HC Deb 15 November 1937 vol 329 cc13-6
24. Mr. Lambert

asked the Minister of Agriculture the aggregate number of fines, with the total amount of such fines, inflicted by the Milk Marketing Board since its inception upon producers and retailers of milk?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am informed by the Milk Marketing Board that 1,509 penalties amounting, in the aggregate, to£40,833, have been imposed on registered producers in pursuance of the Milk Marketing Scheme since it came into operation four years ago. The board have no power to impose penalties upon retailers, as such, or upon any persons other than registered producers.

Mr. Lambert

When my right hon. Friend introduces his milk proposals, will he endeavour to avoid this form of persecution?

Mr. Morrison

The Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, requires that every marketing scheme shall place upon the board administering it the obligation to impose and collect a penalty. It must be remembered that the board has to act with the greatest fairness towards the great majority of producers who never fall under their ban.

30. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that considerable numbers of heifers are being sold for beef; whether he can give any estimate of the number of such sales during the present year; whether he can account for the sales; and whether, in view of the recent serious fall in the sales of milk and the necessity for maintaining and increasing its production, he proposes to take any action to discourage this practice?

Mr. Morrison

The total number of heifers and cow-heifers certified for subsidy as fat cattle in Great Britain during the first nine months of this year was 503,000, or some 14,000 more than in the corresponding months of 1936. At the same time, the number of heifers in calf on agricultural holdings above one acre in extent, as returned on 4th June, increased from 514,000 in 1936 to 529,000 this year. The sale of heifers for beef is a normal practice, and, in the light of these figures, there does not seem to be any ground for apprehension as to the effect of such sales on the position of the dairy industry.

Mr. Stewart

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that answer, will he give the House the assurance that he will watch this process with very great care, in view of the serious consequences which it may have on the milk industry?

Mr. Morrison

Certainly I shall watch it, but at present the figures do not give me any grounds for apprehension.

31. Mr. Stewart

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that, according to the official figures of the English Milk Marketing Board, there has been a drop of approximately 28,000,000 gallons in the contract sales of milk during the first nine months of the present year; that during August and September the fall has reached almost ri,000,000 gallons; and that a continued and accelerated fall seems likely in the coming months; whether he can account for this serious decline; and what action he proposes to take to deal with it?

Mr. Morrison

The quantity of milk sold on wholesale contract under the Milk Marketing Scheme during the first nine months of this year decreased by 33,000,000 gallons, or slightly less than 5 per cent., compared with the corresponding period last year, but it was about the same as in the first nine months of 1935 and was 100,000,000 gallons, or approximately 18 per cent., more than in the comparable period of 1934. As I indicated to my hon. Friend on 8th November, I would rather not attempt any forecast of future supplies. Similarly, I should be reluctant to say which of many possible causes account for the decline in sales on wholesale contract from the record figures of last year. In reply to the last part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the recently issued White Paper containing the Government's proposals for assisting the milk industry.

Mr. Stewart

Is my right hon. Friend bearing in mind the largely accelerated fall during the last three months, and that in the present month it is expected to reach over 6,000,000 gallons, and is not that cause for concern?

Mrs. Tate

Is the Minister aware that a decline in the consumption of liquid milk is highly probable in view of the Government's policy of pasteurisation, which renders the nutritive value of the milk negligible and the taste nauseating?

Mr. Morrison

There has been no decline in the consumption of liquid milk. On the contrary, the contract sales of liquid milk for consumption amounted to 18,700,000 gallons more in the nine months from January to September, 1937, than in the corresponding months of 1936.

Mrs. Tate

But there is still raw milk about, thank God.

Dr. Guest

Does the Minister accept the suggestion that the nutritive value of pasteurised milk is negligible?