HC Deb 14 July 1939 vol 349 cc2633-58

2.8 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, in page 15, to leave out lines 15 to 17.

This Amendment proposes to omit from the Schedule the words: Milk from an attested herd which is not Accredited, Standard, Tuberculin Tested or Certified Milk. I hope the Minister will inform the House within what category such milk falls. In Table I of this Schedule premiums are provided on a descending scale from 2¼d. to id. in the case of payments by boards and from1¼d. to ½d. in the case of contributions from the Exchequer. It sets out various grades and qualities of milk produced and consumed in this country. The first paragraph in this Table is: All Tuberculin Tested or Certified Milk and Milk from an attested herd which is Accredited or Standard Milk. Milk can be from an attested herd, but it must be accredited milk or standard milk to qualify for the highest rate of premium. Then the second paragraph is: Accredited or Standard Milk which is not Tuberculin Tested or Certified Milk and is not milk from an attested herd. That milk acquires the right to premium on the second stage of the scale. The third class of milk is that described in the paragraph which I ask the House to delete, unless we receive a satisfactory reply from the Minister. We are anxious to know if the milk is not accredited, is not standard, is not tuberculin tested, and is not certified, whether it is milk at all or whether it is, as some of my hon. Friends suggested, "just muck." My view is that milk which fails to reach any of those standards must be of a very low grade.

The Minister of Agriculture (Colonel Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith) indicated dissent.

Mr. Williams

I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will provide us with ample reasons for not voting for the Amendment, but it seems to me that milk which fails to qualify for any one of those four standards, must below-grade milk, in respect of which there should not be any special premium either from the Milk Marketing Board or the Treasury. The fact that the Milk Marketing Board is willing to pay a premium for milk from attested herds indicates that they, at least, feel that the quality does reach a certain standard, although it is not what we call standard milk. I cannot forget that the Milk Marketing Board is composed of farmers. It represents the producers, and to that extent it is not an impartial body to determine what is right and wrong in certain respects affecting the interests of producers generally. My view of milk qualification is this. If milk reaches a certain standard and fulfils certain well-defined tests, and is regarded as pure, clean and wholesome, and capable of being given in almost any quantity to women or children, then I am not against either the Board or the Treasury encouraging that quality product. But I am altogether against the Treasury providing funds in respect of milk which answers none of the four designations which I have mentioned.

Milk is sold in this country up to the value of approximately £45,000,000, and dairy products generally to a value of £60,000,000. Before a persons is permitted to sell meat or other commodities those commodities must pass certain tests. We have meat inspectors to prevent— where they can discover it—butchers selling diseased meat. I remember visiting a slaughter-house which is run by the Cooperative Society. It is a very clean and efficient establishment, but the Co-operative movement as such has no control there in regard to saying what is or what is not diseased meat. The county borough council employ two of their own inspectors, paid by the ratepayers, to inspect that slaughter-house, and no carcase can leave until it has been thoroughly examined by those inspectors. I saw a diseased carcase which I am certain was unfit for human consumption. It had already been condemned by the inspectors. I am equally certain that had that carcase been killed in a private slaughterhouse, the odds are that the affected parts would have been torn out and the remainder of the carcase sold on the open market.

If it is wrong to sell diseased meat, it is equally wrong to sell diseased milk, or milk which is not clean, or milk which fails to pass certain well-defined tests and it seems rather absurd to pay premiums in respect of milk which does not answer to any of the qualifications which have been specified. It may be that my fears and anxieties are all wrong. It may be that there are five categories of milk, first, the milk which is of high quality, then the milk which is of less than high quality, then the milk which is of less than less than high quality, and so on, and that all these are entitled to premiums. But when it comes to milk which is of less high quality than any of these, I do not think the Treasury is justified in providing a premium for it.

For these reasons, these doubts and fears about the quality of this particular milk, I think the House ought to listen very carefully to the Minister and let him, if he can, justify a premium being paid for such milk. I repeat that we do not want to hamper the milk producers; we want to give them all the encouragement possible, but not to leave in their minds the idea that we are so anxious to produce milk in this country that we will provide them with a premium for a quality of milk that fails to pass a reasonable test of cleanliness and purity. For these and many other reasons which I could enumerate I have moved the Amendment, and I anticipate a full and clear explanation from the Minister.

2.17 p.m.

Mr. Hopkin

I rise to intervene in this debate because if this Amendment were carried it would affect a very large number of farmers in my Division. I am sorry to have to come up against my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), because I have a very profound respect for his knowledge and his grasp of agriculture; but I know that my hon. Friend will understand me when I say that in the county which I represent we have over 2,000 attested herds and that if the Amendment were passed it would be an act of gross injustice to the farmers who have gone to the expense of having their herds attested. It would be more than that; it would be a very bad breach of faith with them, because they have put their house in order on the firm promise which was made in this House in 1937 that if they did clean up their herds certain results would come to them.

With great respect I say that I think the Amendment has been misconceived. There are two avenues of approach in attacking the problem of clean and pure milk. The first is to clean up the herds of all disease, and the second is to produce clean milk. The Amendment deals with the first of those attempts. The House surely remembers that in 1937 there was introduced the Agriculture Act, under which £750,000 was set aside for the cleaning up of herds. The then Minister, in introducing that Act, said that healthy cattle were the ultimate foundations for healthy and clean milk. The whole purpose of this scheme of attested herds was to eradicate disease from the herds. How does it come about, then, that this bonus is brought into a Milk Bill? It seems to me that the answer is quite simple. The payment of this bonus upon so many gallons of milk is merely the channel by which the farmers are encouraged to clean up their milk. The Government look round and see what machinery there is already by which these payments can properly, quickly and accurately be made. They see that they have in existence the machinery of the Milk Board. So through these monthly payments there is the easiest way, and I submit a perfectly proper way, of paying the additional penny to those farmers who have expended a good deal of capital in cleaning up their herds.

I would remind the House that at first the 1930 scheme went very badly. I shall not weary the House with many figures, but I will give three. In June, 1938, the number of attested herds throughout the country was 1,513, and in the County of Carmarthen, which I represent, there were 453. One year later there were in the whole country 4,454 attested herds of which over 2,000 were in the County which I represent, and in the whole of South Wales there were 2,525 attested herds. Surely these figures show that the farmer is ready and willing to clean up his herds if he is assisted to do so. Is it not quite clear that this scheme of attested herds aims at one thing, and one thing only, and that is to clean up the herds. It is of the greatest importance that we should have in this country one district where all the animals are disease-free, and we in West Wales—I believe the Minister will confirm this statement—are now on the verge of being declared a disease-free area.

If this Amendment were to be passed there would be no inducement for the remainder of the herds which are not attested to become attested, and this valuable asset, which I am sure every hon. Member would support, would be entirely lost. It is important that in one part of the country there should be a reservoir of disease-free animals, not merely cows, but all animals, and that farmers should be able to come from other parts of England and Wales to buy their stock in West Wales, where, of course, we charge a perfectly reasonable figure for the animals which we sell. If this Amendment were to succeed it would defeat the very purpose that I know lies very close to the heart of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley; it would mean a serious set-back to those counties which have taken on this scheme of attested herds. For that reason I hope, and I ask my hon. Friend—

Mr. A. V. Alexander

The Amendment was moved only in order to get information from the Minister. But I would ask my hon. Friend whether the milk from the 2,000 attested herds reaches the other standards of either "accredited" or "standard," and free from inspection on the basis of those categories.

Mr. Hopkin

I am not able to hold myself out as the expert that my right hon. Friend is. I can only give the House my own experience, and that is that when I go down to the countryside to visit the farms where I know they have attested herds, and I apply the one and only test that I know of, namely, drinking the milk—and that is the only test that my hon. Friend too can apply—I find that that milk is in every way perfectly good and wholesome, and that I am none the worse for having drunk it. We send 20,000,000 gallons of milk from Carmarthenshire to London alone, a good part of it to the Co-operative Society, who are very valuable customers.

Mr. Alexander

We do not apply only the test applied by my hon. Friend. We have elaborate tests.

Mr. Hopkin

And so have other people, but I am perfectly certain that the 20,000,000 gallons of milk sent from Carmarthenshire to London is good, clean, wholesome milk, and I have never heard either the Cow & Gate or United Dairies make any kind of grumble at all as regards the quality of milk that comes from my county. I think we can safely say that there is no grumbling, and for that reason, when I hear the kind of language that we have heard, that the milk is mucky milk and so on, I can only say that that is not the experience that I have had in the county which has produced so much good milk. It is for that reason that I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. It is of very great importance indeed to those of us who have so many attested herds in our divisions.

Mr. T. Williams

Might I correct my hon. Friend in his observation about mucky milk? We levied no charge against Carmarthen or any other place. What we asked the right hon. Gentleman to do was to explain what attested milk is and why it fails to reach any one of the four specific standards. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can satisfy us that attested milk is pure, clean milk, we will consider whether we can withdraw the Amendment, but all that my hon. Friend has said has satisfied nobody that this milk is clean or pure. He told us that on the farms that he visits the cattle are good to look at and the milk not too bad. I do not disagree with either of those statements, but he has not told us why milk from attested herds is neither accredited, standard, tuberculin-tested, or certified.

Mr. Hopkin

If my hon. Friend had followed the argument that I put forward, he would have known that it was that this is the machinery by which the promise made through the 1937 Act is being carried out.

2.29 p.m.

Dr. Haden Guest

There is, unfortunately, no doubt that, taking the country by and large, there is a very large number of cattle infected with tuberculosis, and that tuberculosis does convey to children less robust than my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin)— just a very small number of children—the disease of tuberculosis. There are two ways of dealing with that, and one of them is by making all the cattle in this country free from disease. That is by no means impossible. Though I agree that it is difficult, it is an ideal which ought to be followed. The Amendment is designed to get information on this matter. I should like to ask how quickly this procedure is likely to enable the farmers, whose difficulties I realise very keenly, to free their cattle from disease. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the farmers, and I know very well that they cannot accomplish impossibilities, but it is of very great importance to the public health to know how soon this procedure will enable them to make their herds disease free. With that, of course, is linked the question of pasteurisation, unfortunately dropped by the Ministry, but I cannot go into that now.

There is a number of varieties of milk, called by different names. Some of them are actually disease free and some of them are not, and one wants to know how long it will be under this procedure before the country arrives at the point of being able to say that this milk threatens the health of no child. I am sure it would not threaten the health of my hon. Friend in any case—I would almost give him a certificate that he could drink tuberculosis milk—but I am rather surprised that a gentleman who belongs to a learned profession, accustomed to weighing evidence, should consider the fact that he does not get tuberculosis from drinking milk as evidence that a baby would not get it. The cases are not parallel. I want to ask the Minister whether he can put some kind of time scale to this process of improving the herds by means of these subsidy payments.

2.32 p.m.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I think the House will agree that we are trying to attack this question of clean milk on two fronts—one to get the milk really clean, and the other to eradicate disease. The particular premium that we are discussing to-day comes under the category of disease eradication, and we believe that it is essential to try and build up a reservoir of disease-free cattle so that other farmers can come into a district and buy. I agree with the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that it would probably be more appropriate to have this particular premium working under the Agriculture Acts as a definite disease-eradication measure. I do not think it is at all right even to suggest that because milk actually does not come up to the accredited standard, it is therefore dirty milk. May I give hon. Members one example from experience on my own farm? When we switched over from ordinary farming to dairy farming, we wanted to get an "accredited" licence. Actually the milk was clean enough to come up to the tuberculin-tested standard, but owing to certain things about the farm—there was a yard which did not please the sanitary inspector—although the milk was absolutely clean, until I had got that yard cleaned up, I could not get my "accredited" licence.

That sort of thing may well be happening with some of these attested herds. It may be that their buildings are not up to the accredited standard, but the milk may still be pure even though the farm buildings do not absolutely suit the local authorities. If their buildings cannot come up to the accredited standard, these people are setting about improving their herds in another way and we should probably have to put it under another head. In my Second Reading speech, in column 1708, I said: that for the future, after the period with which the Bill deals, we are going to separate this type of premium from milk policy and treat disease eradication on its merits. We see the point, but nevertheless it would be very disastrous if we carried this Amendment, because the Milk Marketing Board have already paid out last year and producers have, in fact, taken on quite a lot of liabilities in research for ridding the herds of tuberculosis.

2.36 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

The right hon. Gentleman's explanation is a little more reassuring on the point that has been raised, but it is another illustration of the very patchy and temporary nature of the proposals that are laid before the House from time to time by the Ministry. After all, the Act under which we are putting up this grant or bonus for the eradication of disease is two years old, and under it provision is made for the submission to Parliament of a scheme for disease eradication. It provides that the scheme, if made, shall be laid before Parliament for28 days, so that we get a proper opportunity of considering it. In fact, we are now faced with another piece of temporary legislation to reimburse the farmer who has started on a very genuine endeavour to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. That is very good, but, in fact, what we are doing is to lay down a detailed category under which various types of bonus are paid, and here is one in which you pay for milk from attested herds which fails to reach either the standard of accredited milk or standard milk.

I quite agree that, with very great and constant and almost exhausting care, in premises which are unsuitable, or in farms in which a water supply is not readily available in sufficient quantities, you can still perhaps produce milk of the clean type which will be required, but there is also the experience of those of us who have to handle large quantities of milk and test it before it is pasteurised, and there are vast supplies of milk which do not reach that standard of cleanliness. We may actually have milk in respect of which the farmer has taken very great care and spent money to get an attested herd and perhaps, not through his own fault but because of the failure of the landlord to do his job, he will actually be eradicating tuberculosis from his herd but still be sending milk to market which will be liable to produce infantile diarrhœa and diphtheria, and we shall be actually paying out public money in respect of a milk supply which will carry disease.

It does not do to talk about diseased milk as only milk infected with the tubercular germ. That is not the last word in the description of diseased milk, because if it is infected with a bacillus which carries either scarlet fever or diphtheria or infantile diarrhoea, it is diseased milk, so that we get in the position of being asked under this Schedule to be voting public money to eradicate one disease, leaving it free to these people to produce other diseases. I do not think that is a satisfactory method of dealing with it. I give the Minister every possible good mark for trying to make a start, but it is only now, in July, 1939, that we get this position of a bonus being put into the Milk Bill to take the place of a full scheme for the elimination of bovine tuberculosis, which is overdue, under Section 20 (3) of the Act of 1937.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

There has been one scheme.

Mr. Alexander

That may be, but it apparently has not delivered the goods.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

It was with the idea of accelerating progress that this premium was given. This was merely a means of dealing with one facet of the problem.

Mr. Alexander

I am still in a little bit of a fog as to the method of procedure that has been adopted. I do not think it is right to be voting public money for any milk which is not safe and I think that is the test that the medical profession puts to it. Their first and immediate concern for their everyday patients, for nursing mothers and infants, is that the milk that they get should be safe. To be making a grant of money for milk which continues in some respects be in danger of being unsafe seems to me a doubtful sort of policy. The accredited basis is essential if you are to have safe milk, and you would have done far better to make what grants are necessary to an owner of an individual herd for the capital expenditure required for elimination of the unfit and for getting attestation, giving him a bonus on top of that for accredited milk. This seems a very curious method of procedure altogether.

Amendment negatived.

2.45 p.m.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

During the discussion of this Bill we have seen that, both from the point of view of the milk industry itself and of the interests of the nation at large, we have to bring about an increase in the consumption of milk. In this Bill we have tried to encourage practical steps towards that end. We have tried to show how we are moving along the lines of the eradication of disease and the inducing of cleanliness. There has been a lot of discussion regarding the types of milk which have received the premiums, and we have heard the opinion of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) on that, but surely the situation is this, that before the milk scheme came in, farmers had not very much encouragement to improve their milk supply. The right hon. Gentleman can remember some of the prices which were paid before the milk scheme came in and they were not an encouragement to milk producers to set about this job. We are a long way from that position now. There has been very substantial improvement as regards both cleanliness and the eradication of disease, and we want to press on along those lines as quickly as possible. It is true that the process will be gradual. I cannot give a definite answer to the request of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) to know when we are to have completely clean milk in this country.

Dr. Guest

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give an estimate?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

No, Sir, and it is impossible to do that, as the hon. Member will be well aware. All we can say is that we shall press ahead as hard as we can on both fronts until we do finally reach our ideal. During my Second Reading speech I held out a hope that I might be able to say something about the cheap milk scheme before this Bill left the House and I am now able to give some information about it. I am informed that the Milk Marketing Board are now ready to submit a scheme to me at an early date. The Government have reviewed very carefully the question of the loss likely to be incurred by the Board in the operation of such a scheme for cheap milk, and have reached the conclusion that it would be reasonable to make available an Exchequer grant for the period up to September, 1940, at a rate sufficient to ensure to the Board a return of Is. 2d. per gallon on the average over the year. This figure has been arrived at on the basis of the experience gained from the Special Areas schemes. The rate will vary from month to month, as it does in the milk-in-schools scheme and the experimental Special Areas scheme, in accordance with the seasonal variations in the regional prices of milk. During the period up to the end of September, 1940, the question of the rate of the Exchequer grant for the future will be reviewed in the light of the experience gained during this next period.

The actual scheme has not yet been submitted to me officially, but I think I can safely say that its main features will be broadly similar to those of the scheme in Scotland. The milk will be made available to local authorities in connection with their maternity and child welfare arrangements at the reduced price of 2d. a pint, Is. 4d. a gallon, which is not much more than half the ordinary price. The intention is to enable local authorities to extend their maternity and child welfare schemes. As far as the distributive margin is concerned, that will be not more than 8d. a gallon. I realise that this is considerably less than the margin at present in force.

Mr. Tinker

Where this cheaper milk is given to the children will the Government bear the cost or will the local authorities have to meet it?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I am coming to that. With regard to the distributive margin I want to make it clear that no distributor will be forced to come into this scheme, but I do hope that we can look for the co-operation of the distributors in this matter, which is one of very great national importance, and will also, I think, be one of importance to distributors in so much as it will enable them to sell more milk and probably decrease their overheads. The local authorities will authorise individual consumers, that is to say, the mothers and children, to participate in the scheme and will be able to authorise either a supply of milk free to the consumer, or for part payment, or on full payment of the reduced charge of 2d. per pint—according to the scheme which is submitted by the local authority. The balance of the cost of milk supplied at less than 2d. will, as at the present moment, fall on the local authorities own funds. The Exchequer contribution is to enable them to sell at 2d. a pint.

The extent to which this scheme will be used will depend in the first instance on the initiative of the local authorities themselves. Each authority which wishes to participate in the scheme will have to prepare its proposals and submit them for the approval of the Ministry of Health, which will act as the co-ordinator of these schemes. Success will also depend on the response made by the mothers and children themselves. It is the main objective of these schemes to increase consumption by those who to-day consume far too little milk. There will be no limit to the amount of the grant that can be made by the Treasury; the only limit will be the quantity of milk which we can get down the throats of the mothers and the children. I hope that now that we are in sight of a scheme we shall get the hearty co-operation of all concerned in making it successful.

During the Committee stage the right hon. Member for Hillsborough asked a question about the consumers' committee, inquiring whether they would be able to call evidence from those who might be affected. It is not proposed to impose upon the consumers' committee the duty of giving a decision in the capacity of an arbitrator. If that were proposed, of course they would have to take all the evidence which would be necessary. It is only proposed that a Milk Marketing Board or a Milk Products Marketing Board shall be bound to give the appropriate consumers' committee an opportunity of making representations before the Board fixes the prices or the terms of sale, and that the Board shall consider any representations so made before they come to their decision; and, of course, it will be open to the consumers' committee to make representations to the Minister also before the final decision.

Mr. Alexander

It is a little disturbing to hear that view expressed by the Minister. I understand that they have not to give an arbitrator's decision, but if they are going to make recommendations surely they ought to hear all the evidence of those interested.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I do not limit their activities; how they are to arrive at their conclusions is for them to decide, but they are not limited. If they want to take the advice of outside people they are not prevented from doing so. I should like to add that I have been most interested in this Debate, which is the first one on milk in which I have taken part in this capacity. I have taken full note of all that has been said from both sides of the House, and I think that probably all those concerned in the country will equally take note of what has been said. We all know that the only way in which the milk industry can be established on a really firm basis is by establishing increased confidence in the quality and purity of the milk and by an increase in the consumption of milk in liquid form, and I commend this Bill as a further step towards that end.

2.54 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I am not sure how many Milk Bills we have had since 1934, but we have had temporary Bills and all kinds of Measures, and I would point out that the one commodity dealt with in any Bill on which there has been no fractious opposition from these benches has been milk. On various occasions, as now, we have found reasons for complaining that the Government were not moving as boldly in certain directions as we think they might There has been no hostility or opposition from hon. Members sitting on these benches to the encouragement of high grade milk or even to the provision of free milk from Treasury funds. We have always recognised that two things which are essential are a clean and safe milk supply and—which automatically follows from the first—the maximum consumption of liquid milk. We have recognised from the first that Clauses 1 and 2 do something in both those directions. Unless and until we can devise ways and means within our awful economic system, whereby millions of people who have very modest incomes and varying sizes of family are enabled to purchase their proper requirement of liquid milk, the State has to step in and fill the breach. In a thousand and one other ways, such as by means of our health services, the State has had to step in where employers have failed to provide proper wages. Otherwise we should not be as healthy and as happy a nation as we are.

Therefore, under Clause 2 of the Bill, it is quite proper that Parliament should step in and fill the breach by further extending the schemes for the provision of a cheaper supply of milk for children who are attending elementary schools, for expectant and nursing mothers and for children between the ages of one and five years, where the incomes of the homes are so small that the people cannot pay the normal price for the quantities of milk that they require. We have no complaint with regard to Clause 2. Indeed, I am delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman declare that some measure of agreement has been reached and that a scheme will be promulgated in England and Wales very shortly on the lines of the Scottish scheme which, I believe, started in March in some four or five localities. I have a copy of the circular issued by the Scottish Board of Health notifying the local authorities in Scotland of the facility afforded by the Treasury and encouraging them to adopt the price scheme at the earliest possible moment. Judging from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, England and Wales are to follow very largely on the Scottish lines. We are already three or four months behind Scotland. The English scheme has been held up, whether by the Milk Marketing Board, the Treasury or the distributors; but now they have almost reached a conclusion and I hope that the Minister of Health, being a Scotsman and an ex-Minister of Agriculture—he started this milk scheme in 1934—will work at top speed to get all the local authorities in the country to adopt the scheme.

From that point of view, whatever cost may fall upon the Treasury in providing and extending liquid milk consumption, we shall glory in that expenditure and whatever the local authorities do in extending their scheme again we shall glory in that. We would ten thousand times rather subsidise the consumption of liquid milk than subsidise the sending of milk for manufacture. We want to see the consumption of milk increase year by year and the quantity given to the factories decreased year by year until the Milk Marketing Board, in association with the milk producers, can find the happy medium, and arrange that the distribution of milk between the factory and the liquid consumer is well balanced. We shall then be much happier than we are at the moment.

I do not intend to say a word about Clauses 3 to 5. Clause 7 deals with the consumers' committee I hope that this committee will be able to influence the Milk Marketing Board and the distributors of this country. Let the distributors say what they will, they are looking after their own interests from beginning to end. In the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1933, a consumers' committee was set up to have an oversight of that marketing scheme. The Bill extends the power of the consumers' committee and forces the Milk Marketing Board to notify the committee when next year's contracts are about to be entered into. The Board must listen to representations made. Assuming that the consumers' committee is elected and that it thoroughly and meticulously examines the Report of the Cutforth Committee which examined faithfully the question of distribution and charges, will the consumers' committee, having acquired all that knowledge of the extravagance, wastefulness and inefficiency of the distribution system, be able to use that knowledge upon the councils of the other two bodies when the next contract period comes along, and when making observations to the Milk Marketing Board and the distributors?

The consumer's committee are invited to make observations on prices over the next 12-monthly period. Their observations must be based upon some conclusions, drawn from the analysis of some accumulated knowledge of facts. I wonder whether such a committee will be able to represent to the Milk Marketing Board and to the distributors' organisations that the committee have discovered weaknesses either in the productive machinery or the distributive machine, and that in future prices ought to have some relation to efficiency on one side or the other. That would make the committee's function real and worth while. I do not like to see in a Bill, Clauses that are mere verbiage and meaningless. I should prefer that Clause 7 had some reality. I hope that the committee will, on making representations, be able to call the attention of the Milk Marketing Board to inefficient producers of milk who are acting as a drag upon the multitude of producers, and to inefficient distributors when 20 retailers are operating in one street. I hope the committee will be able to bring those facts to the notice of those two bodies.

We welcome the general object of the Bill. We hope that farmers will see the wisdom of taking advantage of these provisions to clean up their herds and to purify their milk. We hope that local authorities will take the maximum advantages of the facilities afforded to them to supply milk to expectant mothers and young children much more cheaply than these people have been able to get it before. With regard to the consumers' committee I have already made some observations. I hope they will become a really effective body, and that the Bill will be one more stage in the direction of purifying our herds and extending the consumption of milk in this country.

3.5 p.m.

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown

I hope that the Bill will be worked to the fullest possible extent, and will give that confidence which was promised a year ago to those of us who produce quality milk. I feel sure that the Milk Marketing Board and others concerned will return that confidence by doing their best to increase the production of good quality milk and to assist in the cleaning up of herds. I am glad to welcome the arrangement with regard to the figure of Is. 2d. in connection with Clause 2, which will give the producer a fair chance to go on.

As regards the question of attested herds, I agree that our first job should really have been to get our herds accredited and to get our buildings into the necessary state of repair, and then to go in for attesting. That is what I have been inclined to do myself, but it was perhaps owing to my ignorance; I thought I had to do that before I could get a herd attested. This costs money. It has cost me a great deal to improve my own buildings, and as my tenants are all trying to get attested as well, it has cost me and them a good deal to get the buildings and the water. I have now got one herd attested, but the other is not yet attested, and I have the expense of pensioning them off and so on. I hope to get that herd attested later.

Like the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin), I want to know where I can provide myself with disease-free cattle. I may not buy from any herd that is not free from disease. Useful work is being done in providing disease-free cattle for the purposes of attested herds, but you have to go either to North Wales or to Ayr, in both of which districts a great deal of attention has been given to the herds and to getting districts and areas free from disease, though they have not perhaps cleaned up their milk. It is useful to accredited producers who are trying to get their herds attested to be able to buy cattle which they can get attested as well as accredited. I am glad that the Opposition are supporting the objects of the Bill. Like everyone else, I hope and feel sure that those who are doing their best to clean up their herds with the aid of these various subsidies for accredited milk, tuberculin-tested milk, and so forth, will now have a fresh chance of getting herds from large districts which are free from disease and which will afterwards produce cleaner milk.

3.9 p.m.

Mr. Brooke

This is the first time that the House has had the opportunity to give the Third Reading to a Milk Bill which makes specific mention of the supply of cheap milk to expectant and nursing mothers and young children under school age. Personally, I am very glad and very proud that this should be in a Bill introduced by a Conservative Minister in a National Government. The scheme which my right hon. and gallant Friend has outlined to us this afternoon is to be worked through local authorities. I am a member of a local authority which is a very progressive one. But not all local authorities are progressive, and at this time all local authorities have overshadowing them the work of air-raid precautions, and definite advice from the responsible Minister to give precedence to Civil Defence work. I hope that my right hon. Friend, in conjunction with the Minister of Health, will take care that local authorities do not neglect their opportunities to make use of this scheme for the provision of cheap milk, but that they will regard it rather as a Civil Defence service of the finest sort.

I have listened to the Debates on this Bill, and there is one question, and I think it is a fundamental one, which remains unsettled in my mind. Is the principle to be accepted that farmers must have a remunerative price for all the milk they produce, regardless of the amount that is disposable in the liquid market? We know that we must have a 20 per cent. surplus over liquid requirements, taking the year as a whole, to ensure that there is no shortage in November and December, and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out the other day, a further surplus to ensure that the manufacturing industry does not run dry at any time of the year. But for the last three years we have had a surplus not of 20 per cent. but 40 or 45 per cent. We have been producing some 300,000,000 gallons per year over and above liquid requirements—300,000,000 gallons, which have cost £12,000,000 to produce and have realised £8,000,000 in the market. That difference of £4,000,000 has had to be made up by the consumer. To me, it sounds only too much like what I should expect to find if all the industries of this country were socialised; but I will not follow up that point. It seems to me that this Bill gives a partial answer to the problem, but not the whole answer. The object should be to encourage, by all the means in our power, the production of quality milk, but not to encourage other milk—in other words, to give more and more advantage to the farmer who takes care and trouble to see that his milk is fit for drinking, at the expense of the farmer who does not. We should increase the accredited premium more and more, and make the non-accredited producer pay for it. My one fear is that, with the Milk Marketing Board responsible to producers four-fifths of whom are non-accredited, we may have to wait a long time before the necessity for that policy is recognised. The Milk Marketing Board, as a. marketing organisation, has achieved tremendous success. Everyone recognises its efficiency in that line. But a body of such a kind, established under Parliamentary authority, has a great social responsibility also; and the Board will not be a success in the eyes of nine-tenths of our population until the retail price of liquid milk begins to fall. There is apt to be a spirit of conflict engendered by the monopoly powers of a producers' board, whether the board misuses those powers or not. I hope that my right hon. Friend when passing on from this Bill, excellent in many respects as far as it goes, to consider his final milk policy, will put out of his mind any idea of a wholly independent milk commission, but will give very close study to the possibilities in the kind of organisation which this House approved only the other day for the Lancashire cotton industry.

3.16 p.m.

Dr. Guest

I am afraid that I did not follow the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) in his last remark with regard to the Milk Commission. It is very lamentable indeed that that particular suggestion has gone by the board. There should have, been provision for the constitution of a commission not only to look after the details of management, and so on, but also to deal with the important question of research. It is essential that such a Commission should at some time or other be revived, and I would remind the hon. Member and others that previous commissions in one form or another strongly recommended something on the lines of what appeared in the now defunct Bill relating to the Milk Commission.

With regard to A.R.P. and nutrition, it is obvious that the first necessity of Civil Defence is food. Any Government who do not look after food properly are going to be beaten before they start. But the Government have made it clear that they are extremely anxious that food should be in good supply, and that private individuals should have stores of it, but it is all the more necessary that we should be certain that the milk supply is adequate. I was very glad indeed to hear the Minister say that the cheap milk scheme for expectant and nursing mothers, and for children under five, is shortly to come into operation. I was also very glad to hear the way in which he referred to that, but I would remind him that a somewhat similar speech was made in 1938 when the Milk (Amendment) Act was passed, and that up to the present moment not one penny of the £250,000 then made available has been spent.

I understand that final arrangements with the distributors have not yet been made. I only hope that they will be made, and that the distributors themselves will realise that, in distributing milk in connection with cheap milk schemes, they are performing a social service of the greatest possible value. They should be ready not to make a loss, but to do it at cost price. This is a matter in which the farmers, the distributors and the consumers all have a common interest. The best thing that can possibly happen is that what has frequently been referred to as the marriage of health and agriculture should actually take place. The supply of milk in the country should be greatly increased, and the producers should be able, in consequence, to reduce prices to distributors because of handling a much larger quantity, and the price of milk should be reduced to the community so that they could buy a very greatly increased quantity up to an average of a pint a day per head. It is essential that quantities should be increased and that prices should be reduced.

It was unfortunate that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was not able to point to a time scale envisaging the eradication of tuberculosis from herds of dairy cattle. I realise that it is a difficult thing to do; but I was hoping that he would have been advised of some period of time within which it might be reasonable to expect that that disease would be eradicated. I would remind him, as my hon. Friend said, that there is not only the question of conveyance of that disease, but there is infection in regard to scarlet fever, typhoid, etc., if the milk is improperly handled, and not clean. For all these reasons, because the Minister is not able to put a period to the time when tuberculosis will be eradicated, and because it is impossible to expect that all milk in the next five or 10 years will come up to a standard when it can really be described as clean and free from the possibility of conveying disease to those who take it, pasteurisation is essential. I think it will be essential to have a pasteurisation Measure brought in, so that the community, who are paying very considerable amounts towards these premiums for milk service in general, will get value for it and be protected against the very serious danger of disease. It is not only a question of the actual protection against disease, but the actual money spent on diseases of this kind which cost the community a great deal, not only in money but in lives.

I am not, of course, speaking for the medical profession, but I am speaking as a doctor who has for the most part of his life dealt specially with school children and small children. I have always been a convinced advocate, from a very long time before it was fashionable to advocate it, of the value and importance of milk; but I have always been held back by not being quite sure that the milk which I was going to recommend would be safe for the children. That applied in the past more than at the present time, but it always was a difficulty that if one did recommend that children should take milk, and particularly if one was responsible at a clinic for providing milk, one had to be very careful that the milk in question was healthy to drink. I am speaking from my individual experience. The same consideration applies to every doctor. There are many thousands of doctors, and every doctor is convinced of the value as a food. Every doctor will become an enthusiastic propagandist in the "Drink More Milk" campaign as soon as the medical profession are assured that they can do that with complete safety. Therefore, in every effort the Government make to improve the safety of milk they will more and more get the co-operation of the medical profession. There is one thing that could make the profession 100 per cent. wholehearted in that direction in the immediate future, and that would be if the Minister would introduce a short one Clause Measure to ensure that the milk required is pasteurised before it is issued for human consumption.

3.24 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

It is well to point out that the Minister has made a very important statement as to Clause 2. I am sure the fact that he has arrived at such an agreement with the Milk Marketing Board will be welcomed generally, but he did not give us any information as to whether any agreement had been reached with the people who will distribute the milk, as to the margin. He mentioned a margin of 8d. a gallon.

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

Not more.

Mr. Alexander

Not more than 8d; it may be less. This brings my recollection back to the struggles there have been about this question of margin in connection with cheap milk schemes, and how the school scheme had to be rescued in its inception.

I know what the experience has been in the last few years with regard to the schools milk scheme. I think it is essential that the co-operation of all interests should be secured, and I welcome the Minister's statement this afternoon. When he says that the Government are prepared to give an extended Government grant without limit in this respect I hope he will consider the general economic result. We all want cheap milk and a wider consumption of milk, but we must keep in mind the economic effect upon the scheme governing the industry as a whole. If there is to be an unlimited expenditure of subsidy on cheap milk, and a differentially low price under contract to the producer while the liquid milk is being sold on contract at a higher price, you might get a huge volume of milk passing over from the present profitable basis and sold on an unprofitable basis, and you would have to consider how far the Government subsidy would require to be constantly expanded.

I am not at all sure, from the manner in which the Minister made his announcement, whether that side has been taken into account. Certainly the Milk Marketing Board's side in the case of milk sold for manufacture has been taken into account, for they are to be guaranteed a price of Is. 2d., while the milk sold for the purposes of the manufacturing milk market may be as low as 5½d. and 7d. If one wants to get the full and free cooperation of all interests you must put before them the figures, what you estimate. I admit that the Minister cannot do it entirely by himself; he has to take account of the manner in which the Ministry of Health approaches the scheme and the extent to which local authorities adopt the scheme, but there must be taken into account how much liquid milk will be taken out of the market and get the subsidy in the cheap milk market. I beg the Minister to look at the experience of the milk marketing scheme in the Rhondda Valley, and get some idea of what will be the consumption per head of the population in the ordinary free market and in the subsidised milk market, so that we shall get some idea of what is to be the return between the two. When this comes on a wider basis it may be of considerable importance for the future of the milk scheme as a whole.

There is another point to which I want to refer in connection with this Bill, which is another temporary advance on the larger agricultural policy which lies behind. It is with great regret that we cannot include in our blessing this afternoon praise for the giving, as soon as may be, of safe milk to the community. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) was very generous to the Minister when he referred to five years or 10 years as being the period in which the whole of the milk supply might be cleaned up. At the present rate, the period is likely to be much longer than that. That contention is supported by the fact that the Government have eliminated pasteurisation from their proposals, and in the discussions on the Bill it has been laid down that no general Bill to deal with that matter is to be introduced either by the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister of Health, but that it is to be left to the separate local authorities to seek separate and special powers in each case, and then only under certain conditions which will lay fairly heavy burdens upon the local rating authorities. It is a serious prospect to people such as my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington, Lord Dawson of Penn, and other authorities, that the matter should be left in that position. The fact that we shall not vote against the Bill—for what is in it ought to help, and we cannot vote against it because of what is not in it—does not mean that the Government ought to be satisfied. They ought to consider the matter afresh and examine urgently the question of the provision of a safe milk supply for the whole population. For that reason, there ought to be, as soon as may be, powers of compulsory pasteurisation available for the whole country.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

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