HC Deb 22 November 1937 vol 329 cc840-4
34. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the estimated increase in the consumption for 1938 of liquid milk expected by the Government is as a result of improved quality of the milk?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am unaware of the estimate to which my hon. Friend refers, but the proposals set out in the recent White Paper on Milk Policy for encouraging farmers to bring to full achievement their efforts to improve the quality of the milk supply should, in the Government's view, lead to an increase in the demand for milk for liquid consumption.

Mr. De la Bère

Are the Government realists in the real sense of the word in seeking to bring about a demand for more milk in this country?

Mr. Morrison

The demand for more milk is an undoubted fact, and has been created by a variety of causes, among which is the increased purchasing power of the people. The publicity campaign for the milk in schools scheme has also done a great deal to increase the demand.

Mr. Thurtle

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he regards milk as a suitable food for political babes and sucklings?

35. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the present price of milk is imposing a heavy financial burden on voluntary hospitals; and whether he will take steps to enable them to obtain milk at a specially reduced rate?

Mr. Morrison

Hospitals contracting with producers may obtain supplies at the wholesale price, with small additional premiums varying from ½d. to 1⅓d. a gallon for level deliveries and other special services. Hospitals not contracting with producers may obtain supplies from wholesalers at the wholesale price plus a premium of 1⅓d. a gallon. Even the beneficent work performed by hospitals does not justify a claim to obtain supplies at prices which would involve compulsory charity on the part of milk producers, and I do not feel that I can reasonably intervene.

Mr. Lipson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that voluntary hospitals are paying 4½d. per gallon more for milk than they did before the Milk Marketing Board scheme came into operation, and is it not possible for him to make some arrangement by which this burden may be lightened?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware that voluntary hospitals before the Milk Marketing Scheme came into operation were able sometimes to obtain supplies of milk at a cheaper rate, but my hon. Friend must remember that that position was contemporaneous with a complete collapse of the milk-producing industry in this country. As regards the supplies of milk for hospitals, that is a much larger question, and not one for me. The only effect of my answer is that if the hospitals require assistance to get milk, I do not see why the farmers alone should be compelled to provide it.

Mr. Lipson

Would it not be better to increase the price of milk to manufacturers in order to supply it at a cheaper rate to children and hospitals?

Mr. Morrison

The price of milk for manufacture is dictated by the price of imported supplies of butter and cheese.

Sir Francis Acland

Is it not a fact that hospitals can now get a supply of superior quality milk through the Milk Marketing Scheme which previously it would have been difficult for them to do?

Mr. Morrison

That is perfectly true. Under the Milk Marketing Scheme they can obtain supplies of good milk at preferential rates.

36. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has considered the evidence of Mr. George Harrison, at Sunderland bankruptcy court, on 4th November, that he was advised by the Milk Marketing Board to tip his milk down the sink and apply for compensation; whether he did actually receive compensation for 28 days on following this advice; and whether he will inquire to what extent similar advice has been given to farmers who get into difficult circumstances?

Mr. Morrison

I have not seen the evidence referred to, but I am informed by the Milk Marketing Board that on 21st May, 1935, a contract which Mr. Harrison had made under the scheme was cancelled by the Board on account of the financial status of the purchaser, and that neither Mr. Harrison nor the Board were able to find another purchaser for the milk until 1st July, 1935. In the interval Mr. Harrison retained his milk upon the farm, for which he received compensation from the Board. As a result of inquiries, the Board are satisfied that none of their officers advised Mr. Harrison in the sense indicated in the question, and they assure me that no such advice would be given to any producer who might get into difficulties concerning the disposal of his milk.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not the case that this man gave evidence on oath in regard to this matter, and has not the right hon. Gentleman taken note of that? Is he aware of the very strong feelings that exist throughout the country on this question, and that the cost is keeping down the consumption of milk? Will he take note of that fact, and also that cooperative distribution provides an opportunity for a big reduction in price?

Mr. Morrison

I have not seen the evidence referred to, but the Board have made inquiries and they assure me that what is stated in the question was not in fact said. As regards this gentleman, anything that he did was not due to any action of the Milk Board. The only debt he owed to the Milk Board was 1s. 3d.

Mr. Gallacher

Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen the Press report of the proceedings?

37. Mr. F. Anderson

asked the Minister of Agriculture how much milk the Milk Marketing Board estimate will be sent to factories during the next 12 months; and how much liquid milk will be available in the ordinary way?

Mr. Morrison

I am informed by the Milk Marketing Board that they are not able to make the estimates for which the hon. Member asks.

39. Major Procter

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the strictures passed by the Master of the Rolls on the methods of the Milk Marketing Board in regard to the infliction of penalties; and whether he will call for a report, for the information of this House, as to the results of its legal proceedings to date and the circumstances under which they were taken?

Mr. Morrison

I am not aware of the nature of any strictures such as are mentioned by my hon. Friend, but I am making inquiries and will communicate with him in due course.

Mr. Macquisten

Is it not the case that the Milk Marketing Board is its own court of justice, its own prosecutor, and when it fines people these fines find their way into the Board's funds? Is not that a very unconstitutional course for this country?