HC Deb 25 July 1938 vol 338 cc2696-9
44. Colonel Sandeman Allen

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give an assurance that he will not permit the Milk Marketing Board to use their monopolistic position this buying period to divert, as was done last year, supplies from private creameries to their own factories which are in direct trading competition; and whether he will also direct that, in the event of shortage next winter, any calls for emergency supplies shall be made equitably upon all creameries, including those of the board, in view of the fact that failure to do this enables those who are left with supplies to capture the trade of those who, because of such calls, are forced to curtail production?

43. Mr. Macquisten

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that the Milk Marketing Board's proposed scheme of allocation of contracts will not increase the sales of liquid milk nor add to the pooled producers' returns, but will put a number of smaller creameries out of existence for the benefit of the board's own factories and the large combines, he will arrange for it to be the subject of special inquiry?

48. Mr. Wakefield

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the maintenance of privately-operated creameries on an economic basis is dependent upon their being able to enter into sufficient contracts with producers, and that if the Milk Marketing Board are permitted to allocate further contracts away from some of these creameries to their competitors they will be obliged to close down; and whether he can take steps to prevent such action?

56. Mr. Craven-Ellis

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Milk Marketing Board are proposing to divert compulsorily the supplies of producers, which for years have been bought by some creameries, to other crameries owned by their competitors; and whether, in view of the fact that safeguards for the liquid milk market were included in the last contracts, under which creameries must release, if required, any milk they might be manufacturing, he will take steps to prevent this discrimination between buyers of milk and the allocation of contracts from one competitive concern to another?

61. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Milk Marketing Board is preparing a plan of allocation of milk producers' contracts to reduce the milk supplies of some wholesaling creameries and to hand over their supplies to the Co-operative Wholesale Society and other firms which are conducting the same type of business; and whether he will convey to the Milk Marketing Board that it would be contrary to the public interest for them to exercise their powers in this discriminating manner as between one buyer and another?

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

Plans for allocating supplies of milk during the next contract period, which will begin on 1st October, are being discussed between the Milk Marketing Board and representatives of wholesale purchasers of milk. I have no power to intervene in these discussions, but the board have informed me that it is their desire to put into operation a plan that has the general agreement of the trade. As to the other points raised in the questions, I would refer my hon. Friends to the replies given on 21st July to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry).

Mr. Craven-Ellis

What steps are taken by the board to get general agreement?

Mr. Morrison

It is left to negotiations. As I have informed the House, they are at the moment in negotiation with a committee representing the trade as a whole.

Sir A. Knox

Is not this policy naked Socialism, and have not the Government stolen the clothes of the Opposition while they have been bathing in Spanish waters?

49. Mr. Denville

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that when last year some creameries had, under compulsion, given up milk supply contracts to the Milk Marketing Board's own factories and big competitors, they suffered further losses of contracts to direct buyers acting with the consent of the board, and through producers ceasing to send because they decided to make their milk into cheese on the farms with the aid of the board's bonus and that, notwithstanding this, the board took no steps to replace the contracts thus lost to the creameries but registered them with buyers who had procured them contrary to the agreed plan of allocation; and whether he will take steps to ensure fairer treatment for these creameries henceforward?

Mr. Morrison

I have no knowledge of contracts being registered contrary to the agreed plan of allocation, and I may mention that a committee, consisting of representatives of the board and of the trade, exists to consider cases of alleged hardship arising under the plan. As to the remainder of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the previous answers given on this subject and I would add that the question whether a producer sells milk or manufactures it into cheese on his farm is one entirely for the producer himself.

52. Mr. Morgan

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that many producers, because of their long-standing connection with the creameries who buy their milk, enjoy premiums in excess of standard contract terms, and that if the Milk Marketing Board is permitted to remove their freedom of allocation many of these producers will lose the individual price advantages which they now enjoy; and whether he will see that they receive compensation for this loss?

Mr. Morrison

I have no precise information about the premiums referred to, which I assume are those arranged between buyer and seller and paid in respect of some special service rendered by the latter. It is, however, inherent in schemes of a co-operative nature, such as is the Milk Marketing scheme, that individual advantages may have to be subordinated to the general interest. No question of compensation can arise other than in accordance with the scheme. I have no power to intervene.

55. Major Procter

asked the Minister of Agriculture what percentage of the permissive quota of butter and cheese was reached by the Milk Marketing Board's creameries last winter; and to what extent the board contributed to the requirements of the liquid milk market as compared with the private manufacturers of butter and cheese with whom they are in competition?

Mr. Morrison

The information which my hon. and gallant Friend desires is not in my possession.