HC Deb 23 March 1939 vol 345 cc1452-3
64. Sir P. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that, in pursuance of the statement of his predecessor to the House on 4th July, 1938, the Milk Marketing Board have been paying, since 1st October, 1938, the quality premiums as outlined for this year in the White Paper on milk policy; that the payment of the Government's portion of these premiums amounts to over £100,000 a month, and is seriously depleting the financial resources of the board; and whether he will in this Session bring before the House a short-term Bill to enable Parliament to authorise the payment of the quality premiums, and the Exchequer to reimburse the Milk Marketing Board for all such payments made since 1st October last?

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Ramsbotham)

I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend is aware that the Milk Marketing Board is paying qualify milk premiums on the scale foreshadowed in the White Paper on Milk Policy and that his predecessor made a statement to the House on 4th July last to the effect that if the board did this the Government would be willing to commend to Parliament, as part of their forthcoming long- term legislation, a provision authorising retrospective assistance from the Exchequer. At the same time it was pointed out that the proposed Exchequer assistance towards the payment of these premiums was still regarded by the Government as only one feature of a comprehensive and balanced policy. Since, as my hon. Friend is aware, the whole of the Government's proposals for milk legislation are now under re-examination, the question of assistance on quality milk premiums is necessarily receiving further consideration also. It is appreciated, however, that existing legislative provisions in regard to the milk industry expire on 30th September next, and in this connection the position of the board in regard to the premiums now being paid will be fully borne in mind.

Sir P. Hurd

Is this matter being pursued further with the board?

Mr. Ramsbotham

Oh, yes, the matter is under consideration.

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown

Will my hon. Friend do nothing to discourage the production of quality milk, which is being so much helped by the grant, and will he also help the Milk Board in other ways by putting a levy upon the import of milk products?

Mr. Ramsbotham

Nothing will be done to discourage it.