HC Deb 20 July 1937 vol 326 cc2065-94

Considered in Committee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

CLAUSE 1.—(Extension of periods for Exchequer payments under SS. 1, 2 and 3 of principal Act.).

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

7.59 P.m.

Mr. T. Johnston

Since the last General Election on at least 10 occasions in this House the Opposition has protested in the usual Parliamentary form against the continuance of the subsidy to manufac- turers at a time when the less well-fed sections of our population are unable to get milk at all. We have not been able to get from the Government any reason whatever why they should persist in a policy which is denounced by every educationist without exception, a policy which is denounced by the leading Press organs, including the London "Times," a policy which has been denounced by members of their own Government on public platforms, and a policy which they have never pretended to defend in this Chamber. I know that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends in dealing with agriculture have many and very intricate problems to deal with, and repeatedly my hon. Friend the Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has offered to regard large sections of the agricultural problem as non-controversial and to treat those matters as they would be treated by a Council of State, if the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would undertake that the poor and needy sections of our population would at the very beginning receive the minimum physical standard of foodstuffs laid down by the British Medical Association. We have not got that.

The right hon. Gentleman says: "Give me another year and I will produce a long-term milk programme," but in those 12 months thousands of our people will die because of this policy.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Johnston

The right hon. Gentleman disputes that. Let me prove it. How does he justify a mortality rate of 118 per thousand among the children of Blaenau compared with an average of 59 for England and Wales? That difference is due to poverty. It is not due to the ignorance or lack of sympathy of the mothers of Blaenau for their children, but it is due to their inability to feed them properly. Does he dispute that? If so, we shall be delighted to hear what defence he has. I have here the report of an investigation which has taken place recently in rural Sussex. The Cuckfield Rural District Council made a survey, through their medical officer of health who, with the county medical officer of health, examined 304 children and found that 99 of the children were suffering from subnormal nutrition.

The Deputy-Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman cannot raise the whole question of nutrition on this Clause. If he directs himself strictly to the question of milk he will be in order.

Mr. Johnston

That is what I propose to do. I have talked about nothing but milk and I do not propose to extend my remarks beyond milk. Milk is the necessary sustenance of babies. I am talking about infantile mortality and sickness, and when I talk about infantile mortality and sickness due to poverty I am talking about milk.

The Deputy-Chairman

So long as the right hon. Gentleman decides to keep to milk he is in order.

Mr. Johnston

That is what in my humble submission I have been doing for the last five minutes and what I propose, with your permission, to continue to do. There are thousands of children who will die because during the next 12 months they cannot get sufficient milk at present prices. On the average the price is about 2s. a gallon for domestic consumption and 1s. per gallon for school children. I have repeatedly drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that a child of five years of age gets milk at 1s. a gallon in school. The Government say that that is necessary and desirable and the Milk Marketing Board say the same thing. I and my hon. Friends want to know why it should be necessary to charge 2s. per gallon for milk for a child at the age of four, 2s. when it is aged three, 2s. when it is a baby and 2s. when it is a toddler, and only 1s. a gallon when it is aged five. It is a simple question and we are entitled to an answer.

I have listened to eight ingenious defences. We have been told that, at any rate, we get cheap chocolate from the milk. I am not saying whether that is desirable or undesirable, but I insist that before we get cheap chocolate it is absolutely necessary that we should have cheap liquid milk in sufficient quantities for the babies and toddlers. We are told that we want milk for export and that we sell 12,000,000 gallons of tinned milk abroad. I know that Czechoslovakia gets a lot of that, but before Czechoslovakia gets tinned milk from this country our babies and toddlers must get the necessary quantities for human consumption. Then we are told that we get cheap cheese and butter. There are those in this House who are prepared to challenge that argument and who say that the effect of the subsidy on milk for cheese and butter is not so great in the cheapening of price as the right hon. Gentleman has said. The influence of large quantities of cheese and butter from the Dominions has had a considerable effect upon the home price.

It is highly desirable that we should have cheap butter and I rejoice that margarine is disappearing. While it is highly desirable that everybody should have butter, cheap butter, the postponement of a cheap milk supply, particularly to babies and nursing mothers, is indefensible, and we should be failing in our duty if we did not on every possible occasion criticise the Government's milk policy in this respect, and ask the House of Commons to express their abhorrence and detestation of the policy. Let the Minister abstain for once from saying that when a Labour Government were in office in 1931 we had the opportunity of doing these things. I only got £5,000 with which to initiate the milk-in-schools scheme. That was all the money I could get, and I did not get it from the Treasury. It was an experiment. It was the start, and it was on the basis of that experiment that our milk-in-schools scheme has been built up and has justified itself. The milk-in-schools scheme has reached its zenith. There is no increased demand now for milk in schools. It might be that by offering a biscuit with the milk, or by giving hot milk at one period of the year and cold milk at other times, or by flavouring the milk, we might be able to get the children in schools to drink more milk—I hope that we shall—but the fundamental necessity is to deal with children under five and with sick and expectant mothers.

If we can reduce the price of milk to children under five to the price charged to schoolchildren, we can save on the average, to a mother with three children, about 4s. a week. We are told that a child ought to drink at least one pint of milk per day. If there are three children in a home that means three pints a day, or 21 pints a week. We are also told that the nursing mother ought to drink two pints of milk a day, which means another 14 pints per week. If we could supply the milk at the present price charged to schoolchildren, we could increase the purchasing power of many people in this country by not less than 4s. a week. How can that be done? If the right hon. Gentleman will get his Cabinet colleagues to agree that if a mother is prepared to go or to send to a recognised milk distributive centre, she can get milk at the milk-in-schools price, he could save the cost of distribution, and the thing could be done and done very cheaply.

There is no social reform that it is within the power of His Majesty's Government and this House to bring about that would do more for the health, wellbeing and happiness of the poorer section of our people. It means no revolution, no bloodshed, no economic disturbance It would benefit the farming community, it would increase the steady demand for milk, it would save the taxpayer, who pays £300,000,000 a year in attempts to eradicate disease after disease has accumulated, it would benefit the ratepayers and benefit the community generally. I suggest that if we cannot get a satisfactory assurance from the Minister we ought to divide against the Clause standing part of the Bill.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Macquisten

There is something in what the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) has said. The way to get cheap milk is to allow the people to get access to the milk supplies without the intervention of any Milk Marketing Board.

The Deputy-Chairman

That question does not arise on this Clause.

Mr. Macquisten

In that case I will not pursue it, but I would ask the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland to apply to Mr. Gardom of Vancouver, who will tell them all about the mess they are getting into. They had them all over there. It is getting worse and worse. Of course, milk is far too dear: that is what is wrong. People cannot buy it, and I do not believe that you can get them to go and fetch it. I have had experience of that. I know one farmer at Maidstone who when milk was infinitely cheaper than it is now, was prepared to give an allowance of one halfpenny per pint if people would fetch the milk. They would not take the trouble. They preferred Swiss milk because there was sugar in it. This is probably because people nowadays do not know what good fresh milk is, that they are not keen on drinking what is sold as milk. The milk they get is half-boiled and called pasteurised.

The Deputy-Chairman

This does not arise on the Clause. The sole point is whether there is to be an extension of the payments for milk or not. The argument of the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) was that the money would be better spent on something else. We cannot go into questions of policy.

Mr. Macquisten

I have no intention of doing that. I am saying that one of the reasons why milk is not being used is that there is no flavour in it, that the milk is spoilt by the treatment it receives. If you gave that milk away free the people would not fetch it. I know what it is to drink fresh milk, and I know what it is to refuse to drink pasteurised milk. I know the difference. That is what is really wrong. It is a question of whether you can get milk cheap enough and fresh enough. People have lost the taste for good fresh milk, and you will not get them to drink milk until you give them a fresh milk supply. The Minister said recently that without a milk scheme there would be chaos, but it is in more or less chaos just now. The Bill may do a little good, but it is not going to solve the difficulty of getting people to drink more milk. There is only one way in which that can be done and that is by giving them fresh milk and making it accessible at a cheap price. Cut out the distributor. Why not give away the surplus milk? I would rather it should go to the children in the schools if it is fresh. Why should you pay more than the farmer is getting? He is getting I believe 10½d. per gallon and the charge of 2s. is made to the consumer. Where is the 1s. 1½d. going? In London you used to get fresh milk in Hyde Park from cows milked there and the demand was great.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. and learned Member is nowhere near Clause I now.

Mr. Macquisten

I am very sorry. I was following the right hon. Member for West Stirling.

Mr. Gallacher

He was never in Hyde Park.

Mr. Macquisten

He has been very often in Hyde Park. He was speaking about milk being supplied to children at chocolate prices. It would be much better if children were supplied with fresh milk rather than with chocolate: for that is very indigestible. I support strongly the proposal to get fresh milk supplied to the children as cheaply as we can but that is not going to be assisted by this proposal. All Governments, Labour and National, have got into a quandary over this business, and this is to help them to carry on for a bit. I feel satisfied that the whole matter will have to be reconsidered from top to bottom and I would ask the Minister to go out to Canada and find out how these schemes failed there to work. Then I am sure we should get a revision which would be satisfactory and do justice to all parties.

8.22 p.m.

Sir Francis Acland

I suppose it is rather an open question whether the Committee should treat this Bill as an interim continuation of the present policy hoping that we shall have a development of policy and machinery in the autumn, or as a peg on which we can hang our particular point of view as to how the subsidy on milk should be distributed. I have not had tea or supper, and that perhaps inclines me to the former course in which it would be wrong to develop the Debate. The right hon. Member who introduced the discussion was quite certain about infants and toddlers, apparently to the exclusion of an all-round free distribution of milk in schools. He said that he was thinking of the infants and the toddlers. I am thinking about them, too, but also about an all-round distribution in schools, treating milk just as you would treat arithmetic, as a thing which children ought to have because it is good for them.

Mr. Johnston

If you have free distribution in schools for all, that does not get a milk supply to the babies.

Sir F. Acland

No, but it is much easier to continue something you are already doing than to set up a new organisation. I think, in the circumstances, although it is eight months since the report was produced, the Minister on the whole is justified in asking that the subsidy should be continued and that certain matters in it should be corrected, with the hope that his final scheme will be all the better for the delay to which we have agreed, and which makes the continuance of the subsidy ad interim a necessity.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Cove

I should like to say a word or two on the plea put forward by the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston). We have heard many times of the great importance of a free distribution of milk in schools, and I should be the last person to decry any efforts which are made to get milk to the children through the medium of the schools. A great deal of beneficent work has been done through the agency of the schools, but I should like to point out from my own experience and from the discussions which I have had with many people, that the distribution of free milk in schools will not create that permanent appetite for milk which is desired. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) made a great mistake when, referring to the creation of a taste for milk, he suggested that the children should get milk as they get arithmetic and other subjects in the schools. The real problem is not to get milk added as a supplementary item in the diet, merely to make up for a deficiency, but to make it an integral part of every meal at which liquid is consumed in the homes of our people. In my own home, the children never want tea; they have been brought up to drink milk and at the age of 10 and 14 years, they prefer milk to any other drink. With the distribution of milk in schools only, the children are being allowed to develop a taste for other liquids at home, cheap liquids, such as the cheapest of teas, that the poor people can get.

The problem before the Minister and the Government is to provide milk at such a cheap rate that the people of the country can have it as a natural thing and the children can look forward to drinking it. The problem cannot be solved in the schools alone. This short-term policy gives us no confidence that the Government are looking at the problem as a whole. It seems to me to be a scrappy policy, dictated not by the problem of nutrition, but by the problem of selling milk for the farmers. The Government have never dealt with the problem of milk from a nutritional point of view. All that they have done has been to say that the farmers are in difficulties and to try, in a higgledy-piggledy, empirical way, to get them out of those difficulties. If the Government were looking at the problem of nutrition as a whole, and if they were seriously convinced that this was a first-class social issue, it is clear that they would tackle the matter in the way suggested by my right hon. Friend and make proposals for providing milk at a sufficiently cheap rate for the parents to get it in their homes.

I hope that when the Minister of Agriculture is considering his long-term policy, he will not merely be satisfied with the distribution of milk in schools, but will have regard for the necessity of getting rid of the idea of liquid milk as a supplementary item in the diet, and the idea that the consumption of milk is to make up for the deficiency of poverty in general, as far as the feeding of our children is concerned. Milk must be made an integral part of an all-round diet. If the right hon. Gentleman is to deal with the problem as a whole, there is only one way in which he can do it, and that is to put milk within the range of the purchasing power of our people. I have read every pamphlet that I have been able to obtain about the problem of nutrition, and I resent the imputation that our people are not capable of providing decent meals for their children.

The Deputy-Chairman


Mr. Cove

I do not intend to pursue that.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member must not pursue it.

Mr. Cove

I was taking advantage of the opportunity to protest against that, and to say that the problem here is part of the general problem of the capacity of our people to buy milk.

Mr. Macquisten

The milk must be cheaper.

Mr. Cove

The hon. and learned Member supports us, and I welcome his support. It is not often that we find him on our side. We join with him in demanding that the Government, in their permanent policy, should have regard for the fact that cheapness of milk is essential, and that milk should be considered as part of the whole diet necessary for the proper nutrition of our people.

8.31 p.m.

Miss Wilkinson

It seems to me rather a pity that we should now be faced with a Bill which carries on, apparently as an experiment for one year, arrangements that have already been tested up to the hilt. I think there is probably no section of school life, and certainly no question of nutrition, which has been so fully tested by the Government as the question of milk, particularly for schoolchildren. From the days when the first Lanark experiment was started until the present time, there have been ample figures to show the effect of the consumption of milk on schoolchildren and the need for this milk scheme. We are now asked to pass this Bill, which again continues the present arrangements for one year. It is always said, of course, that whatever one gives people, they ask for more, but in this case, hon. Members on this side of the House are simply expressing the views of thousands of social workers who are dealing particularly with young children. There is no doubt that the milk-in-schools scheme has added to the health of schoolchildren, but surely at a time when the Government are preaching "keep fit" campaigns and urging us to get everybody really fit for the next war, it is important that we should begin early enough.

Let me first take the question of schoolchildren. I will deal with one section of my constituency; it is not the town of Jarrow, but it is a very poor area. Milk is supplied to schoolchildren there at ½d. a pint. One woman told me that she had three children at school, and that it cost her 2½d. a day for milk, which means 1s. 0½d. a week. Her husband was not under the public assistance committee, as he happened to be at work, receiving a wage 2s. a week less than he would have got if he had been under the public assistance committee. The woman had two children under school age. She told me it was impossible for her to provide 1s. 0½d. a week for milk, but as her husband was not unemployed, the children did not come under the free milk scheme. I saw for myself that the two children who were not at school needed milk even more than the children who were at school, but for milk for them she had to pay at the rate of 2s. a gallon. The chocolate factories can get milk at the rate of 9d. a gallon, and cheese factories can get it at 5½d. a gallon. That does not seem to me to be fair.

Hon. Members who take this side of their work seriously—I do not mean hon. Gentlemen on the other side who enjoy 10,000 majorities and turn up at an annual meeting and perhaps at a garden party—and who are continuously in touch with the working life of their constituency and visit infant welfare centres, find that while children are attending those centres and are getting subsidised "Glaxo" or "Virol," whatever it may be, plus either free milk or milk at a very low price, they do very well. But as soon as a child leaves the welfare centre its health shows a downward curve. That curve continues until it goes to school. The children get the milk when it is too late. I would remind the Minister—and this is also an important point for the Secretary of State for War—that it is in those years that the seeds of ill-health are sown in these small children which affects them in later life. I need only mention caries in the teeth.

In that connection, I agree with every word said by the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) about fresh milk. I think a frightful lot of nonsense is talked about the dangers of fresh milk, and although I know I shall antagonise all sorts of people when I say so, I believe that pasteurisation has been brought in largely as a convenience to big distributors. My own doctor whom I have consulted on this matter is a woman with a big practice in a poor area, and she says that on the whole, children suffer less ill-health if they get fresh milk, even if they do swallow a few extra germs, than if they never get fresh milk at all. I admit the danger of milk that has "gone off" and the difficulty is that in these poorer homes they have not any means of refrigeration, but the point I wish to make about this Bill is that it leaves a gap between the child attending the infant welfare centre and the child going to school. Milk is badly needed by those children because they are just at the period when their bones are beginning to set and their muscles are tightening and yet the milk which they ought to get is being given to cheese factories and to manufacturers of bric-a-brac at a low price.

The Minister seems to be more and more obsessed with the idea that while there is a large amount of milk to be disposed of, there is something wicked about drinking cheap milk unless under the most carefully controlled conditions. The Government make elaborate arrangements to prevent a man who is on public assistance from getting 6d. more than he is entitled to. In all the Employment Exchanges there are fearsome notices telling people what will happen to them if they do not declare every cent they have. But is any hon. Member going to say that if a child under five gets a pint of milk cheaply, somebody should be sent to prison?

Mr. Macquisten

They are sent to prison.

Miss Wilkinson

I know, and it seems perfectly. idiotic. The friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the farmers, may be fined even yet if they sell milk for human consumption at a cheaper rate than that at which they sell it to the manufacturers and the fine may be £50. Before this administration becomes set in its own way, we have a right to ask the Minister for some guarantee that he will use that powerful mind—which the newspapers of his own Party assure him is the most powerful mind on the Front Bench—to evolve some way of getting this milk cheaply for these younger children. I do not believe that it is in anybody's interest that milk for these very young children should be 2s. a gallon. It is not only a question of the poorest children. The position is bad enough in very poor areas such as I represent, but there are also such people as the clerk who has to keep up appearances on £200 a year and has perhaps two or three children. His wife is at her wit's end to get enough milk for her family. Surely she ought to be able to buy milk as cheaply as Messrs. Cadbury or Messrs. Rowntree. But no, it is said, if you provided this milk for all children you might be giving it to somebody who could afford to pay more. I say, "Why not?" Rather than allow one child under five to go without sufficient milk, give it to Princess Margaret Rose at less than 2s. per gallon. So long as the children have it, what does it matter if some people get it whose incomes are above a certain limit?

Whoever else needs subsidised milk, the balance-sheets of Messrs. Cadbury, Messrs. Rowntree, Messrs. Nestlé and all the other great milk-using firms, show clearly that they do not need it. I do not mind paying more for my chocolate if necessary, and I am fonder of my chocolate than I ought to be. I would gladly give 6d. a quarter instead of 4½d. if necessary, for my chocolate to enable this milk to be sold for these children instead of being sold to the chocolate manufacturers. But the price of chocolate is falling, although there is no reason why those who are fond of chocolate should not pay a little more for it, while there is every reason why these younger children should have the supplies of milk which are necessary, if they are to lay the foundations of decent health in these most important years of their lives.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. Ritson

I agree with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) as to the necessity for creating a taste for milk among the children. I was brought up in an area where the children were given milk from their earliest years and where the children acquired the taste for milk. But how can we expect that taste to be created under the present system? To create that taste you must begin at the beginning. In the mornings I frequently pass by the houses of people like those described by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson)—the people who have about £200 or £250 a year. Outside each door I see a little milk bottle, more like an egg-cup than a bottle, and that is the milk supply of the family. It makes one despair of getting people to realise that milk is the greatest food which this or any country can have. I agree too with what has been said about pasteurised milk. There are two kinds of milk of which I am horrified: one is Swiss tinned milk and the other is pasteurised milk.

The Deputy-Chairman

We cannot go into the merits of those on the question now before the Committee.

Mr. Ritson

As we had already got on to chocolate I thought I might have got in a word about Swiss milk, but I pass from it. I was brought up in a mining area where every miner owned a cow. He attended to that cow as if it had been a human being, he fed it well and it gave results, and every child got milk as soon as it was able to take milk at all. The man who went down to the pit had his pint of new milk starting for work and another pint of new milk when he finished.

Mr. Macquisten

Does the hon. Member know that if they tried to do that now they would be fined by the Milk Board £5 for each cow?

Mr. Ritson

Well, some of the cows I have seen would hardly be worth £5. I can assure the Minister that there were no ricketty children in that area. I am anxious to get that milk taste, that is so desirable in our large towns, developed. It is pitiful, as the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) says, to find even men in decent positions who have neither the desire for milk nor the desire to pay for it, but if we begin to acquire that milk taste—[An HON. MEMBER: "Instead of the whisky taste."] Having drunk a good deal of it at one time, I acquired the taste and had a difficulty in giving it up, but I did give it up, and I am anxious that, instead of the whisky taste, we should develop a taste for something that is solid and good and that will build up a child from its very foundations.

8.47 P.m.

Mr. James Griffiths

I cannot follow my hon. Friend on the question of whisky. I understood that it was not an acquired taste, but a gift—a Scottish gift, not a Welsh one. I want to supplement the appeal made by the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston). I understand that the question which we are to decide is whether we will pay, from State funds, a subsidy so that those who purchase milk for manufacturing purposes may get it cheaper. The question therefore arises, Is there some better way, from the standpoint of the people of this nation, in which this money could be spent? My right hon. Friend has urged that a better way to spend the money would be to utilise it as a fund from which cheap milk could be provided for toddlers under five years of age and for mothers. The hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) made a remark, to which I objected at the time, to the effect, I believe, that one of the difficulties—he thought it was a major difficulty—was that in these days it was very difficult to get people to drink fresh milk, and that they preferred—

Mr. Macquisten

No. The people do not get fresh milk, and so they do not develop the taste for it. They get sophisticated, pasteurised milk, which is half boiled and which has not got a decent taste, and that is how they lose the habit.

Mr. Griffiths

The Minister knows very well that this problem of increasing the consumption of milk among children and mothers is a matter of price, at least among the working classes. The other day I called his attention to a report recently issued by the Milk Marketing Board on a scheme that had been adopted and applied to the Rhondda. They decided in the Rhondda that it was desirable to provide cheap milk for children and expectant mothers, and they worked the scheme for a full year, I believe. Now the report has been issued, and it shows that the consumption of fresh milk among the recipients under this Rhondda scheme has increased by 43 per cent. A reduction in the price has meant an increase in consumption of 43 per cent., and who will deny that those toddlers and mothers are infinitely better off for having consumed 43 per cent. more milk in that year than they did before? If the mothers and the children in the Rhondda consume 43 per cent. more milk because the price is reduced, would not that be general for Jarrow, Durham, and all other areas?

I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture whether there was any process by which such a scheme could be applied to other areas, and he replied that there were difficulties. One of the difficulties was that the subsidy for the Rhondda scheme was provided by the Commissioner. Why cannot this subsidy be transferred? Then there was the difficulty of the distributors, but I would urge this question: Are any distributors or any other people to stand between this nation and this job of providing our people with the milk that is required? I share with the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) the representation of what we think is the most important county in Wales. It is the largest county geographically, and we think it is the most important in other respects as well. He, who represents the rural side of that county, tells me that our county, which has always been famed for its milk and has now a very high standard and repute in the milk world, produces 20,000,000 gallons of milk a year. I live on the industrial side of the county, between Carmarthen and the rest of Wales, depressed Wales, Rhondda, Aberdare, Merthyr, Monmouthshire; and some of that great quantity of 20,000,000 gallons of milk produced in Carmarthen is taken to the towns. Carmarthen and Llandilo, where it is manufactured and sold at a cheap price, made cheap because it is subsidised for the manufacture of "Cow and Gate" and other manufactured products, while in my own village 60 per cent. of the people are unemployed. There are poverty, malnutrition, and suffering among the children, and yet we cannot get the subsidy to provide cheap fresh milk for the children living in Burry Port, while the manufacturers in Llanelly, 10 miles away, can get it from the Government.

That is a completely indefensible policy. If we have money by which we can subsidise the supply of cheap milk for manufacturers, surely our children ought to come first. Surely we ought to subsidise human life and not profits, first of all. I have said before that in a report recently issued attention is called to this matter by the committee set up by the Minister of Health to investigate maternal mortality in Wales. Maternal mortality is graver in Wales than in any other part of the country, and it is as grave in the county of Carmarthen as in any other parts of Wales. This county, that is so rich in milk, that produces 20,000,000 gallons of milk a year, that sends its trainloads of milk to London, sends away all the best milk and retains the skimmed milk at home, and I say that the Government ought to bring forward a scheme, not to subsidise milk for the manufacturers, but to subsidise the provision of cheap milk for the mothers and the children of this nation.

I say that the Rhondda scheme is abundant justification for the plea that has been made to-night. It is a matter of price. The mothers and the children will drink fresh milk if they get the chance. I believe it is a taste that can be acquired, and for these reasons I join in the appeal that this nation could spend this money in a far better way, by using it to subsidise the provision of cheap milk, by which we can produce a race of healthy mothers and healthy children, than by using the money to subsidise manufactures and their profits.

8.54 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

Clause I of this short Bill has provoked a very valuable discussion and an abundant crop of long-term considerations, which will require to be kept in mind when measures of a more permanent character are being framed, but at the present time this Bill, which has now received a Second Reading and Clause I of which we are considering, deals with a very limited subject matter and one indeed on which perhaps little need be said. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who has just spoken, the hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), and others have referred to Clause I as if it were giving a subsidy to manufacturers of milk, but, of course, it does not do anything of the kind. What it gives in the first place is not a subsidy, but a guarantee that if the price obtainable for milk for manufacturing falls below a certain figure, Exchequer payments will be available. The money is not payable unless the price of manufacturing milk falls by its own weight below the standard price. This is not a subsidy to the manufacturers of milk. In so far as it is a subsidy, when this guarantee comes into operation, the money is paid to the funds of the Milk Board and forms part of the revenue of the producers of milk.

The hon. Lady may ask how it comes about that the Milk Board themselves are not able to secure remunerative prices for the milk used for manufacture, and why is it necessary that the Government should assist this particular method of disposing of any of the milk? The reason is that there is an immense importation of cheap butter and cheese, greatly to the advantage of the consumer, and it is that importation which fixes inexorably the price that the seller of milk for manufacture can obtain. Our people have cheaper butter than almost anyone else in the world; it is very cheap compared to its price in some of the countries which produce it. It is that cheapness which determines the low price obtainable by the farmer for manufacturing milk. I hope the Committee will understand that this is not a subsidy which you can switch off from one object to another. It is a guarantee of price in certain circumstances to the producer of milk. It may be asked why it is necessary to guarantee a price to the producers. The fact is that this large amount of milk is available for manufacture, and unless there can be a decent price—

Miss Wilkinson

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to guarantee the price of manufacturing milk, why cannot he guarantee the price of liquid milk for children under five?

Mr. Morrison

That is an entirely different matter from the subject-matter of this Clause. The hon. Lady wants us to depart from the present policy and to introduce a large subsidy in aid of the liquid milk price. That is an entirely different affair and would not be a fit subject for a Bill which is merely a continuation Measure. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) said there was nothing about nutrition in the Bill. There are two references to it. One is in the reference to the scheme for providing milk for school children and the additional assistance for that; and the second is in Clause 7 permitting the Milk Board to continue experiments in the distressed areas.

Other hon. Members have spoken as if the fact that we were putting this peg to the price of manufacturing milk meant that we were, as part of our policy, encouraging the diversion of milk from the liquid market to the manufacturing market. There is nothing of the kind. If that had been our policy we have been remarkably unsuccessful in carrying it out. Comparing the first eight months of the contract periods 1935–36 and 1936–37, there was an increase in the liquid milk sales of nearly 11,000,000 gallons, and a decrease in the amount of milk that went for manufacture of 28,000,000 gallons. The increase in liquid sales was 2.9 per cent., and the decrease in manufacturing sales was 13.3 per cent. The object of the Government, as indeed it must be of any Government which works for the prosperity of the country, is to increase the consumption of liquid milk. I hope that I have said enough to show that it is necessary for the economics of the industry that this stop should be placed against the price of manufacturing milk to prevent it falling below a certain level.

There is one point that should be borne in mind when considering schemes of nutrition for the future. The basis of any nutrition policy is an ample supply of good milk, and in order to get it we must not permit conditions to obtain in the industry that will drive producers out of production. I can conceive that if some policies and views which I have heard discussed and hinted at were carried out, we might easily find a decline in the production of liquid milk which would render nugatory the most ideal plans for increased nutrition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) asked us why it was necessary to have this policy with regard to manufacturing milk. The right hon. Gentleman himself said on 30th October, 1930: If the milk pool is broken and the liquid surplus allowed to flow, the market price comes right down at once to 10d. a gallon—an unremunerative price."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1930; col. 315, Vol. 244.] The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the necessity of preventing the surplus milk being flung on to the liquid milk market with consequences of economic ruin to the industry. That is the same object we are pursuing. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) has a definite phobia about marketing boards. I will not discuss the marketing board with which he is acquainted, but I will simply say that the fact that the producers have been able to organise themselves for the better conduct of their industry has resulted in an organisation which is not contrary to the public interest. We should find it more difficult to organise experiments in nutrition, as we have in the past, had we not got these Boards to assist us. No one can say that the Milk Board have not fulfilled their duty with regard to these schemes, both in the schools and in the distressed areas—

The Deputy-Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman is now getting away from the Clause.

Mr. Morrison

I apologise. I was carried away into the wider regions of debate which have characterised our discussions. I would commend the proposal to the House as a necessary provision to give us time to consider those greater matters which have been referred to.

Mr. Johnston

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down will he oblige us by answering the very simple question which we must have put to him 40 times in this House? Why is it that he subsidises milk in schools for children from 5 to 14 and will not subsidise it for children from one day old to five years?

Mr. Morrison

I approach the answer to that question with some trepidation, but on the assumption that the question has been ruled to be in order I hope I shall be in order in answering it. The milk-in-schools scheme is a very valuable experiment, but the fact that there is one scheme which is working does not necessarily show that every other scheme can work.

Miss Wilkinson

Why not try?

Mr. Morrison

This is a matter for another policy altogether. It is a question for a long-term milk policy and for consideration in connection with general nutritional questions, and not at all a subject for inclusion in a Bill which merely carries on for 12 months the financial arrangements which have been found to be necessary for existing schemes.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the reasons why this subsidy—he said "If you can call it a subsidy"—should be granted. He said it would support the production of cheese and butter in order to avoid too great competition from outside or from the Dominions. Will he tell us what are the other forms of manufacture which receive the same benefits under this Clause?

Mr. Morrison

Manufactured milk consists of a number of products, but butter and cheese are by far the biggest manufactures. Then there are condensed milk, milk powder and various things like that. A good deal has been said about chocolate, a subject which is naturally an attractive one, but if one looks at the list of products of manufactured milk, if my memory is accurate, chocolate is found listed with a whole lot of other goods made from milk which together do not account for more than .84 per cent. of the milk used for manufacturing purposes.

Mr. Sexton

How many gallons?

Mr. Morrison

2,720,000 gallons per annum.

Miss Wilkinson

An awful lot.

Mr. Morrison

It is a very small proportion of the total. I can give the figures. This is an estimate of the utilisation of manufacturing milk in England and Wales for the period April, 1936, to March, 1937. Perhaps if I give the percentages it will indicate the position as shortly as possible. There is used for butter 34.24 per cent., for hard cheese, 25.29, for condensed milk for home consumption 17.86, condensed milk for export 3.25, milk powder 3.41, fresh cream 11.93, bottled cream .12, tinned cream 2.50, ice cream .23, soft cheese .33; and other goods, including chocolate, .84. If we take out butter, hard cheese, condensed milk for home consumption and fresh cream, the other milk products represent a practically negligible proportion of the total milk used for manufacturing purposes.

Mr. A. Jenkins

What is the quantity of milk used for manufacturing purposes other than butter, cheese, etc.?

Mr. Morrison

Roughly it is about one-third of the total. There are 111,000,000 gallons for butter, 82,000,000 gallons for cheese, 57,000,000 gallons for condensed milk for home consumption and 38,000,000 gallons for fresh cream. If the hon. Member is interested in the actual gallonage of manufacturing milk I can look it out, but it was recently about one-third of the total gallonage. Our experience of the last eight months shows that the use of milk in factories has decreased.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 240; Noes, 114.

Division No. 298.] AYES. [9.11 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Dawson, Sir P. Hunter, T.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. De Chair, S. S. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Denman, Hon. R. D. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Denville, Alfred Jarvis, Sir J. J.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Dodd, J. S. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Apsley, Lord Doland, G. F. Jones, L. (Swansea W.)
Aske, Sir R. W. Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Keeling, E. H.
Assheton, R. Drewe, C. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Dunglass, Lord Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)
Atholl, Duchess of Eastwood, J. F. Kimball, L.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Eckersley, P. T. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Balniel, Lord Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Ellis, Sir G. Latham, Sir P.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Elmley, Viscount Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Emery, J. F. Lees-Jones, J.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Emrys-Evans, P. V. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Bernays, R. H. Errington, E. Lewis, O.
Bossom, A. C. Everard, W. L. Liddall, W. S.
Boulton, W. W. Findlay, Sir E. Lipson, D. L.
Boyce, H. Leslie Fleming, E. L. Little, Sir E. Graham-
Brass, Sir W. Fox, Sir G. W. G. Lloyd, G. W.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Furness, S. N. Loftus, P. C.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Fyfe, D. P. M. Lyons, A. M.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Ganzoni, Sir J. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Bull, B. B. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)
Burghley, Lord Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Goodman, Col. A. W. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Butcher, H. W. Gower, Sir R. V. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Cartland, J. R. H. Grant-Ferris, R. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cary, R. A. Granville, E. L. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J
Castlereagh, Viscount Gridley, Sir A. B. Magnay, T.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Maitland, A.
Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.) Grimston, R. V. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Guinness, T. L. E. B. Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Gunston, Capt. D. W. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Channon, H. Guy, J. C. M. Markham, S. F.
Christie, J. A. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hepworth, J. Mareing, A. C.
Cox, H. B. T. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Craven-Ellis, W. Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Critchley, A. Higgs, W. F. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Nall, Sir J.
Crooke, J. S. Holmes, J. S. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Hopkin, D. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Cross, R. H. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Crossley, A. C. Horsbrugh, Florence O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Crowder, J. F. E. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Peake, O.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Hulbert, N. J. Peat, C. U.
Perkins, W. R. D. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Tate, Mavis C.
Petherick, M. Salt, E. W. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Sandeman, Sir N. S. Thomas, J. P. L.
Plugge, Capt. L. F. Scott, Lord William Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Selley, H. R. Titchfield, Marquess of
Porritt, R. W. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Radford, E. A. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Turton, R. H.
Raikes, H. V. A. M. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J. Wakefield, W. W.
Ramsbotham, H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Ramsden, Sir E. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Rayner, Major R. H. Smith, L. W. (Hallam) Wayland, Sir W. A
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Ramer, J. R. Spens, W. P. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Ropner, Colonel L. Storey, S. Wragg, H.
Rosbotham, Sir T. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.) Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Strickland, Captain W. F. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Rowlands, G. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton. (N'thw'h)
Royds, Admiral P. M. R. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Tasker, Sir R. I. Captain Waterhouse and Mr. Munro.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Muff, G.
Adamson, W. M. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Oliver, G. H.
Ammon, C. G. Groves, T. E. Paling, W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parker, J
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Parkinson, J. A.
Banfield, J. W. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Barnes, A. J. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Price, M. P.
Barr, J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Pritt, D. N,
Batey, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Riley, B.
Bellenger, F. J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Ritson, J.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Holdsworth, H. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Broad, F. A. Hollins, A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jagger, J. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Buchanan, G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Seely, Sir H. M.
Burke, W. A. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton. T. M.
Charleton, H. C. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Shinwell, E.
Cluse, W. S. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Silkin, L.
Cove, W. G. Kelly, W. T. Silverman, S. S.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Simpson, F. B.
Daggar, G. Kirby, B. V. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Dalton, H. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lawson, J. J. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lee, F. Sorensen, R. W.
Day, H. Leonard, W. Stewart, W. J (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Dobbie, W. Leslie, J. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Logan, D. G. Thurtle, E.
Ede, J. C. Lunn, W. Tinker, J. J.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McEntee, V. La T. Walkden, A. G.
Evans, D. 0. (Cardigan) McGhee, H. G. Watson, W McL.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. MacLaren, A. Westwood, J.
Frankel, D. Maclean, N. White, H. Graham
Gallacher, W. MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Wilkinson, Ellen
Gardner, B. W. Mainwaring, W. H. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Mander, G. le M. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Messer, F. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F.
Grenfell, D. R. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.

Clauses 8 and 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill, Schedule agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

CLAUSE 5.—(Amendment of definition of cheese-milk price and provision for butter-milk price.)

9.21 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 3, line 18, to leave out "September," and to insert "July."

I apologise for the necessity of introducing a manuscript Amendment. I need not trouble the Committee with the whole of the tangled story of the cheese-milk price, but I would remind hon. Members that Parliament attempted in 1934 to fix a standard price for milk sold for manufacture. Parliament proceeded to arrange for the payment out of public funds of assistance to the producers of milk, used for manufacture, which was sold at a very low price. The form of the financial arrangement is important. Parliament took the formula contained in the current milk contract, as an indication of what the Milk Board might expect to get for its milk sold for manufacture, and arranged for payments to fill the gap between what I call the formula price and the standard price.

The Milk Board is governed, like other producers' organisations, by the Agricultural Marketing Acts, which contain a number of provisions for safeguarding the interests of the consumer. This machinery was invoked by the manufacturers who complained that the prices determined by the formula in the contract and in the Act for cheese-milk was so high that they could not afford to pay it if they were to compete with the imported article. The Committee, after long investigation, found that the price was too high, not on the grounds that the producers were getting too much, but on the simple ground that the ruling prices of milk products imported from the Dominions and overseas were such that manufacturers could not be expected to pay the price laid down in the formula. By this time, the last piece of legislation extending the Milk Act had been passed, in March, 1936. The result has been that since the new price which the Board are receiving is less than the formula price defined in the Act, the Milk Board are not getting, with the Exchequer assistance, the standard price. The assistance which can be paid to them is still limited to the difference between the formula price and the standard price, but that formula has no longer any bearing on what the Board actually receive for manufactured milk.

The Government have taken the present opportunity of attempting to cure this anomaly at the earliest possible moment. The Bill proposes to introduce a new cheese-milk and butter-milk price from 1st October, that is to say from the commencement of this Measure and the expiry of the Act now in force. Upon consideration of the whole matter it seems to me, as I have told the Committee, that we should put the matter right at the earliest possible moment, which is not, strictly speaking, 1st October, but when this Bill becomes law, and that is about 1st August. Certain hon. Friends of mine have upon the Paper Amendments which, if they were carried, would antedate the new formula to 1st April last, but I cannot accept that proposal, of course. That sort of way of dealing with the matter means going back and im- posing a liability on the Exchequer which did not exist before this Measure passes. The earliest possible moment after the Bill is passed on which the new formula can be brought into operation is 1st August, and I suggest that that is a just way of settling the matter. The effect of ante-dating this by two months will be as follows: The boards—the producers of milk—instead of having to repay £80,000 during August and September will receive £50,000 for the two months. That is a sensible arrangement from the point of view of all concerned and I commend the Amendment to the Committee.

9.26 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

Since this Amendment is strictly in accordance with the promise made to one of my hon. Friends on Second Reading we see no reason why we should oppose it. It is correcting an anomaly or misunderstanding and, while we have just voted against any subsidy for manufacturing milk while there are so many women and children unable to buy liquid milk, we feel that as the Act has been passed it is right for the right hon. Gentleman to correct at the earliest moment a misapprehension.

9.27 p.m.

Sir F. Acland

From one point of view this is an extra subsidy and it might be expected that those who sit here, who have generally taken a line against subsidies, would vote against it. If the Government were proposing to put in a new principle or to extend some principle in the original Bill we should probably have to do that, as we voted against the extra wheat subsidy the other day because we did not think that there was a justification for that. But this is to get back for a couple of months earlier than would otherwise have been to the idea which was in all our minds when the original Bill was passed—namely, roughly, that the producer's price should be made up to fivepence or sixpence as the case might be. That being so, as this only restores rather earlier than otherwise would have been the system of paying to the principle we all thought was being adopted, it seems to me that that is a perfectly reasonable arrangement of which to approve.

9.29 p.m.

Major Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith

I and my hon. Friends were going to move an Amendment and plead that the House should go a little further in trying to carry out the original intention of the first Act, and I had hoped to be able to produce a case which would have wrung the hearts of those who are inclined to be a little unbending towards the farmers, but whether it would have done more than wring the hearts I do not quite know. But after listening to my right hon. Friend I am forced to the conclusion that a little concession granted is worth more to the milk producers than even the forlorn hope of trying to go through the Division Lobbies. I hope that the Committee will accept this Amendment, because there is equity behind it and the Minister is doing the right thing, as far as lies in his power, to give effect to the original intention of the 1934 Act. If the Committee will accept this Amendment it will relieve me of a great responsibility because I will not feel that I have to propose the two Amendmentc which stand in my name.

9.31 p.m.

Mr. Price

I am very glad that the Government have made this offer and I am very glad that so far it seems to be satisfactory to those Members concerned on the producers' side. I feel that there is this aspect too which ought to be considered. There is no doubt that many of those who are manufacturing cheese and butter have for the last six months been getting their raw material exceedingly cheaply. It may be that they have foreign competition to meet, as the Minister said, but I would like to call his attention to this fact. I know it is the case that the Milk Marketing Board have had difficulties on certain occasions in supplying sufficient liquid milk for the milk-in-schools scheme, schemes for the supply of milk in factories and other welfare schemes because so much milk has been monopolised by the manufacturers. At the time when milk production goes down, at the back-end of the winter, there has been a definite shortage. The result has been that the Milk Marketing Board have had to go cap in hand for their own milk to some of the manufacturers, who have been ready to release the milk only at a premium. That is a situation which ought not to be allowed to continue and if this proposal does something towards that end it will be a good thing.

The Bill by setting up a new basis for the calculation of the manufacturing price of milk is right, but the Government are proposing to do something to put right the injustice which producers have suffered from for the last six months, amounting to more than the Government have agreed to give.

9.33 P.m.

Mr. Macquisten

I support this, too, because the Government have laid heavy burdens on the backs of the milk producers. They have to bear all the vast cost of these officials. We have experience of them in Scotland. On fine days they can be seen coming down in crowds; on wet days they stay in. It is only right that the Government, who have subjected the producers to this system, should contribute as much as possible. The Minister has spoken about marketing boards and marketing schemes. If he would pay a visit to Canada with the Secretary of State for Scotland and get information there about marketing boards—

The Deputy-Chairman

We cannot discuss that.

9.34 P.m.

Sir Joseph Lamb

As my name appears on the other Amendments I would like to say that agriculture still maintains and believes in the justice of the claim put forward in the other Amendments. It believed that it was the real intention of the House that that claim should be met. The Minister has told us that we cannot have retrospective legislation in this case. He gave a pledge on the last occasion that he would put this right. He is doing so.

Mr. Gallacher

I am troubled about the general unanimity on this question of an aded grant to the farmers. I am not opposing, but I want every Member to take note of the general unanimity and to ask that when Members are discussing other questions, such as old age pensions and unemployment relief, the same spirit of big-heartedness which has been expressed to-night will be shown to the poor, who are in actual need.

9.35 P.m.

Miss Wilkinson

Could I ask the Minister a question? In his speech moving this Amendment he referred continually to the formula price and he said that the price really depended on the low price of dairy products in this country. The Minister has repeatedly stated, during the discussions on the Bill, that the low price is practically due to what it used to be the fashion to call dumping, namely, the fact that producing countries put their dairy products on the market at a price lower than that at which they are selling them in their own country. Is not that true as regards Italy, Denmark—

The Deputy-Chairman

I hardly think that that question arises on this Amendment.

Miss Wilkinson

With all respect, I want to get at the question of the formula price. In this Amendment we are being asked to alter the date of the formula price because of certain calculations, but may I suggest, with very great respect, that it is important that we should know, before we alter the date, how this formula price is arrived at, in order that we may see whether this particular date is correct? I should like to ask the Minister also whether he is doing anything at all to improve the efficiency of dairying and milk production in this country, so that we are not actually penalising profits which are really the result of organisation, and bolstering up by the Bill a price which is in fact only so high because of the inefficient and wasteful competitive production of milk that we have in this country. It seems to me to be on that point that the whole of the Bill really rests, and, beyond vague compliments, which are always paid to the farmers of this country, we have never heard from the Minister whether in fact he is satisfied that the method of producing milk in this country is really as efficient as it ought to be if it is to compete fairly with much more efficient dairy producing countries like Denmark and Sweden.

9.38 p.m.

Mr. Morrison

I have explained the formula price in previous discussions, and the hon. Lady will find it accurately described in Sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the Milk Act, 1934, which shows how it is linked up with the prices of New Zealand and Canadian cheese. With regard to the general question of efficiency, we are certainly doing what we can to improve our own agricultural industry, but I would point out that on the manufacturing side there exists a very valuable check as to the efficiency of milk manufacturers in the possession by the board of their own factories. They are able, by operating themselves, to check costs and improve efficiency in the manufacture of milk. The improvement of efficiency in any industry is a continuous process, and, although I admire the way in which many of our producers are meeting their difficulties in producing their milk and other dairy products, I still think we should never rest quite content, but should seek after ever higher standards of efficiency in this matter.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 24, leave out "September," and insert "July."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

  1. CLAUSE 7.—(Payments by boards to registered producers in respect of milk sold at a reduced price.) 2,420 words