HC Deb 25 June 1934 vol 291 cc879-82

8.13 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 39, to leave out, "at the beginning of," and to insert "during."

This Amendment presumably will go hand-in-hand with the next Amendment on the Paper, in page 3, line 40, to leave out from "producer," to "and," in line 43, and to insert "was regularly manufacturing cheese."

The simple point of the Amendment is that while the subsidy is paid for manufacturing cheese there is a certain limitation imposed on comparatively small dairy farmers. The right hon. Gentleman uses certain words which we wish to delete. We feel that this refers exclusively to the comparatively small farmer, and that he can receive the subsidy only if he has a certain number of milch cows, which have to be specified in some Order. No one quite knows yet what the number will be. We do nnt think that is fair to the small cheese producer. If the subsidy must be paid let it be paid to the small man as readily as to the large cheese factories. All we ask for in the Amendment is that if the board satisfy themselves that during this period the farmer was regularly manufacturing cheese, he shall receive the same subsidy as anyone else. The Minister refused to concede this point in Committee. I hope he has had time to look at the question since then, and that the words of this Amendment he will find more suitable than those proposed during the Committee stage.


I beg to second the Amendment.

8.15 p.m.


It is true that this provision aroused a certain amount of interest during the Committee stage and it is perhaps a good thing that the matter should be referred to again, but I hope to satisfy the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that it would be inadvisable to make these Amendments. The desire to make sure that the small man will not be penalised is one with which we all sympathise and if it were true that the small man was being penalised under this provision, I should be willing to accept some Amendment. But, clearly, there must be some figure indicating the number of cows which a farm cheese maker should possess. Administrative difficulties, although perhaps not great, certainly do exist and we must have some criterion as to the number of cows which shall constitute a cheese-making unit and the unit is what we have in mind. The figure which has been chosen by agreement between the Milk Marketing Board and the representative of the farm cheese makers is not less than 12 cows. It may be said that that figure at once takes the small man out of the scheme altogether. It may be said that a man who possessed 12 dairy cows could not be called a small man. To meet that point, however, the board is prepared to recognise an arrangement whereby the smaller producers can join forces for the purpose of constituting cheese making units, provided that the total number of cows in possession of the partnership is not less than 12. That is to say the board in negotiating with farm cheese makers is negotiating with units of not less than 12 cows and a unit can be made up by several producers each with a smaller number of cows than 12. The board safeguards the position as to administration by saying that it will negotiate with units of 12 cows or over and I think the House will admit that that is a reasonable provision.

So much for the general point. As to the particular point involved here, I do not think the hon. Member has worked out all the implications of his Amendments. If these Amendments were adopted in this form the advance would be payable only in cases where cheese had been regularly manufactured throughout the month. Now the farm cheese maker might be called upon at any time by the board to send milk into the liquid milk market, in order to meet a possible shortage. Clearly, it is desirable that there should be such a provision. If in the first part of the month the cheese maker had made cheese with his milk but in the second part of the month he was required by the board to send his milk into the liquid milk market, then, under the terms of these Amendments, he would not be eligible for the advance in respect of the cheese manufactured by him in the first part of the month. It would therefore be to the advantage of the board to keep that milk out of the liquid milk market and to keep it running into the cheese market, even though there might be a shortage of liquid milk for drinking purposes. I am sure that is not an object which the hon. Member has in view. He might, of course, remove that difficulty by redrafting his Amendments, but even if we amended these Amendments the hon. Member would still fail to secure the general purpose which is, I think, secured by the arrangement I have just outlined to the House.

8.19 p.m.


By leave of the House, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? The quarter, comprising April, May and June has almost expired. It is clear that these small dairy farmers, each with fewer than 12 milch cows, will have to come together in twos and threes and constitute units in order to come under this scheme. Will the small farmers who are willing to make up these units be able to qualify for the period April, May, June even though at the moment each is working by himself?

8.20 p.m.


I can only reply to the hon. Member by leave of the House. I think there is some misapprehension here. If the small producer comes under the board he thereupon gets the right to send his milk to the board and to receive the appropriate price. He is there completely safeguarded. This provision merely safeguards the board, from the accounting point of view. If milk has been used for farm cheese manufacture, under the arrangement which is recognised in this Bill the board as a whole receives a fortification of its revenue which, from the accounting point of view, is calculated on so many gallons of milk used for cheese. If the small man was outside the scheme in the past, then, of course, he was outside it. When he is inside the scheme he is inside it for all purposes. If he is not pleased with the arrangement he can send his milk in liquid form to the board and he will be paid the full price. It would he inadvisable that an Amendment of this kind should be retrospective. It would place difficulties in the way of carrying out the necessary accounting. The small man is safeguarded as soon as the arrangement has come into force which the board must be enabled to make with the cheese maker as to taking over output and paying the full price and as to the retention of milk on the farm for the purposes of cheese manufacture. That arrangement safeguards him; it runs from the day on which it is entered into but not before, and these payments from the Treasury are in respect of advances which have been brought about under that scheme and not any other.


In view of the right hon. Gentleman's explanation and in the hope that that explanation does cover the point which I wish to raise, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 4, line 10, leave out "date on which this Act comes into operation," and insert "commencement of this Act."—[Mr. Elliot.]