GRIGG
I am ready to accept my right hon. Friend's explanation, but I must quarrel further with him in his contention that in order to make the scheme workable for the farmer it is essential that he should get the full liquid price for milk supplied in schools. It seems to me quite sufficient from the point of view of raising the pool price if for the milk supplied in schools the producer gets something substantially better than the manufacturing price. That is the calculation on which I have always understood the argument in regard to the supply to schools has been based.
I seldom find myself in agreement with arguments advanced by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), but I think he made out a good case. I am debarred from disagreeing with him because in the Milk Commission's report his argument was anticipated by the Milk Commission itself. That report says:A period when the supply of milk surplus to existing liquid requirements seems certain to increase affords an opportunity in which the Central Producers' Board may, with advantage to those it represents, take measures to lower the cost of milk of good quality to schools. We believe it possible, in these circumstances, to expand the market for liquid milk with lasting benefit to all concerned. It is better that good milk should go at a low rate to schools than that it should go at an even lower rate into manufacture, and the pooling scheme may stand to gain substantially by measures of this kind.That was the substance of the argument advanced by the hon. and learned Member, and I find myself in accord with it because I stand entirely by what the Milk Commission said on that point. I, however, dissent from him altogether, and from my right hon. Friend who spoke from the benches behind me, in thinking that the milk scheme in schools should be free. It seems to me essential that the scheme 1165 should be contributory. I hope therefore that the Government will give serious consideration to the possibility of introducing next year a new system of health insurance for children, which will provide among other things for milk in schools, a system of health insurance under which the benefits have to be paid even if the contributors are out of employment and not for the moment making payments. That system of health insurance seems to me to be essential for children, and I hope the Government will give consideration to that proposal in the autumn with a view to its introduction next year.
Finally, I feel very strongly that the Hosue should be enabled to discuss the schemes under this Bill which are introduced by the Milk Marketing Board after approval by the Minister of Agriculture. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether these schemes will need a Resolution before they come into force, he said that it was a Committee point and he would deal with it at a later stage. I say, with great respect, that it is something much more than a Committee point. The House is voting a very large sum of the taxpayers' money for measures which are outlined but not clearly defined. We cannot tell from this Bill exactly how that money is going to be used. Neither the Money Resolution nor the Bill are well drawn in that respect. They are much looser than Measures of this kind have habitually been, and it is important that any schemes under this Bill for using the taxpayers' money which we voted last week should come before the House and be approved by Resolution of the House before they are put into force.
§ 7.37 p.m.
I am sure that every hon. Member will welcome this opportunity of debating the vital question that is contained in the provisions of this Bill. These proposals are very long overdue. The fact that nothing has been done to clean up the dairy herds in the country is a disgrace not only to our Ministry of Health authorities but to the country as a whole. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said that no effort had been made by the farmers of this country to produce a better quality of milk. I should like to ask 1166 him—I am sorry that he is not in his place—what incentive has ever been given to the English farmer to produce the high quality of milk that we all want to see produced. Under the regulations in force, if a farmer wishes to produce grade "A" milk, which is the lowest quality of graded milk, he has to pay for the privilege of producing it. If he wishes to produce certified grade A milk, which is the highest quality, he has to pay a still higher price for a licence for the privilege of producing it. The farmer whether he has produced good milk or bad milk has never been able to demand a better price.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture on being the Minister to bring in a Measure which is the first real attempt on the part of any British Government to clean up the milk supply in the country. It may not go as far as many of us would like, but we cannot deny that it is a genuine effort to do something to give the public clean milk. One Clause of the Bill gives power for the making of new designations of milk. That is a reform long overdue. There is no doubt that great confusion has been created in the minds of many people who thought that they had been buying the genuine article because it was called grade A milk. The fact that there were three qualities of grade A milk has been most confusing. In many cases whether a distributor was a manufacturer of milk or a man who treated milk by pasteurisation or sterilisation, he had only to be registered with one producer as getting grade A milk and he could bottle any amount of milk and call it grade A, whether it was produced under grade A conditions or not. I hope that when the new designations come into force there will be no loop-holes in them, and that the public will really know what they are getting and will really get what they think they are getting.
There is often a great deal of talk about the pasteurisation of milk. I know that this is a very delicate and complicated subject and that there is great diversity of opinion on it, but I read from the report of the Hopkins Committee that:Milk sold from licensed pasteurising plant and still more milk sold from plants where other forms of heat treatment are carried out is not infrequently found to be infected with the tubercular bacilli.1167 Therefore, it seems to me, as the Minister of Agriculture stated in introducing the Bill, there is no alternative but to clean up the herds. When purchasing pasteurised milk one cannot be certain that one is buying milk free from tubecle bacilli, and safe for the public. It has been stated in the House that doctors are a source of great annoyance to the milk producer. Doctors are very much divided in their opinions on this subject. They are experts I have heard that the definition of an expert, is "a man who knows more and more about less and less." When the doctors disagree so much, as they do, on this subject it leaves in the mind of a lay person like myself, great confusion of thought.
It has been stated that doctors are a source of trouble. I would never underestimate the great danger of contamination from milk or the great danger of getting tuberculosis from milk. Doctors are not the only sinners in this respect. In my own area, I have seen big posters issued by various firms who pasteurise and sterilise milk; posters got up with beautiful colouring which can never miss the eye. I have seen these posters on the vans delivering milk too containing the words: "There is danger in drinking milk straight from the cow." When I see things like that it makes me all the keener to support a Measure of this kind, which seeks to get rid of something that is a stumbling block to the greater consumption of milk.
There has been much talk about milk for schoolchildren. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) that it is very essential that schoolchildren should have this milk; but I can see objections to giving it to them all free. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man or beyond the wit of this House to devise some scheme whereby milk can be supplied to schoolchildren without it in any way demoralising them, and without in any way making discrimination.
I should like to say to my hon. Friend who talks about demoralising the farmer in giving him a subsidy, that unless milk can be produced in this country at a profit we shall reach the point, which was ably pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, when there will not be an adequate supply of good milk. I notice from the Hopkins Report that they state that the simplest and most effective inducement is to secure for the owner of the tubercular free herd a higher net return for the milk which he sells than is obtained by the owners of other herds. That, I think, is the crux of the whole matter. I believe that if an inducement were given to the farmer to produce a really good article, you would get that good article.
I am certain that it is not going to be easy to have those drastic reforms about which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) spoke. We are so used to reading about his drastic reforms, but when you come to deal with the question of the production of milk and getting rid of tuberculosis in cattle, you are dealing with something that you cannot do all in a moment of time. Those of us who know anything about the testing of cattle for producing tuberculin-tested milk know that you have all your cows tested, and that it takes two months before you really know the final result, and everyone who has had practical experience knows that at the end of six months, if those self-same cattle that did not react to the test, which meant that they were free from tuberculosis, are tested again, you will find some of them reacting, as a result of the irritation set up by the tuberculosis injected. It is not an easy matter, and I believe it will take us years to clear up the herds in our country, but I believe also that we must do everything that lies in our power, such as by keeping those animals that are in fected apart from the others and by moving them about the country very carefully because of the infection they might get in the markets, and we have to take every available precaution and to make every possible effort to rid ourselves of what I consider is the greatest stumbling block to the larger consumption of milk in this country.
I should like once more to congratulate the Minister on making this effort, and I 1169 should like to appeal to him to try to devise some means whereby we can give milk to as many school children as possible, because I believe that what they lack more than anything else, and what has never been given the prominence in our country that it ought to have, is the real food value of milk. I believe that that food value of milk has never really come into the question; it has always been a question of price. I can see two sides of the picture. I can see the farmer, who has got to be adequately remunerated for producing a better article. Never let us forget when we ask him to produce a better article, to wash down his cattle, and to take all the precautions that he will be obliged to take, and that he should take in the interests of this question, we are asking him to add to his cost of production and to employ more labour, and we must be prepared to see that he gets an adequate return for all that.
But, on the other side of the picture, I can see the housewife, not only in the industrial areas, but in the rural areas as well, who cannot afford to pay more money for her milk. She ekes out her housekeeping by threepences and sixpences. It is amazing to see the way in which she allocates her threepences and sixpences to this, that, and the other thing, and if she wants more of one thing, she must go short of something else. I can see these two sides of the picture, and I cannot see how they are to be reconciled, unless by some means such as those that the Milk Marketing Board is devising now, some scheme whereby there will be a levy on all milk in order to pay a better price or a bonus to the farmer to produce the best article so that the consumer has to pay no more. I congratulate the Minister and whole-heartedly welcome this first great effort to give to our public a clean, decent supply of milk; and I shall be proud to go into the Lobby to support him.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH McCONNELL
I rise heartily to support the Second Reading of this Bill and to congratulate and thank the Minister of Agriculture on behalf of the farmers in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland we have a very gallant lot of farmers, who have been suffering under very adverse circumstances, and I should like to direct the attention of the 1170 Labour Members to the fact that 75 per cent. of those farmers employ no labour except that of their own family. Those men are gallant, struggling men, who submit to such privations that, if they were to happen in urban areas, they would cause a great shout from the Labour benches. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Healy) has left his place, because I am sure that if he were here, he would support me in every word that I have said. I am very proud to say that, in all these circumstances, every year the pride of our farmer is to increase the quality of his herds. We have no scrub bulls in Northern Ireland, and I believe we have one of the finest herds, if not the finest herd, of milk cattle in the world. Therefore, I appeal to the House that it is necessary to do something to help these people who are not making ends meet, and I hope that something further can be done to put a duty on all milk products that are brought into this country. I congratulate my right hon. Friend.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. RUSSELL
During the last five years we have discussed in this House, with a continuity that is not often equalled, the great problem of how we shall restore agriculture, and all hon. Members know that the general trend of the discussion has rested between two schools of thought. We have been told, on the one hand, that industry was against agriculture and, on the other, that agriculture was against industry. We have been told, in regard to the one, that we must have a system of protection, and in regard to the other that we must have a system of Free Trade, but we have at last, I think, come to the decision that by neither of these processes shall we reach salvation, but that we shall reach it in all probability by the application of each of them in its own place and in its own way. When we come to the consideration of the two great principles involved, unfortunately we have for many generations reached a deadlock, because a very large percentage of our imports has been in the direction of foodstuffs, and so we came almost to a hopeless position with regard to agriculture. Now we have come to another position. We have now ourselves to decide what foodstuffs we can produce in the fullest quantity, to concentrate 1171 upon them, and then to allow the other foodstuffs to come here in full quantities, and so raise the standard of life all round.
When we come to the consideration of that problem, the first of these foodstuffs that we can consider is undoubtedly milk. We can provide all the milk that our people require, and it is the purpose of this Bill to see to it that the conditions which prevail in the production and distribution of milk are such as will make that industry profitable and successful. It is when we come to the consideration of the difficulties that the industry has to face that I want to support most heartily the Second Reading of this Bill. What are the difficulties that the dairy industry has to face? We have been told by the Minister to-day that they are chiefly those caused by a glut of milk in the market. What are the conditions which have produced that glut? I submit that they are two—first of all, that they are due to price, and then to quality. This Bill to a certain extent deals with both those questions. On the question of price, I do not think the Bill goes far enough. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) will remember that the commission over which he so ably presided recommended a much wider scheme. The price of milk as it stands to-day in this country is not the consequence of action by the producers, but the fault of the system of distribution through the country as a whole.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, speaking the other day on this question, said something to the effect that they were considering the question of distribution but had not yet got all the facts. I think it is time in this question that we cut through a lot of nonsense that is put together by accountancy and got really down to the facts. I have never had a financial interest in the production or distribution of milk, but for almost 50 years I have been in constant weekly contact with those who were producing and distributing the article. I am at present in almost daily consultation in Liverpool, where, years ago, we had to face the question of the reconstruction of the whole of the interval supply of that city. I had as a young man to hold a watching brief and studied every step taken by Dr. Hope, the medical officer, 1172 to obtain a safe and satisfactory output, so I am going to be dogmatic and to say, without the slightest hesitation, that the price of milk both to the producer and to the distributor is fair under present conditions. If the farmer gets for his summer milk from 8d. to 10d. net at his farm, he can carry through, and if he can be secured in the amount of milk that he can sell, he can expand his herds and have prosperity at that summer price. If during the winter he can get 1s. to 1s. 2d., the same is applicable. I go further. I say that if that is the price to the producer, then the consumer should get his milk at 1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d. a gallon in the summer and at 5d. to 5½d. a quart in the winter. I know I shall be open to criticism for giving these figures, but I can challenge refutation of them at any time or anywhere. Wherever the retail price of milk, at the present time and under present conditions, varies from these figures, it is due either to inefficiency in distribution or to profiteering. If you could supply your people with milk at these prices, you would do the first thing to take away the glut. You would vastly increase demand. But that is not the whole case. You cannot increase the demand unless you deal, as this Bill does, with the question of supply and the question of quality.
A great deal has been said to-day upon this question of quality. I listened to the Mover of the Amendment. I listened with interest to the argument he had with the Minister over the question of supply to school children at a certain price. But what struck me as extraordinary was, that in the first part of the speech he told this House what terribly infected stuff milk was. He told us to think of the condition of the cattle in our herds. Then in the second half of his speech he told us we should increase to the fullest extent the consumption of this infected stuff. I have every sympathy with those who want the children to have more milk, but what I deprecate is that there should go from this House such an exaggerated conception of the condition of the herds of this country. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for example, speaking the other day on this question, told us that 40 per cent. of cattle were infected with tuberculosis, and led us to believe, of course, that a very heavy infection was carried in milk. I do not 1173 know how he can establish such a figure. For this reason. We have been told that one of the first things we need is inspection of our herds. If we have not efficient inspection, who is going to dogmatise as to the number of cattle infected with tuberculosis? But there is a more important point still. It is a very well-recognised fact that, unless there be tuberculous condition of the udder, you do not get tuberculous milk. Tuberculous udder is not found in more than 5 per cent.—not 40 per cent.
Then we have had a lot of talk about the question of pasteurisation. I have read with very great interest the report of the Hopkins Committee. What does it amount to? I think I can summarise its findings in this way. There are three things that are proved in that report. The first is that milk is of the highest food value. No one disputes that. The second is that every application of heat lowers that value. Nobody disputes that. Third—and this is the vital point—pasteurised milk alone would starve a child. As a matter of fact, according to the Hopkins Report, if you feed a child on pasteurised milk you must also give it either cod liver oil or some citrus fruit. That is the gist of the case for pasteurisation; but it is not the whole story of its effect. Every time you attempt to manufacture or cook the milk you add to the price to the consumer. Every improvement, on the other hand, in your herds, in your cowsheds, in your pastures, lowers the cost to the consumer. Therefore, there is no difficulty in coming to a reasoned decision as to what it is necessary for this House to do in order to safeguard our supply. There is only one thing, and that is to clean up the herds. Everybody wants that to be done. Farmers want it to be done. Why are herds in the state in which they are described? I wish Members of the House would come, and examine our herds in Cheshire. We would show them some cows.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
We would show them some conditions under which cows are fed. We would give them a different opinion of milk. It is all very well for those who live in towns somewhere to say that milk is this, and milk is that, and milk is the other. Do not run away with notions. Our herds have been improved, 1174 are being improved, and will continue to be improved. But this is a much bigger question than the House realises. The first step will be taken in dealing with one half of the herds, the male half, with the scrub bull orders at once. That is a step in the right direction. You must deal also with the question of the housing of the herds and the question of the management of the herds; and you cannot possibly bring all these matters under review in a few months. It takes you three years at least to get a dairy cow into your herd in efficiency. I would suggest to the Minister that the first thing he might very well do—and I have no doubt for a moment that the officials of his Department would say the same—is to deal with the rising generation of our cattle. The way in which calves are treated sometimes on the farm is wrong. I am not going into technical details here, but I want to remind the Minister that according to all reports on diseases of animals the tubercular bacillus is voided in excreta, and therefore it is of first importance that the calves should be taken away from any possibility of contamination. As the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) suggested, we should see if we cannot immunise these calves, this growing stock, and so make the progress quicker than it could otherwise be.
But there is one section of this Bill to which I want to refer more in detail. It is a section which has been under repeated attack: I mean that dealing with the manufacture of cheese. Under the present condition of things, and while the Ottawa Agreements and other factors remain, it is essential that we should stay up one of our finest and oldest industries. Members of this House talk about putting more people on the land. There is no finer way in which you can increase the population of rural England than by a development of your cheese industry. Now what has Happened? A year ago the price of cheese in the market was round about 6d. a lb. A couple of months ago the rumour went out that a subsidy amounting roughly to 2½d. a lb. was going to be paid to cheese makers. I should like someone to explain—I confess I cannot for the moment—why it is that this year, with steady determination, the price of cheese dropped until it reached 3½d. Now 3½d. and 2½d. makes 6d. Therefore, somebody 1175 brought the price of cheese down in the market to the price at which it stood last year.
I make no further comment on that. But I do want to say that behind all our discussions we have the fact that we have not yet got in this country some data upon which to base our policy. I have tried for some years now to get accurate figures with regard to cheese-making. I have never yet got any figures from any Department which could be relied upon for five minutes. I suggest, as one of the first results of the policy put forward by the Government, that we shall now get for the first time accurate returns, and from these accurate returns be able to make some definite progress. It is a big job to which the Minister has set his hand. Only those who are brought in contact with it know fully its difficulty. But I believe that the Bill is the first move in the right direction. We want our rural districts to be brought into a state of prosperity. We want our dairy industry to be one of the finest in the world. We want our children to have milk of the finest food value. This is one of the ways in which we ought to bring it about; and I for one know that this House will gladly give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
The hon. Member who has just sat down has said that there are cows in Cheshire. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) says there are cows in Buckinghamshire. We have cows in Scotland. I want to put a definite case which has cropped up in Scotland recently which, if not rectified, will seriously damage the good effects of this Bill, which we all admire, and injuriously affect all producers of certified milk in Scotland. During this interesting discussion many hon. Members, indeed, I think every hon. Member, including the Minister of Agriculture himself, has used the expression "when the Marketing Board makes certain schemes." There are two marketing boards, and it is because one marketing board makes a scheme different from the other that I am on my feet at this moment. The point is this. The Marketing Board in England have given certain rights, certain 1176 privileges to producers of certified graded milk which the producers of the same milk in Scotland do not enjoy. Under the scheme the boards have power to grant exemptions:The board shall have power to exempt from any or all the provisions of a scheme producers and sales of such classes or description as they may determine.What has happened in Scotland is very different from what has happened in England. The Marketing Board of Scotland have said that these words mean that they cannot, at any rate they have not, exempt producers of this high-grade milk from the levy which is made on all producers of all milk, high and low. It costs 3d. more per gallon to produce high-grade milk more than to produce ordinary milk. In addition, there is a levy in Scotland of 4d. per gallon on this milk, which the board does not touch at all but which the producers of certified graded milk sell direct to their customers. The board does not render any service to the producers of certified milk in return for the levy which they ask them to pay. The consequence is that they have to pay 7d. per gallon more than their confreres in England.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I should be very sorry to try and explain to the Noble Lady why, but I will tell the House what I think has happened. In Scotland we are all very careful people. The Milk Marketing Board in Scotland say "we are not going to let the Minister down and make him pay through the nose so far as settling our accounts are concerned; we are going to be on the safe side." The English Milk Marketing Board take a greater chance, they do not care how many hundreds or thousands of pounds the English pay——
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
The Noble Lady is always asking for money. In Scotland the Milk Marketing Board has pursued a too careful policy, and the result is that the producers on whose behalf I am speaking now, there are over 200 herds in Scotland producing certified milk—we are, indeed, the pioneers of certified milk——
I cannot let that pass. The first herd was in Basingstoke and the second in Maidenhead.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
Well, I am quite willing to say that we come next to the Noble Lady, and in that case we have done quite well. Let me say that we are third on the list. I know that her family has set the pace, and that is why I want her sympathy. These pioneers in Scotland of certified graded milk are really pioneers of agriculture, they have as much right to be called inventors as the man who makes a new machine to produce artificial silk in Lancashire. They are producers. Since I am here let me say that my ancestors have been mixed up with agriculture for centuries. They were the inventors of Leicestershire sheep; that is the reason why I am taking an interest in this matter. My great-grandfather sent the first Leicester ram to Scotland, which is something to be proud of. There are 12,500 gallons of milk produced by certified producers in Scotland every day, and on a surplus of 5,500 gallons they are mulcted to the extent of 3d. because it costs them 3d. more to produce, and then there is a levy of 4d., which means that on this 5,500 they have to pay 7d. more than their confreres in England.
I appeal to the Under-Secretary to have this matter settled. It is not right it should go on. We have our grievances in Scotland, and if it is known that the producers of certified milk in Scotland are mulcted in 7d. per gallon more than their confreres in England there will be Home Rule for Scotland in a short time. This is because we have two boards. If there had been one it would have been alright. It shows what a difference may easily spring up if you get two boards or two parliaments in one country. The Scottish producer has not been given fair play and equality. This is a practical matter on which we feel deeply. As to what it costs the 200 producers in Scotland, let me say that it means a loss of about £50,000 a year, that is a rough Calculation. It costs three of these producers £1,000 a year each, and it is not fair. We must have this matter rectified. I place it in the hands of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and I shall expect something to be done in the 1178 near future to place Scotland on a basis of equality with England in this respect and to do justice to the producers of graded milk in Scotland.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) will not expect me to follow him into a discussion of Home Rule for Scotland. I take it that the policy of the marketing board which deals with Scotland is dictated and decided by the Scottish members of that board but I will not venture further along that line. My purpose in rising is to try to put before the House the views of a Member representing an industrial constituency. Very often agricultural Members take up the greater part of these Debates and I have no complaint to make on that ground because they understand the technical side of the question and on that I do not presume to offer any comments. But I think it is desirable to point out that the success or failure of these schemes depends upon the industrial population. I was interested some weeks ago to receive a publication called "The Home Farmer" from the Milk Marketing Board and I find that a certain gentleman writing in that publication says that there ought to be a better feeling between the agricultural population and the industrial population. He complains of a lack of understanding on the part of townspeople of the farmers' problems. I believe on the other hand that there is a complete misunderstanding of the attitude of industrial population towards the agricultural population. This writer states:Every year we have the same fatuous caricature of Farmer Hayseed depicted as a bucolic yokel, chewing a straw and looking as intelligent as a turnip.I do not know any intelligent townsman who thinks of the farmer in that way. If it is necessary for the townsman to try to understand the point of view of the agriculturist, do not let the agriculturist misunderstand the point of view of the townsman. I recognise that the farmer's task is hard. His job is an arduous one. I recognise the difficulties he has experienced in the last few years. I cannot see that the prices of his commodities have been at all remunerative. His business is subject to the vagaries of the weather. In anything I may say on this subject I do not want to be taken 1179 as having no sympathy with the farmer. Any criticism I offer of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme is not due to any lack of sympathy either with the right hon. Gentleman in his sincere and earnest attempt to help the farmer or with the farmer himself. I think everybody desires to see the farmer prosperous but the question is whether these schemes in themselves, however well intentioned, are sound and calculated to solve the problem and hold an equitable balance between producer and consumer.
The Bill is designed to meet a temporary emergency created by the existence of a surplus of milk. That is not a surplus over the requirements of the nation. It is a surplus which exists because of the inability of people to purchase liquid milk owing to exorbitant retail prices. This Bill proposes to deal with what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has so often described to us as "the economics of glut." I have never been able to understand what the hon. Gentleman meant by it, but that is the term which he has used. There is no real glut at all in regard to milk. There is a glut so far as the inability of the people to pay the price demanded by the retailer is concerned, I wish to examine how far this Bill goes towards supplying what is the only cure for the milk problem, namely, a larger demand for liquid milk.
There are two aspects of the Measure on which I propose to touch briefly. The first is the provision for securing a pure milk supply. Parliament is being asked to vote £750,000 to be expended during a period of four years for this object. Personally, I have no objection to that provision I look upon it as a health service. The only question in my mind is whether the sum is adequate to achieve what is intended. Secondly, there is to be a contribution from the Exchequer towards expenses incurred by milk marketing boards in increasing the demand for milk. In so far as provision is being made under that scheme for milk for school children I am in entire sympathy with it. I shall have something to say later about that question but to my mind the provision which is being made here, as regards a part of this £1,000,000 merely touches the fringe of the problem. I was astounded to hear 1180 the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) come out with that old, imaginary—I cannot find words to describe it—that old fear of the demoralising effect on school children of getting milk free.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
If the Noble Lady reads the OFFICIAL REPORT I think she will find that I have not misquoted the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock. I would not do so in regard to any Member of the House. But I ask, is it demoralising to give children free education? Is it demoralising to give them the advantages of any of the social services which they now receive? My only complaint regarding the provision of free milk is that we are not providing enough of it. I am not afraid of demoralising the children. The hon. Lady cited the difficulties which the ordinary working woman finds in expending her income. She mentioned the threepences and the sixpences which had to be spent on this and that. Then she talks about demoralising children by giving them a pint of milk for nothing each day at school.
In my judgment the money which is to be spent in other ways in attempting to popularise the demand for milk will be to a large extent wasted. No advertiser can succeed if his wares are outside the purchasing power of the public. I do not suggest that the farmer is getting too much for his milk. He certainly is not, but the price to the consumer is prohibitive. To talk about spending money on a campaign to advertise milk at 2s. a gallon is simply wasting money. There is no need to advertise milk if the quality and price are right. You have not to create a demand in this country for milk or the taste for milk. I would suggest that the only way to get an increase in the consumption of milk is by reducing? its retail price. Why should the people who have sent me here be called upon to pay to the State money to advertise a commodity which they cannot afford to purchase in the quantities that they desire and which they would in fact purchase if it were a reasonable price? I 1181 want to suggest definitely that the principle of subsidising private enterprise is wrong. The one justification for the existence of private enterprise is competition. What answer is there to give to the person who says, "If you use our money to subsidise industry, why should I not receive any profits arising from it?" I can find no answer to that question, and one of the things that astounds me in this House is the easy way Members walk into the Lobby to give presents to private enterprise and think that the people of this country are going to tolerate it for ever and ever.
In view of what the hon. Member for Cannock said about demoralising the child, let us see what the farmers are getting as a direct subsidy to-day. When the de-rating Act was introduced, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the 25 per cent. of the rates which the farmers were paying would, when taken away, cost £4,750,000, so that the total cost in rates prior to this 25 per cent. being taken off was £18,000,000. The total cost for the beet sugar subsidy last year was £5,500,000, and of wheat £4,500,000. Under this Bill the annual expenditure in the next two years will be £2,000,000. These sums make a total of direct subsidy of £31,000,000. The poor woman living in some miserable hovel is demoralised because her child gets a pint of milk a day free. What about the farmers who are receiving the £31,000,000? If private enterprise cannot stand on its own feet, it appears to me that it has no justification for its existence. I believe it can stand on its own feet. Every hon. Member will agree that the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) made a remarkable speech on the Financial Resolution last Thursday. He told us that the amount which is to be spent on the repayments in respect of milk used for manufacture amounted to less than one halfpenny per gallon on the total pool price. He was then referring to the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 which is to be spent in the next two or three years. There is no definite sum named, but the Minister suggested £3,500,000 on the Financial Resolution. So that the £1,000,000 which is to be spent on the publicity campaign to popularise the consumption of milk would mean little or nothing per gallon, and it could very well be taken off the distributor's profit without calling on the Exchequer.
1182 I want to come to the first part of the Bill, which is the real reason for its introduction, namely, the Clauses which make possible the payment to Milk Marketing Boards of such sums as may be required to raise the value of milk sold for manufacture. The Minister of Agriculture told us last Thursday and repeated it to-day, although the figure has been challenged, that we were in this Bill dealing with a surplus of 200,000,000 gallons. There is one point upon which I should like to compliment the Minister. He is not attempting to solve this problem by creating an artificial scarcity. The Government have somewhat changed their policy so far as that is concerned. In view of the other marketing schemes, coupled with the limitation of imports covering bacon, potatoes, the suggested hop scheme and the sugar scheme, we can congratulate the Minister upon this particular scheme. My own view is that so far as this £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 is concerned, the House can be quite sure that the money will never be repaid, and the total cost to the State of this Bill under the three different headings will amount, so far as I am able to calculate, to at least £5,000,000, or, under the particular subsidy so far as manufactured milk is concerned, at the rate of £1,500,000 for the next two years. The hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham in his speech on Thursday said that 100,000,000 gallons could probably be used in giving it to the school children. The figure of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was 80,000,000 gallons. I was rather astounded that the Minister of Agriculture should have challenged the argument of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I could not see one fallacy in it, and I think when the right hon. Gentleman has time to read the OFFICIAL REPORT and really to consider the argument, he will be bound to agree with the absolute correctness of it.
It is rather a coincidence that yesterday I spent some time in the Library, not knowing that the hon. and learned Member was going to deal with it, working out the same point. There is no difference, so far as the pool receipts are concerned, whether the Minister receives 3½d. from the schools or from manufacturing milk. I made a calculation that; if the 100,000,000 gallons, that is, half the surplus, were provided to the schools at 1183 the present price of manufacturing milk, namely 3½d. per gallon, and with the advance of 2d. a, gallon which is the average throughout the year, making a total of 5½d. per gallon, and reckoning a distribution of 100,000,000 gallons, the cost to the State would work out at £2,291,000. It is rather striking that if you examine that figure you will find that the total almost coincides with the cost under the subsidy of £1,500,000 coupled with the portion of the money that is to be spent during a given year on popularising milk.
I suggest to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that from every point of view this is a better way of expending the money. The first result would be an improvement in the health of the children. I do not know what would be saved about extending this so far as after treatment is concerned. I know from the ease of my own child, who has been fortunate enough to have all the milk she wished to drink, that there is no difficulty in getting a child into the habit of drinking milk. Every child in school would jump at the opportunity of having a free supply of milk. I was struck by a remark made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). I wonder whether the House realises the indignity that a child feels when it has to say that it cannot afford the halfpenny which is demanded of it for milk at school. The children who cannot afford it are those who need the milk most. The child who can afford the halfpenny or penny comes from the home where there is liquid milk, but the other child very often comes from the home where liquid milk is never or rarely seen.
That is my suggestion for dealing with half the surplus. What about the other half. The "Home Farmer," the official publication of the Milk Marketing Board, says that the sale of liquid milk in April amounted to 45,000,000 gallons, and on that basis the sale of liquid milk in a year amounts to 540,000,000 gallons. If we took from the distributors less than one halfpenny per gallon it would produce £1,000,000. I want to address myself to the question of distribution. We have suggested taking one farthing for publicity and with the halfpenny I am suggesting that gives the total of 1184 three-farthings per gallon. There is a striking article by Mr. Baxter, the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board, in the "Home Farmer." He says:Under the current contract the producer is awarded for liquid milk 1s. per gallon in all regions except the southeastern region, where for four months the price is one penny more, but he assumes all responsibility for the manufacturing surplus, and therefore will meet the effect of that in the reduction of all his milk by from 2d. to 3d. per gallon. Having also to meet the full obligation of freight charges from farm to buyer, it is likely that the price at the farm will be between 7d. and 9d., yet the distributor will get a gross profit of 10d., or even more in thickly-populated areas.I do not think any hon. Member can wonder that the farmer complains. He is not getting a fair deal, nor is the consumer. In Bradford the consumer pays 2s. per gallon for milk, and yet the pool price, which I think covers Bradford, is 10½d., subject to certain deductions. The problem of distribution has got to be tackled. So far as I can see, many of the distributors have simply to hand out bottles of milk which come to them already made up. I do not want to cite certain cases that I know of quite definitely. If the distributors' gross profit is 10d. per gallon, that is l½d. on every pint bottle of milk he distributes. What I cannot understand is why, in the industrial areas, the profit should be more. The distributor in Bradford is working in a thickly-populated area. At some houses he leaves two or three bottles of milk, and in many streets he will deliver a dozen or two dozen bottles. I know that I am speaking without absolute knowledge, but it seems to me that the cost of delivery must be much higher in a rural area than in an area where he can go from door to door distributing bottle after bottle of milk. If a milkman delivers 480 bottles in a day, which I do not think is a difficult task in an industrial area, his profit is £2 10s. a day, and in a seven-day week it is £17 10s. per week. If half of that is net profit it is not a bad job, as we should say in Yorkshire.
The right hon. Gentleman will be far better employed in tackling this particular problem. The only solution of the problem is to make milk cheaper. It needs no campaign to make milk popular. Offer any lad in the streets of Bradford a pint of milk and see whether he refuses it. Probably you will not feel inclined to 1185 offer him another pint. Put milk within reach of those who desire it and need it, and there will be no surplus. I think I can speak for every hon. Member on this bench in saying that all wish the farmer well. We realise his difficulties. I sympathise with him in his difficulties. I must decline, however, to vote for a Bill which does nothing to reduce the price of milk to the consumer, but adds to his burden by calling upon him to make a further contribution through the Exchequer grant, and further deprives him of purchasing power.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST GRAHAM-LITTLE
I am going to support the Amendment, because I think it appears to offer that practical stimulus to consumption which should precede any other factor in the Bill. The urgency of distributing milk to school children ought to determine our action to-night. There can be no question about that urgency. The nutritional value of milk need not be stressed and the need of it in particular circumstances calls for no emphasis; but the supply of that milk must be immediate and there can be no immediate supply if we are to wait for the cleaning up of the herds. That will take a very long time. The cleaning up cannot be applied to every disease which is derived from the distribution of milk. As a matter of fact it has been applied practically only to tuberculosis; a very expensive method has been adopted and the results have been to a certain degree satisfactory. Samples of certified milk, that is, milk certified as free from tubercule have been examined in laboratories and disclosed an incidence of something like 2 per cent. in milk supposed to be free from tubercule. That is relatively a very small incidence but no freedom is secured by that method from other dieases of milk which are becoming more frequent and more widely recognised. There is no question as to the frequency and the importance of those diseases, although many efforts have been made to minimise their incidence. Those efforts are entirely fruitless, in view of the enormous increase in the reporting of such cases as they become more familiar.
I may, perhaps, give the House some figures which demonstrate very alarmingly the state of affairs before pasteurisation. An experiment was conducted under the 1186 supervision of the perfectly competent officers of the laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College with samples taken from 63 separate 3,000 gallon tanks. All the samples thus gathered showed active tubercule bacillus causing lethal effects in guinea-pigs injected with the milk. Hon. Members may say that that is very remarkable, but it is not so when one considers that milk is the very best medium for the nutrition of the tubercule bacilli. They flourish excedingly in it. A large number of experiments have proved beyond question that milk tanks are practically uniformly infected with tubercule before pasteurisation.
To show the effect of pateurisation, an experiment is conducted by taking a sample of milk before it goes into the inlet and another sample 35 minutes after at the outlet. The first sample has been untreated by heat. At the outlet, after treatment by heat, all bacilli were destroyed, including tubercule, the brucella abortus and the bacillus of the organism of septic sore throat. Those are the three most important infections which are bred in milk. People without any knowledge of the subject assert that pasteurisation destroys the value of milk. That is probably an entirely fallacious statement. There has been 25 years' experience at the Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street, which is the premier children's hospital in the world; 25 years ago, pasteurisation was adopted there, and the children have since been fed on pasteurised milk. The experiment has been watched by some of the most eminent specialists in this country and they are perfectly satisfied that at Great Ormond Street there is no deficiency in pasteurised milk which cannot be supplied very easily and inexpensively by other methods. We hear a great deal now of vitamins, and the quantity which goes to supplement a diet is exceedingly small and perfectly easy to supply.
It is obviously wrong to distribute a product which can cause widespread disease, and must inevitably cause it, if there is an economical method of rendering that product safe and clean. There is no question that we have that method in pasteurisation. All medical authorities who have any knowledge of this are entirely agreed upon it. The unanimity on this subject is very remarkable. It has become the opinion of the medical profession 1187 that to distribute milk of any kind in the fresh state is unwise, and that applies even to tuberculin-tested milk. There is freedom from tubercle in tuberculin-tested milk, but no freedom from other infections.
I may, perhaps, give a personal experience. All my family were fed upon the most expensive milk we could buy, milk produced by Wilfrid Buckley at the Manor Farm, Berkshire. We did the very best we could, and for years and years my family throve upon that milk. My boy, who was at public school, after having absorbed that kind of milk all his life with very great gusto came home with a fever which all the specialists in Harley Street could not diagnose. It was a brucella infection which had been derived from the very best milk that you could buy. That milk was free from tubercle, but it was not free from other bacilli. Tuberculin-tested milks do not pretend to be free from other infections and they cannot be made free from such infections.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Does the hon. Member deny that it is quite possible to clear the brucella abortus from a herd, and that there is a perfectly reliable test in respect of that infection?
§ Sir E. GRAHAM-LITTLE
I am afraid that the methods taken against tubercle do not protect herds against the infection mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I think my hon. Friend is saying that it is impossible to defend milk against infection from bacilli.
§ Sir E. GRAHAM-LITTLE
I do not see any possibility of distributing milk upon a scale which is required if it had to go through all the tests and methods necessary to free it from all infection which may be found in it. If you are to take measures to free milk from bacillus abortus, tuberculosis and septic sore throat and other organisms, the expense of the process would be quite prohibitive, and it would be impossible to make the supply immediate. It is the immediacy of the problem which I want to stress.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Surely the same procedure which is used now could be used in the future. About 1,000,000 children are now receiving milk under the supervision of a school medical officer. A great deal of the milk is passed by them, 1188 and there is no difficulty in the problem at all.
§ Sir E. GRAHAM-LITTLE
An experiment ought now to be tried of distributing the milk in quantity and in bulk, as it is now possible to do, and immediately. I believe that it would result in the improvement of nutrition of the children, and it would also be possible at a relatively small expense to secure their safety from any disease infecting that milk. I believe that it would result in an economic gain to the community, because, as has been shown, it would be very inexpensive. There is no reason, as far as I can see, to suppose that there will be any deterrent effect upon keeping up the herds and supplying milk free from heat treatment for those who desire it. It may taste nicer; it does taste nicer, and those who wish to pay for that taste can do so still. The price charged for that very superior milk is sufficiently high to make it a commercial transaction to supply it, but that must remain a luxury milk and that luxury milk is not as safe as the milk that should be distributed to school children.
It has also been said that pasteurisation encourages uncleanliness in the distributors of milk. That is an entirely fallacious statement, because you will find that progressive distributors are concentrating, very sensibly, upon the importance of using what one might perhaps call surgical cleanliness in the instruments with which the milk is distributed. It has been found that the improvement which takes place when measures of that kind are taken has been astonishing; it has gone more than half-way towards eliminating the diseases which are attributable to milk. One cannot estimate the mischief that comes from milk, and especially from tuberculous milk, by taking the number of deaths which may be recorded from time to time. It is not the deaths which are recorded that represent the sum of the disease produced by tuberculous milk. A far larger amount of unhappiness and disease is produced by illnesses which do not kill the patient, but which maim and mutilate. I was a member of the staff of a children's hospital for some 30 years, and I took the trouble at one time to obtain statistics of the part which tubercle played in the diseases for which children were admitted to that hospital. 1189 I found that at least one-third of the admissions were directly attributable to tubercle, and to the variety of tubercle which is called surgical tuberculosis. It is these facts, which are not conveyed in statistics and do not appear in the mortality tables, that swell the volume of disease which results from infected milk, and it is for that reason that I support the Amendment.
§ 9.7 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am sorry to say that I view this Bill with rather mixed feelings. On the one hand I believe that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is correct in saying that the root cause of the very serious troubles of the milk industry lies in the low prices ruling for butter and cheese, and, therefore, I am very glad to know that he regards it as an urgent matter to take steps to raise those prices. But I do not feel confident that he is taking the steps that will be most effective, and I cannot help feeling the profound truth of the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), that not only the proposal to make an advance to improve the prices of milk products, but the other proposals in the Bill, will create a liability for the future which the industry may well find it very difficult to meet. Again, in common with all the rest of the House, I am extremely glad that, if there is money to spare, it should be spent on endeavouring to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. I should also be glad to see an increased consumption of milk, because I have a very high appreciation of the value of milk, not only for children, but for adults; but I cannot help feeling that I would rather have seen the sum which it is proposed to spend on publicity devoted to the very expensive matter of making the herds tubercle-free. I cannot help feeling that there may be rather a waste of money on publicity which will not be needed when once the medical profession have been made easier in their minds about the fear of infection.
The first point that I should like to put to my right hon. Friend, or whoever may reply at the end of the Debate, is that he should follow up what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman), who voiced the very serious difficulties under which the Scottish producers of graded milk feel 1190 they are labouring at the present time, because they are getting no higher price for their milk than is paid for non-graded milk. I shall be very glad to hear if the £750,000 which is to be provided will be available for securing an improved price for the existing producer of graded milk, and not only for freeing herds which at present do not produce such milk——
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am very glad to know that that is so; an assurance of that kind will bring relief to these producers, though I am not clear how much improvement in the price will be given. Like my hon. Friend, I know that at the present time production of graded milk is being run at a loss, and, unless something substantial can be done towards helping the owners of tubercle-free herds, we may see a decrease in infection-free milk, instead of the increase which we all desire.
Then I should be glad if my right hon. Friend would tell us whether, when the £750,000 is exhausted, a continuance of the efforts to clear the herds will bring an addition to the levy on the non-graded milk; and, if so, can he give the House any indication of what the amount of the addition will be? Will he also tell us what addition, if any, to the levy is likely to be caused by the pound for pound which the milk board has to find for the publicity scheme? These are points which seem to me to be of very great importance, because I think that the House has perhaps hardly realised how very serious is the position of the producers of ordinary milk in Scotland. I do not think that anything was said on the subject in the Debate last week, and I do not think that any Member has yet referred to it in this Debate.
I speak for that part of Scotland, the Centre and East and South East, which is linked up with the great milk-producing area of the South West of Scotland. Unlike the South Western area, in which there is a considerable manufacture of cheese, the milk in the centre and East of Scotland is mainly sold in liquid form, and I believe that most of it is produced all the year round, which I think everyone must recognise is a great boon to the consumer. But dairymen in the centre and East of Scotland labour under this difficulty, in comparison with dairymen in 1191 the South West, that, as my right hon. Friend of course knows, our grass is less succulent and our climate is colder, so that the period for which the cows must be artificially fed is longer. I am assured by someone in touch with dairymen all over this area that they reckon the winter in which artificial feeding is necessary as running frrom the 1st September to the 30th April. That, I believe, is a distinctly longer period than is necessary for artificial feeding in the South West of Scotland. It is owing, of course, to the fact that the South West enjoys advantages of climate and grass that it is the great dairying area of Scotland.
Producers in the centre and East of Scotland assure me that they understood, when meetings were held to explain the scheme before they voted on it, that the levy would not be more than 1d., and probably would be less; but, in the first month of the scheme, the levy was 2d., it has since risen to 4d., and I have had word to-day that producers are very anxious in case for the month of May it should reach a level of 5d. That is exclusive of l½d. per gallon for haulage, which compares with the price of 1d. for haulage which was charged by a big cooperative concern in Fife before the milk scheme came into operation. This, in addition to the 10d. which has to be left, as my right hon. Friend knows, to the distributor, means that the producer in the centre and East of Scotland to-day is not getting more than 8id. a gallon, and I am assured by one in the area who is in a good position to know, that a price of 10d. in summer is necessary if costs are to be met. A price of 1s. 1d. or 1s. 2d. per gallon net was received before the scheme came into operation, and this, I am told, is the figure which is necessary to make milk production pay in this area in the winter.
Of course, the reason why the levy is so heavy to milk producers in the area is because it is linked up with the great dairying area of the South-West, in which much milk is made into cheese. I cannot help feeling that my friends in Aberdeenshire never showed more clearly the business instinct for which they are proverbially famous than when they realised that the Grampians were a very fine barrier between them and Ayrshire, and determined that they would limit their 1192 milk scheme to the North of that mountain range. In other words, the Aberdeenshire men contracted out of having anything to do with the South-West, and the centre, the East and South-East of Scotland are left to carry a pretty heavy baby. Therefore, on all hands I have been hearing for the last few months of the terrible burden imposed on dairymen in my constituency. In January I was hearing that men were losing at the rate of from £80 to £250 a year as compared with the prices they had been receiving before the scheme came into operation. To-day I have heard of a dairyman in the East whose loss so far has averaged £83 a month as compared with the corresponding months a year ago. This means an anticipated loss of £1,000 in the year on a dairy farm the rent of which is £700.
I am assured by a representative of the producers in this area that they are ready to bear some share in helping to keep the South-Western dairymen on their feet. They do not object to the principle of a pool, but they say that it is impossible for them to meet the burden that the scheme is imposing upon them. I have a letter which says:The board are meantime paying a premium to producers who can find distributors prepared to contract to take a definite quantity daily from the producers. The distributors then pay an extra penny per gallon to the board for the milk and the board in turn hands the penny over to the producer. It is perfectly obvious a distributor will not agree to pay the extra penny in order to get a definite quantity of the regulated product from any producer since he, the distributor, can get whatever quantity he wishes from the board daily without paying the extra penny and, if he takes over 500 gallons per day, then any of the milk he does not sell in liquid form he only pays for the latter at manufacturing prices in the region between 3d. and 1d. per gallon. There is, therefore, no incentive for distributors to enter into such contracts to pay the extra penny. One or two of the local distributors have agreed in very few instances to pay the extra penny out of sheer consideration for their producer-customers, for whom they have the greatest sympathy in the farmers' present plight.It seems to me therefore, that there are grave dangers in the scheme to the producers of liquid milk who are linked up with the great cheese manufacturing area. There is no limit to the levy that the board may impose and no amendment can be made in the scheme except by producers representing not more than two-thirds of the milk production of the 1193 area; and I am informed that it would be very difficult for the producers of the East and the centre to outvote the South-West by anything like that majority. It has therefore been made plain to me that there are many dairymen in the centre and East of Scotland who are facing inevitable bankruptcy if no relief can be afforded. Of course, it is true that this advance proposes to give a temporary relief, but I am doubtful whether it is going to be sufficient, because I am informed that, if a dairyman is to receive a remunerative price for cheese manufactured in the South-West, he needs a price of 7d. in summer or 8d. in winter, and the advance does not propose to raise him to that level. The minimum is fixed below that, and I cannot help fearing that, when the price reaches the one penny above the standard price at which repayment has to be made, it is probable that an effort may be made to stabilise the price at a figure which will not make repayment necessary.
Moreover, I cannot help reminding my right hon. Friend that there is, as I believe, a more effective and a more permanent way of raising the prices of butter and cheese on this market, and one which will need no repayment in the future. I regret the little weight that the Milk Commission appear to have attached to the effect that low-priced imports of butter and cheese and other milk products are having on the milk problem. I am glad to find that the report of the Scottish Development Council pays more attention to this question, and it is still more satisfactory to find the English Milk Board stressing the great effect that imported supplies of milk products have had, particularly imports of butter and cheese, in reducing prices "to a hopelessly unremunerative level." I have not found, however, that any of these reports have paid sufficient attention in detail to the prices at which these imports are coming into this country. They are inclined to average the prices over a period of years, or to lump them together without endeavouring to see from which country the lowest priced products have come. If the figures are examined there can be no question, I think, as to the tremendous effect that imports from Soviet Russia have had in lowering the price of butter. Russian butter, which was coming here at 157s. a cwt. in 1928, has been coming at 41s. in 1194 the last few months. It may be said that the price of butter from other countries has also dropped heavily. But whereas Russian butter came in in 1928 on a level with Australian butter, it has steadily dropped proportionally lower than butter from other countries, until this year it is 18 per cent. below the next cheapest butter. No one therefore who has studied these figures can fail to see that Russian butter has been a big factor in the depression of butter prices in our market, and I believe that if my right hon. Friend could induce the President of the Board of Trade to utilise Article 2 of the Russian Trade Agreement to exclude Russian butter—he now has this instrument to his hand for this purpose—he would get a much more substantial rise in butter prices than he sets before himself in his proposed advance. I understand, further, that it is recognised in the dairy industry that the price of cheese follows the price of butter, and I believe, therefore, we can get a, rise in the price of both commodities if he will use Article 2 in the manner I have indicated.
Then I should like to urge on the Secretary of State for Scotland that the investigating committee which, I understand, the Government have set up, should examine most carefully the grievances submitted to the Scottish Milk Board by producers in the centre and East of Scotland. The board have apparently not met any of those grievances. Many men are drifting rapidly into bankruptcy and really desperate feeling is being engendered in the minds of many of them. Therefore, while welcoming the advance that is proposed in this Bill, I should prefer to regard it only as an emergency measure to be utilised for a shorter period than the Bill proposes, partly because it will mean a liability for the future and partly because I believe it will tend to neutralise to a certain extent the rise in prices which is to be expected if Russian butter can be excluded from this market. I would urge that the whole scheme be followed most closely by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland, for the scheme seems to have grave defects which will not be remedied by this Bill, and unless there is an early and a substantial rise in the prices of butter and 1195 cheese, it may be necessary for Parliament to take steps to amend the Scottish milk scheme.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. DREWE
I should like to give my support to this Bill, because I am always willing to give my support to any Measure which will be of benefit to agriculture, which is in such a difficult position. All of us agree with the desire for a greater consumption of liquid milk and a reasonable price for the producer. I must say that I was very impressed with the arguments in favour of using a greater proportion of surplus milk for school children instead of for manufactures. I believe that the case put up was a good one and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give it his full consideration. I feel that I should be failing in my duty if I did not say that this Bill will not, in itself, restore prosperity to the dairy industry in this country. You can go all through the West of England, and you will find that practically every farmer is dependent either on dairying or on livestock production, and neither of these important branches of agriculture can show any possible margin of profit either at the present time, or, in my opinion, when this Bill is in operation. In the West Country, where there are very many important seaside markets and small towns, there are first-class dairy farms around and excellent markets, but the dairy farmers cannot get a profit for their milk, though the consumer has to pay such a price for his milk that he is unable to increase his consumption. I maintain that the Government have & direct measure of responsibility in this direction. I welcome the temporary loan, but only as a temporary measure. I welcome the grant for clean milk for school-children. I do want to impress on the Government that they should go forward and make a declaration of a greater long-range policy. It is quite true that the Milk Marketing Board is a producers' Board, but the Government have a very real measure of responsibility.
I know perfectly well that if the farmers had not been told quite clearly, when asked to vote for the milk marketing scheme, that the Government would see to it that if they reorganised their markets and industry, their market would 1196 not be flooded with foreign produce, they would never have voted for the milk marketing scheme. The Government, under the marketing scheme, have power to protect the consumer. I do, therefore, earnestly appeal to the Government to see to it that these pledges—and they were pledges given at a time when the marketing schemes were going through, and the Bill was under discussion in the House—shall be redeemed absolutely. It cannot be denied that since this scheme came into operation the farmers have received less for their milk and the distributors more. In spite of certain views expressed in this House, I maintain that one of the chief troubles which result in the low price paid for milk going into manufacture, is the abnormal importations from overseas. I think that my hon. Friend who has just spoken has done real service in this House in drawing attention to this danger. I do not want to ask the Government to bring forward any policy that is going to damage our overseas trade or arrangements with our own Dominions, but I do want to assert that where a case can be made out that foreign importation of milk products is coming in with some form of subsidy, then action should be taken. Where it can be proved definitely that the prices for home consumption in a foreign country are higher than the exporting prices to this country, then, in fairness to our own producers, they should be given some substantial measure of assistance. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) said that all he asked for was fair play for our own producers. That is all I am asking for this evening. If we can give absolute fairness to our own producers, I think it will put fresh heart into our dairy farmers. At the present time it is no exaggeration to say that dairy farmers in the far West country do not know what to prepare for in the future.
The right hon. Member for South Molton also referred to the question of the purity of imported milk products. It is impossible to buy any Russian butter in this country, although we know it comes in in considerable quantities and is sold under some other fancy name. I think we can ask the Government to give us some reasonable assistance in that direction. I am very much in favour of trying to clean up our herds and get the 1197 cattle free from tuberculosis. I am only doubtful whether the kind of provision in this Bill is going to be sufficient for this particular object. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture said it was no good anybody suggesting a policy of slaughtering tuberculin cows, because the problem is far too big. But I do know from my own experience, when a few farmers have cows tested, if a cow reacts there are three alternatives—to kill the cow, to keep it, or to put it on the market. I am afraid many farmers put the cows on the market and so free their own herd, but somebody else gets the tuberculin cows. It is difficult to ask for a policy in that direction. I do not know whether it would be possible when building up a credited herd, if, in the case of tubercular cows, he could give some greater measure of compensation if the farmer slaughtered those cows, which in the opinion of the veterinary surgeon, ought not to go on the market. I am rather afraid that if we are to clean up the herds at the expense of having a limited number of clean herds free from tuberculosis, and pass the rest of those cattle on to other farmers, we shall not make the rapid progress which we all would desire. I shall certainly support the Bill, and as far as the West of England is concerned we appeal most earnestly to my right hon. Friend to come forward and give us some further long-range policy which will give us encouragement for the future.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Sir B. PETO
I would remind the House that we have before us an Amendment moved from the Front Opposition Bench by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). Very little has been said about the Amendment, and therefore I would like to detain the House for a few moments on the subject. The Amendment complains of the Bill before the House on the ground, firstly, that it does not do enough to clean up the herds of our country from tuberculosis, and the hon. and learned Gentleman made it clear that if he had his way he would adopt a very drastic and costly policy in that connection; and, secondly, that it does not do enough to supply and to deal with liquid milk. But half a loaf is better than no bread, and I should have thought that, if the Bill went halfway towards what he desires, the hon. and learned Gentleman would 1198 not want to kill outright the budding act of a poor and indigent Government to which he was in opposition. Part of the Amendment is wholly misconceived. He says that the Bill is designed to encourage the production of milk products. It is nothing of the kind. It is designed to relieve such people as the farmers of Scotland, of whom the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross and West Perth (Duchess of Atholl) has spoken so eloquently, from some portion of the terrific levy which they have to pay to bring up the price of the milk which is not used in liquid form but which is used in manufacture. Therefore, there is no real difference of opinion between the two Front Benches on that point at all.
Having said that, I want to say that I am a supporter of the Bill, but certainly not of the Amendment. At the commencement of the Debate, we had a sharp though not acrimonious contest between the two Front Benches on the question of the supply of milk to schools, as to what the volume ought to be, and the price at which it should be delivered at the schools. I frankly say that I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, as perhaps one might expect from his immense experience of similar contests in the courts, had rather the better of the battle. It is clear that the retail price of milk in this country of 2s.—whether it is excessive or not is another matter; we all have our own opinions, and I think it is excessive—involves the cost of retail distribution from door to door, which is a very costly process. But you are dealing here with schools with perhaps 200 or 300 scholars, and you know exactly what you have to supply. It is a much more simple problem of distribution. It is really wholesale distribution and not retail distribution, and it cannot possibly cost 2s. per gallon to deliver milk in bottles to schools. I want to refer to another little contest in the Debate. I ventured to interrupt and ask the Minister of Agriculture whether he could really assure us that in butter form the importations of milk were absolutely free from the risk of tuberculosis. He told me something about the result of importing milk in manufactured form. I have been provided with the actual Clause of the report of the Economic Advisory Council on Cattle Diseases, and it says that of milk products: 1199Cheese is not likely to harbour infection. Being kept in store for the time usual in commercial cheese manufacture the chemical changes that take place have the effect of disarming the tubercle bacilli. Milk is rendered safe by the heat used in the process of manufacture, but butter, cream and cream cheese, and ice cream, which is made from raw milk are capable of carrying infection.On that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). What right have we to impose all these tests on the production of clean milk in this country if we allow the importation from Soviet Russia of enormous quantities of butter, which, according to our most recent and learned report, is capable of introducing into this country exactly the same tubercular bacilli.
I regard the scheme of the Bill—Clauses 1 to 8 which constitute the main part of the Bill, and the provisions for raising the price of manufactured milk without calling upon the sellers of liquid milk for an undue proportion of what they would otherwise get and rendering the whole milk industry of the country un-remunerative—as a temporary expedient to get out of the difficulty caused in the main by the Ottawa Agreements entered into by the Government two years ago. By those agreements free entry was given for all milk products to our market without restriction. They have two years to run, and therefore it is a very natural conclusion for the Ministry of Agriculture to decide that they must take these temporary and otherwise undesirable measures in order to get over the difficulty of the next two years. The Bill is limited to two years from 31st March last.
The difficulty which the milk industry of this country has got into would never have arisen if we had originally boldly adopted, as we ought to have done according to the policy we have generally adopted in the country, the tariff method with regard to the importation of agricultural produce. But representatives of the Government went to Ottawa with their hands tied. They had to go in for this costly and cumbrous system of restriction by quantity, dealing by negotiation with country after country, instead of adopting the simpler and much more generally tried method. This cumbrous quantitative restriction method will have to be replaced sooner 1200 or later—and I put the utmost limit to the time of its existence, the two years-which this Bill is designed to meet—by the tariff method and a full measure of Imperial preference to our own Dominions.
The low price of butter is one of the principal causes of the failure of the policy of milk distribution schemes hitherto. Long before this scheme came into operation I said that it never could work unless the Government gave effect to what they had promised to do, namely, to make an effective restriction of imports from foreign countries and from our own Dominions. The imports from Australia and New Zealand, in particular, mainly caused the great rush of increased imports of butter and cheese into the country. On the top of that, we have had something to which the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross has already referred, which has had an even more acute and direct effect in lowering the price of all milk products. I refer to the abnormal imports from Soviet Russia during the last five years.
Let us look at the figures published by the Board of Trade, which have been tabulated with great care by the Noble Lady. I will take the figures for the Soviet Union. Starting just over five years ago, in 1928, their imports of butter into this country was at level prices with the imports from other countries, namely, 157s. per cwt. That state of affairs persisted for the next year, but in 1930 there was a decrease in price to 121s., in 1931, to 97s. Then we had a terrific drop in 1932 to 76s., in 1933 to 60s. and for the first three months of 1934 to 41s. per cwt. Those prices have had an immediate effect on butter prices. Although the total volume of Soviet Russian butter compared with the total imports of butter would not have been a very large factor in the price of butter from every other source, we find that whereas Australian butter started in 1928 at the same figure as Soviet Russian butter, namely, 157s., when Soviet Russian butter dropped to 97s., Australian butter fell to 107s. When Soviet Russian butter fell to 76s., Australian butter fell to 95s. When Russian butter dropped to 60s., Australian butter fell to 77s., and for the first three months of this year with Soviet Russian butter at 41s., Australian butter has gone down to 65s.
1201 It is perfectly clear that the trouble from which our own Dominions are suffering in diminished price has increased the quantity of exports of butter to this country. They have had to send so many more tons of butter in order to realise less pounds sterling. That is the trouble from which they are suffering, because Soviet Russian butter has knocked the bottom out of the whole market. The Minister of Agriculture said that for many years consumers in this country have been accustomed to low prices for such articles as butter. I question that statement. I agree that it does not take long to accustom the housewife to a low price, but it is only during the last two years, or at the most, three years, that we have had this abnormal condition of affairs, under which butter, of a sort, has been sold in this country at a far lower price than people were ever accustomed to pay for margarine. Such a state of affairs is absolutely inconsistent with the continuation of the dairying industry of this country.
Although I support the Bill as a temporary expedient, I do not like a loan-subsidy. It is a sort of a cross. Some hon. Members have called it a loan, while others, like the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) regard it as a subsidy. I call it a loan-subsidy, that is, a subsidy with a possible return. I do not like that any better than I like a loan, and I do not like it any better than a subsidy. Even as a temporary expedient I do not believe that it will work unless at the same time the Minister of Agriculture, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Trade, takes his courage in both hands and determines to put into operation Clause 2(2) of the Temporary Commercial Agreement with Soviet Russia:Failing a settlement by negotiation the party giving notice under paragraph (1) of this Article may intimate to the other that the provisions of Article 1, from a specified date, shall cease to apply in the United Kingdom or in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as the case may be, and in so far as the prohibition and restriction of imports are concerned.We must absolutely face the fact that to make the scheme of this Bill work we require to stop the importation of butter at prices which have done incalculable injury to our own farmers and incalculable injury to farmers overseas in our 1202 Dominions. Prior to the recent election of the Milk Marketing Board a statement was made by the Milk Marketing Board with regard to their policy. I would crave the indulgence of the House while I read a short paragraph from that statement, which was broadcast throughout the country when the board asked for the votes of farmers to continue them in office. They said:In regard to milk sold for manufacturing purposes, which during the period under review represented 19.87 per cent. of the total milk production under wholesale milk contracts in England and Wales, we have also realised from the outset the necessity for safeguarding the home manufacturing market. We have constantly impressed upon the Ministry of Agriculture the necessity of implementing its promise that the regulation of competing imports would follow the reorganisation of home agriculture. The rapid increase of imported supplies of milk products caused market prices, of butter and cheese in particular, to decline to a hopelessly unremunerative level.If anyone knows what has been the course of events during the last six months in the dairying industry it should be the Milk Marketing Board. After pointing out that under this Bill the price for (manufacturing milk has been fixed at 5d. a gallon in summer and 6d. a gallon in winter for the next two years, they say:In spite of this we realise that for the complete success of the scheme there must be a further substantial increase in the average price of milk sold for manufacturing purposes.In my view, you cannot get that substantial increase in the price of milk sold for manufacturing purposes unless the Government use the powers they have already taken, not to regulate but to restrict the importation of products from abroad when we are capable of producing every ounce that we require, through our own farms and by employing our own labour in this country.
§ 9.55 p.m.
I thought that when the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross and Western (Duchess of Atholl) got up to speak, no matter how far she got where milk was concerned, she was certain to get back to Soviet Russia. You see the hare that she started. I do not blame her for that, because no matter what I start with, I always get back to beer. These are our 1203 little weaknesses. But I want to talk about something far more important than either beer or Soviet Russia. All this story about Russian butter is so much bunk. We all know it, and the Minister of Agriculture knows it. The Noble Lady has got Soviet Russia on the brain and cannot get away from it, just as I have got beer on the brain and cannot get away from it. We must both wake up to that fact.
My heart aches for the Minister of Agriculture, because we all know that no matter who tries to please the farmers, nobody is going to do it. I once said in this House, and I mean it, that even the Creator of heaven and earth has never pleased the farmers. If they had rain they would pray for sun, and if they had sun they would pray for rain. My heart aches, as I say, for the Minister of Agriculture, because he has got an agricultural programme which he could not have thought out for himself. It is a sort of half-baked thing that came from the Labour benches. We all know that the Minister of Agriculture's plan was really started by the last Labour Government, and he took it, I think, without looking it full in the face, and he has had a very difficult time ever since. I must say that the way that the Tories have swallowed it, lock, stock and barrel, amuses me very much. They have taken it all in without asking any questions, and they need not turn round on the Minister when it does not work.
It is not the Minister's fault, but the fault of the House of Commons, for not looking more fully into it, and it is the fault of the agricultural people themselves for never really having had a good agricultural programme. Whenever the Tory party have got into trouble over agriculture, they have given a subsidy. We have never had a good agricultural policy, and if we have not got one now, it is not the Minister's fault. I am not going into that policy, but I do say that some people who know far more about agriculture than the Minister does think that, the Government having got into a mess over milk, this Bill, or part of it, is only going to get us into a greater mess. I do not talk about what I do not know, but I happen to be married to a man who knows more about agriculture than the whole of this House of Commons put together, and the funny 1204 thing is that he knows so much about it that no Government has ever used him up to now, and I do not suppose they ever will. If they had half his knowledge of the subject, they would not be in the mess in which they find themselves now. The Labour party have had sense enough to take up some of his proposals, and they are perfectly right, because he does understand milk, and as far back as 1911 he started with cleaning up the herds and getting clean milk and better milk for this country.
It is not at all easy, but it is not as difficult as the Minister makes out. I do not want to go into the inside of that question, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to press on and to join those who think that as long as you are going to give subsidies to agriculture, you should subsidise health along with it. None of us like subsidies, but this House has voted subsidies and nothing else for the last two years. In fact, it began a long time ago with the sugar beet stunt, and this Government and all Governments have gone on voting it—including the Labour Government. Now you have a vested interest of which you are all terrified, and we have voted £40,000,000 in our day for sugar beet. Wheat has been subsidised, mining has been subsidised, and nearly everything else. Whether we like subsidies or not, therefore, as long as we have them, let us get the best benefit from them.
The Minister knows what a Godsend milk is to children, and this was a great experiment. I have heard him get up and talk about what he knew on the subject, and I am only sorry that he has not had a greater effect upon the Government, but I should have thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would understand that there is one thing we ought to be careful with, and that is milk. We had to fight an election on the question of £150,000 for milk for the kiddies, and the Labour party behaved, as usual, perfectly disreputably, and misrepresented the question all over the country, so that we lost thousands of votes over that £150,000 worth of milk.
I, therefore, think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be only too willing to help about milk, and I ask the Minister to go on and press the Government. If he cannot do it in this Bill, let him do it in a further Bill. After all, 1205 the whole of the country wants certain classes of people to get milk, and to get it free. I go so far as to say that. They want necessitous children and expectant and nursing mothers to get milk, not because they want to give things free, but because they think it would be a national investment. I do not like to give anything free, but I see the difficulties where one child in a school gets it and another does not. I think we ought to make them pay for it at the rate of, say, a penny a week, so that everybody could give that, and it would do away with the idea of giving it free and would ensure that all the children got milk.
The medical profession have made a tremendous row about the quality of milk, but I would remind them that the children of the well-to-do have always had milk, and very seldom clean milk, because very little clean milk exists, yet those children are far healthier than the children of the very poor, who have never had milk. Nobody can dispute that—no doctor in the country can dispute that—so that it would be better to give the children even this milk that is not pure than no milk at all. It is a very dangerous thing that they are doing in going round and talking about the danger of drinking milk. There is far more danger in not drinking milk than in drinking milk, and I think they are doing a great disservice to the children of this country by carrying on such absurd propaganda.
I hope very much that the Minister will realise that there is a strong demand throughout the country, if you have got surplus milk, that it should get to the school children. The right hon. Gentleman has got to make the Government see it. The Government will see it if the House of Commons demand it, and I beg the House of Commons to-night to press the Government in this matter. Let us not waste our time in advertising milk. The best advertisement is to get the children of this country into the habit of drinking milk. I do not want to get back to beer, but, after all, we all know that people who drink beer demand better beer and cheaper beer, and that is what would happen with regard to milk. If they get into the habit of drinking milk, the people will demand more and better milk, and the best advertisement, as I say, is to get the children of the country into the habit of drinking 1206 milk, and then you will not need to advertise it at all.
I am surprised at the complete lack of imagination on the part of all Governments. I am not in favour of Communism for this country, but there is one thing about Soviet Russia, and that is that you do see there a good deal of vision in this matter. I saw a woman to-day who has come back from Russia, and they have a great deal of vision and imagination where children are concerned. And they need to have it. They are starting afresh, and they have sacrificed one whole generation for another, but if hon. Members could see what arrangements they are trying to make for their children, it would make a great difference. I believe the House of Commons has got a chance to-night. We have a surplus of milk, and we are going to subsidise it, and we should demand that it should get to the necessitous children and to the expectant and nursing mothers. We can quite easily get it done. It may be a little difficult. It may be a little expensive. But it will not be half so expensive as the beet-sugar subsidy, and it will not be so expensive as many other subsidies. If we begin subsidies, let us go to the bitter end and see that we subsidise the health of the country, and especially the health of the children.
I do not want to be hard on the Minister of Agriculture. His very boldness has brought down a great deal of criticism. But now that he has been bold, let him be more bold; let him carry it out; let him press on the Government to do what he knows ought to be done, and what I think, really, the whole House of Commons wants done. Let him insist on the school children having the surplus and not bother about the advertising, but insist that it goes to them. He may not be able to do it at once, but he can do it with a little care. I could guarantee that we could set up a committee of some of the women of this House that would find a way out. It is a real tragedy that there are not more Members of the National Government who do not mind acting boldly. It seems to me that there are too many timorous people in it, too many people who do not realise what the country wants. You need someone with a little imagination. Tell the people frankly! Get on the radio and say what 1207 you are going to do. Tell them what you mean to do. Tell them your policy is milk for the children, milk for necessitous children, milk for the children in all the schools. Say that, whatever other countries do, we are determined to raise the standard of the health of the children of this counthy. And one of the quickest ways of doing that is to see that they have their proper supplies of milk.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I rise with very great nervousness and humility, as one of the agricultural Members of the House and as one who cannot attempt to attain the standard of knowledge of the Noble Lord the husband of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). I feel somewhat dismayed that I am attempting to talk upon a subject—and I apologise to the House for talking upon it—a subject of pure temperance. I have in the past addressed the House upon another agricultural commodity, that of pure beer. But, when speaking of that commodity I have always had the opposition, and the keen opposition, of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth. I do ask to-night for her tenderness, for her kindness, to me when I plead a very great desire for pure milk. I hope that on a future occasion when I speak in this House of the advantages to the agricultural community of pure beer I shall obtain her support in return for the support I am giving to her plea for pure milk.
I desire to say to the House and to the Minister that I whole-heartedly support the provisions for improving the quality of milk and for increasing the demand for milk. But the reason for my getting up this evening is to deal with the first part of the Bill, that is, the payments from and to the Exchequer in respect of milk used for manufacture. The payment from the Exchequer, whether considered as loan or as subsidy, is a payment of 5d. in summer and 6d. in winter to the agricultral producer, and is accepted by him with gratitude. It is a step in the right direction, and for that we thank the Minister to-night. The Bill is brought in to meet a temporary emergency; it is only for a period of two years. It is brought forward as a temporary Measure-by the Minister to meet the urgent needs 1208 of the industry, the importance of which he so very clearly stated to the House in his speech on the Financial Resolution.
The Bill also mentions his long-term policy. His long-term policy must also be one to save the industry from collapse. The measures in the Bill by which he proposes to do this must, if they are to be successful, raise the market value of milk surplus to the requirements of liquid milk, to a figure where no further Exchequer grant will be necessary. What are these measures? There are two in the Bill. The first is to improve the quality of milk. The second is to increase the demand for it. These measures are all to the good. But I respectfully suggest to the Minister that, however much it is possible for him to increase the demand for liquid milk, there will always be a large redundance of British milk that must go into manufacture. It is necessary to deal with that problem.
How can this be accomplished? As has been said to-night, imported dairy produce is entering this country at such a low figure that it is absolutely impossibe for the products here to give an adequate financial return to the home milk producer. The Minister, in dealing with this problem, will have a choice of two methods. First, there is the method of permitting the continued import of these low-priced milk products and subsidising, as in this Bill, the home milk producer. The Chancellor might have something to say if the Minister brought forward a Measure of that description. He might say that the country could not afford it. The other method by which he might deal with it is to subject the low-priced imports to quantitative regulations and thus raise the price of manufactured dairy produce in this country, which would allow the home manufacturer to get an adequate price for the milk he is producing. This method would satisfy the British milk producer. But would it satisfy the British consumer of the milk? The Minister has very clearly stated this afternoon that it would so raise the price of these manufactured products that the consumer would not be satisfied. Both these means therefore may be somewhat unpopular.
Is there a middle course? It is to suggest a middle course that I have risen to-night. I would ask him to consider one of the most successful of the agricultural 1209 Measures ever brought before this House, and that is the Wheat Act. I ask him to consider the Wheat Act and to see whether the method adopted in that Act is not applicable to milk. If he permits these foreign cheap milk manufactured products to come into this country, I suggest that he should let them come in by paying adequate toll for the privilege of entering our markets. If they paid that duty there would be a sum of money available to give a subsidy to British producers of milk for manufacturing purposes, or make free milk available for the children.
When I suggested tariffs I was told that they would not do what I desired, raise the price for milk. If a tariff was placed on these milk products it would not raise their price but the duty would bring in revenue which would help to subsidise the milk producing industry. If the right hon. Gentleman would follow my advice in this direction all of us would be satisfied and happy. The farmer would get a price for his milk, the consumer would pay no more, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have to pay any subsidy, because it would come out of the revenue from the duty which would be paid for by the foreigner, and we should get this still further advantage; a duty upon foreign milk products would enable us to assist the Dominions and give to their milk products a definite and substantial preference. I have simply risen to put these points to the Minister. There is one other matter of interest in dealing with the problem of agriculture, and that is to diminish the toll taken by the distributing agencies between the producer and the consumer. It is essential in milk, in meat, and in every agricultural product. I welcome the Bill on behalf of agriculture as a temporary Measure and shall give it my support.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
We on these benches can congratulate ourselves on the sympathetic reception which our Amendment has received in all parts of the House. I do not recall any Amendment of an opposition receiving such sympathetic treatment, and I should imagine that the Minister of Agriculture has been very embarrassed during the Debate when he has realised how correct the Opposition have been in their views on this matter. I want to refer to one or 1210 two points which have been raised during the Debate. Two hon. Members, who have for the moment left the House, are suffering not from a bee in their bonnets but from a whole hive of bees from Russia. They are suffering from Russianitis, a double dose of it. They made lengthy references to the extraordinary situation resulting from the imports of butter from Russia into this country. The facts of the situation are that during the first four months of this year Russia has sent 1 lb. out of every 41 lbs. of butter imported, or 2½ per cent. of the whole; and I suggest to the House that to say that the one determines the price for the 40 is simply toying with the intelligence of hon. Members.
Two points have emerged during the Debate. There is first the question of a pure milk supply, which has occupied a good deal of attention, as indeed it must. The right hon. Gentleman, when explaining the terms of the Bill and, later, the policy of the Government in relation to the £750,000 to be expended in four years on the creation of a pure milk supply, was careful to admit that this was only a start. He was also careful to admit that, so far as his Department had considered the question up to the moment, they had only decided to provide a premium for Grade A milk or milk of defined quality. Bearing in mind the figures of the Hopkins Report and the nation-wide knowledge of the percentage of cattle which have tuberculosis, that is what the right hon. Gentleman, so far, has informed the House. What may be lurking in the dim recesses of his mind or the mind of the Department, we do not know. All he says is: "I am setting apart £180,000 per annum for four years in the hope of encouraging the farmers by a premium to produce a pure milk supply."
What does this mean? If the right hon. Gentleman offers a bribe of 1d. per gallon to milk producers for certified milk or milk of a defined quality, that will be 1d. per gallon on 43,000,000 gallons. Last year the output was 1,425,000,000 gallons. So that the premium would only be on 1–32nd part of the output and, be it remembered, that is only for four years. If, therefore, only 1–32nd part of the milk produced is expected to reach the defined quality, we must assume that 31–32nds may be of doubtful quality. If 1211 he reduced the 1d. per gallon premium for milk of a defined quality, that would of course increase the number of gallons over which it might be spread, but, supposing he reduced the premium to ½d. per gallon, that would still only cover 86,000,000 gallons out of 1,425,000,000 gallons or about one gallon to every 15 gallons produced. Does any hon. Gentleman consider that such a rate of progress is going to be satisfactory to this country?
Medical associations, like the Royal Society of Medicine and the Royal Society of Surgeons—almost every organisation capable of expressing an opinion—have declared themselves to be between two fires in regard to this question. They are satisfied as to the nutritive value of fresh milk; they want to recommend a greater consumption, but they are afraid to do so, because they know that the milk supply in this country is not as pure as it ought to be. We say, therefore, in our Amendment that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the production of a pure milk supply is inadequate. He tells us that they have been waiting for the Hopkins report before proceeding to deal with questions of isolation, condition of cowsheds, water supply, slaughter, or any of those things which may be contributory factors in the production of a pure supply. The right hon. Gentleman says, "We have not considered our scheme yet; therefore we do not know anything about it; therefore we are not going to make any promises; we are just setting apart £180,000 per annum for four years in the hope that the farmers will produce a pure supply."
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the one agricultural commodity which held its price long after the prices of other commodities were tumbling down, was liquid milk. It held its place for years and years when other commodity prices had fallen to rock bottom. But the farmers did nothing to purify their milk supply. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) asked whether there had been any incentive to farmers to produce a pure milk supply. I am amazed that she made such a statement because it is the one commodity produced by the farmer where the price has been good enough not only to help the dairy farmers to do well for a long period 1212 after the War, but to enable massive fortunes to be made by many of the bigger dairy farmers. Yet only a very small proportion have felt that they had an obligation and a duty to the milk consumers.
Many of the large dairy farmers have very much improved their herds and the standard of their milk is very much higher than it was. It is the small man who has not the money and cannot afford to improve his herds. The point I made was that the Government Departments have never given him any incentive because he has even been made to pay for the privilege of producing good milk.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member's explanation scarcely satisfies the point she made because for the first eight or nine years of my presence in this House farmers were always telling the politicians to keep their hands off the industry and were always declaring that if they would keep their hands off they would make their industry pay. So the hon. Lady has not made her point there. Farmers have had every incentive to produce a good milk supply, and now we say that the right hon. Gentleman's policy is so weak as not to be worthy of a moment's consideration and is going to leave the would-be supporters of a milk campaign in the clouds not knowing whether or not they ought to advise young and old to consume more milk. I wanted to make some reference to pasteurisation, but as the hon. Member who dealt with it is not in the House, I will leave it. This very small beginning may be worthy of some of the commendation and praise that has been showered on the Minister. Some hon. Members asked what the Labour Government have done. There is no reason why the Labour Government should have done anything at that point, but now that the Government have the Hopkins Report, with suggestions of all kinds to produce a pure milk supply, a mark-time policy is unworthy of the Government, who definitely, with their eyes wide open, are giving another subsidy of £5,000,000 to agriculture when they know that at the end of two years, or four years if you will, the position will be almost as it is to-day.
If we turn to the other side, the scheme to increase consumption or to subsidise manufacturing milk, what do we discover? 1213 I made a statement a week ago with regard to the provision of free milk for children. The figure I mentioned was 80,000,000 gallons. The right hon. Gentleman asked to-day if I was aware that that would cost £9,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, bases his calculation upon paying the farmers or the board or the producers and distributors no less than 2s. a gallon. Clearly the calculation was not consistent with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, for if he can provide milk for cheese manufacture at 3d. per gallon, I do not see why he should even suggest that we ought to charge elementary school children 2s. per gallon. I said then that to provide the 6,000,000 children with one-third of a pint of milk per head per day would scarcely cost more than the present policy of the Government, and I repeat the statement.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
When the right hon. Gentleman has subsidised his manufacturing milk it is to be paid for by the manufacturer, plus the Government, at 5d. per gallon. If the Government pay to the board, who ought to be made responsible for supplying schools with pure milk, 6d. per gallon, allowing 1d. margin for the cost of distribution in large quantities to elementary schools, the 90,000,000 gallons per annum required would cost £2,250,000.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Is my hon. Friend really serious in putting before the House a suggestion that 1d. per gallon would cover the cost of distribution?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should sell milk to manufacturers of cheese at somewhere round about 5d. per gallon, including the cost of distribution to the cheese maker. I am suggesting that what we can do for the cheese manufacturer we can do for the schools. I am suggesting that at a cost of 6d. per gallon the cost would be £2,250,000. Perhaps there might be a slight excess for the cost of distributing milk in one-third-of-a-pint bottles. He is setting aside money for advertising purposes, and if he were to allow £100,000 a year to enable this to be done I think it would be well worth while. The point I make is that the figure I gave a week or two ago is 1214 not an inaccurate one, and when I say that the cost would be but little or no higher than the present cost to the Government, I do not think there is any misstatement of fact. The right hon. Gentleman is providing between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 for this year, but says that next year he cannot say how much it may cost. It may be £3,000,000 but it is an unknown figure, the figure X. My figure is £2,250,000, and that would give 6,000,000 children a free ration of pure liquid milk daily. Our figures have not been opposed and we stand by the policy embodied in the Amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman is subsidising manufacturing milk for two years. Will he tell us what is to happen at the end of those two years? He expresses the vague hope that then there may be some repayment. I asked him the other day what the price of Canadian and New Zealand cheese will have to be before the farmers can start to repay. We do not expect there will be any repayment. The right hon. Gentleman tells us, rightly, that we have a surplus of milk, but he does not tell us how and why the surplus has been created. He cannot say that consumers are consuming less and have lost their taste for dairy products, for, in fact, the opposite is the situation. There is in this country a greater appreciation of dairy products than ever before. Before the War each person was consuming 153/4 lb. of butter per annum and last year 22 lb. The reason for that increase was that the price of butter had come within the purchasing power of the people. Eight hon. Gentlemen talk about a duty upon dairy produce; do they imagine that if butter goes back to 1s. 3d. per lb. consumption will remain static? Obviously it will do nothing of the kind. I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is to happen at the end of two years, when this two years' subsidy has been paid? Is there anything in the figures of production which justify him in the belief that the surplus will have gone, or that the situation will be so radically changed that there will be no surplus on the market?
Hon. Gentlemen will recall that I said last Thursday the production of milk in 1925 was 1,117,000,000 gallons, and that last year it was 1,425,000,000 gallons. If you guarantee prices, either for liquid milk or for manufacturing milk, for all dairy farmers, will that not tend to attract 1215 a greater production? And if at the end of two years it has created a greater production, what is to happen then?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that his policy embodies payment towards an approved publicity scheme. That means either anything or nothing, but it does not mean that the 200,000,000 gallons of milk that the right hon. Gentleman is subsidising this year and next year will be consumed in the form of liquid milk unless the right hon. Gentleman finds a way out. We are suggesting that way out to him. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and I entirely agree that if the right hon. Gentleman can see the wisdom of supplying school children, and of subsidising that outlet where fresh milk has never found a way, that might even get the National Government a few votes; we do not mind. We concede that as a present, but we ask him to pick up this Amendment, to read the commonsense it contains and then to work upon it. He will find, in all his agricultural activities, that in the end this will prove to have been the best.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
I ask the House to pick up this Amendment, to look at it and to reject it. If the House does not do that, the policy which we are suggesting in the Bill will fall to the ground. The Debate to-day has not proceeded on exactly the same lines as that upon the Money Resolution. Two main subjects have been concentrated upon, and one has been the supply of milk to school children. Discussion has ranged around the point as to whether more of the money provided by the Money Resolution and dealt with in the Bill ought to have been directly applied to the supply of milk for school children. In the speech of the hon. and learned 1216 Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who spoke for the Opposition, was a new proposition based upon a series of figures, whereby it was attempted to be shown that, by one of those curious arithmetical bits of good fortune, if we applied the money which is to be used for the purpose of giving a greater value to manufacturing milk for the purposes of supplying milk for school children, exactly the same amount of money would be needed to produce a very much better result.
The proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman is as follows: Why not supply 90,000,000 gallons to children at 8d.? You would then have 90,000,000 gallons at 8d. and 90,000,000 gallons at 3d., or 180,000,000 gallons at 5½d. That seemed to be a very remarkable suggestion, and rather impressed the House. More than one hon. Member addressing the House subsequently said that for the life of him he could not see where the fallacy lay. The fallacy lies in this, that my hon. and learned Friend has made absolutely no allowance for costs of distribution. Those costs of distribution must be borne by someone. If they are to be borne by the school child, they will raise he price of the milk from 8d. to 1s. 4d. a gallon. If they are to be borne by the Government, then the money voted in the Resolution will not foot the bill. The fallacy is that, in a calculation which was supposed to be arithmetically beautiful and correct, one of the most important factors in the price of liquid milk has been either neglected or forgotten.
Now let me approach the question of the figure that ought to be attributed to the cost of distribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who had begun to have an inkling that perhaps after all there might be some fallacy in the calculation, thought it was necessary to allow some margin for distribution costs, and he selected the figure of 1d. At least, it was 1d. ten minutes ago; it may be 2d. now. I had better call it 2d., because it will be 3d. in a moment. It is not I presume, proposed, in this health campaign, to give children raw milk presented to them in open vessels carried from the dairy to the school without protection, so that every form of infection, both rural and urban, can have been added to it before the happy child consumes it. 1217 Surely not. That is to say, in your costs of distribution you have to allow for the most careful handling of the milk from the time when it leaves the farm until it is presented into the hand of each happy child in a separate sealed bottle; and, if my hon. Friend thinks that that can be done for 1d., or 2d., or 3d. a gallon, I think he is an optimist even greater than, in public affairs, most of his party are. That is the answer to this beautiful arithmetical calculation, and it means that the whole theory that you can get exactly the same result from the money which the House of Commons has voted by using it for giving milk to school children, as would be the case by the method which we propose to follow, is based upon a fallacy.
Let me turn for a moment, in com mending the Second Reading of the Bill to the House, to the positive advantages that are gained by giving assistance to milk which is to be used for manufacturing purposes. The whole argument of those who oppose this Measure assumes that there is no use for milk except for consumption in liquid form—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—that there is nothing to be gained by preserving such an industry as that of making cheese, and that there is nothing to be gained by developing the other industries connected with the processing of milk. That is a proposition with which we on this side of the House cannot agree——
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Really, the hon. Gentleman must not say that. What has been said is that a better use for the milk is to provide it as fresh liquid milk for children.
§ Mr. SKELTON
My hon. Friend says, "A better use." Is it a better use if the selection of that use involves the destruction or non-development of the industries that I have mentioned?
§ Mr. SKELTON
I can only say that, if that is the proposition, if no assistance is to be given to the industries connected with milk and all Government assistance is to be concentrated on the giving of 1218 milk to school children to the exclusion of everything else, it is to divorce the activities of the House from the industries of the country.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I am unwilling to be led into this sort of argument, but at this stage of this Measure, when the total amount of money at our disposal has been decided upon——
§ Mr. SKELTON
I dealt with that when we were dealing with the Money Resolution. I am dealing with the facts as they stand to-day, and the financial fact is that we have been given a certain amount of money. We have to distribute it so that some of it is used for certain manufacturing industries, so that some of it is used for the purpose of cleaning the herds and some of it is used for the development and encouragement of the supply of milk to school children. We have not neglected any of these three main objectives for the use of the money in connection with the industry. We are invited to concentrate our expenditure almost entirely, if not wholly, on the supply of milk to school children. I believe that our proposals are wiser because, while developing the supply of milk for school children, we also keep in view that milk is the raw material of several industries which are important to the life of the country, and we are not going to see those industries destroyed. We are not going to give up, what we believe to be of prime importance, taking the first step towards Government assistance in encouraging the cleaning up of the herds.
Ours is a balanced policy. There is no real denial that these three are the main objectives in regard to the milk industry. There may be discussion as to whether we have distributed the sums in exactly the same proportions as hon. Members opposite would like. It is much more easy to concentrate upon using money for 1219 the supply of milk to school children when you are in opposition than when you are on this side of the House. Here we have to look at the interests of the country and the community as a whole, and you cannot be looking at the interests of the community and the country as a whole if you watch the slow and steady decline of one of our most important rural industries without taking any steps to put it right.
I turn from that general observation to one or two particular questions, and the House will forgive me if in one sentence I deal with two questions from across the Border. My Noble Friend need not fear that Scottish milk producers will not be able to get some assistance from the premium. The Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman), who drew the attention of the House to the position of the specialised milk producer in Scotland, would, I think, find it well in examining that question to see whether at the outset these producers do or do not desire to make use of Section 30 of the scheme.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not think my hon. Friend was here to hear my questions put. I do not recognise his answer as relating to anything I asked.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I am sorry and I stand corrected. What I had in mind would be the premium for the existing herds.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
If he finds inequality and injustice, however it has happened, will he see it rectified?
§ Mr. SKELTON
These are heavy burdens to put on a junior Member of the Government. The answer to my Noble Friend's question is "Yes." The answer on all subjects is that I try to reach my ideal. In this particular matter the solution of the equity matter lies rather with the committee of investigation. If the question should be put before the Secretary of State for Scotland, he would consider carefully whether that question should be submitted to them. Those; are the particular questions with which I have to deal.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I do not quite understand how this happened. He says he is going to assist these industries, yet I 1220 undertand the industry continues to pay the same price for the milk, and there is no difference to them or to the farmer.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I do not think that is a fair way of looking at the situation. From the manufactured article point of view, what will happen will be, he will get the advantage of the article at cheaper cost and in adequate quantities, because the producer of the article can get better prices for it. How can you be certain that you will not be faced with a glut in the course of time, meaning the destruction of the commodity? I need not deal with the farm generally. I should only like to add that this policy is to bridge a gap for two years. It will be no excuse if the propositions were bad that they were only going to last for two, or in one case, four years, but I submit to the House that the methods we have adopted do bridge the economic difficulties the milk producer is immediately encountering. This is a live policy not to be brought to an end only after two years have elapsed, which will contribute directly and, I believe, permanently to the improvement of herds, and will lead the way to a constantly increasing supply of milk for children in the schools. With that matter the whole House is in sympathy. We believe that this encouragement we give will not be forgotten. We believe we are setting a stream flowing which will be of the greatest importance to the milk industry and the people of this country.
One last word on the method for keying up the herds. My hon. Friend was all for slaughter and for the powers of slaughter, saying, "Arm my right hon. Friend with the knife and everything will be right with the country." Those powers are already in existence and large numbers of cattle have already been slaughtered, but we do believe—and there is strong evidence in its support—that if you wish to accelerate and encourage the cleaning up of herds you must make it worth while. That method we are adding to the slaughtering method which my hon. and learned Friend so much desiderated. On the whole, I think that the House may rest content that in moving the Second Reading of this Bill the Government are materially assisting the safety of this great industry, and are taking steps along 1221 new roads with a new objective which may in the end be of great value to the people of this country.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Would my hon. Friend mind replying to one or two questions which I put? One was whether, if the milk boards are required to continue the efforts to eradicate tuberculosis after exhausting the £750,000, the cost of these further efforts will mean an additional charge on the present levy, and, if so, can he say how much? Will the pound to pound publicity campaign also mean a charge in addition to the present levy, and if so how much, and are the investigating committee remedying the grievances of producers in Scotland?
§ Mr. SKELTON
I omitted to say—and I apologise to my Noble Friend—that I had in mind the variety of questions which she put. I propose to look at them carefully when I receive the OFFICIAL REPOBT to-morrow, and will give her written answers. With regard to what will happen at the end of four years, I think that my Noble Friend is inviting me to enter with her into the realms of prophecy which I do not feel competent to do.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 47.1223
|Division No. 272.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leads. W.)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Ford, Sir Patrick J||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Albery, Irving James||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Ganzonl, Sir John||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Bainiel, Lord||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gower, Sir Robert||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Grigg, Sir Edward||Munro, Patrick|
|Blinded, James||Grimston, R. V.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Peat, Charlas U.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Penny, Sir George|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Heligers, Captain F. F. A.||Petherick, M.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hore-Belisha. Leslie||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Burghley, Lord||Hornby, Frank||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Burnett, John George||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Renter, John R.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Clarke, Frank||Jennings, Roland||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Ker, J. Campbell||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Russell, R. J. (Eddlsbury)|
|Copeland, Ida||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Salmon, Sir Isldore|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Leckie, J. A||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark. Bothwell)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunlifle.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Loftus, Pierce C.||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Dickie, John P.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mabane, William||Soper, Richard|
|Dunglass, Lord||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Edge, Sir William||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir James||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Spens, William Patrick|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||McKie, John Hamilton||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Stevenson, James|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stones, James|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Storey, Samuel|
|Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Turton, Robert Hugh||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Sutcliffs, Harold||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Tate, Mavis Constance||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thomas, James P. L, (Hereford)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.||Commander Southby and Dr.|
|Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Morris-Jones.|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Groves, Thomas E.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton. Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thnen)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Thorne, William James|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||White, Henry Graham|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williame, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Dobble, William||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Vallev)|
|Edwards, Charles||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Wilmot, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mailalieu, Edward Lancelot||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro, W.)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Griffiths, George A. (Yorks. W. Riding)||Milner, Major James|
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next.—[Captain Margesson.]