HC Deb 29 April 1949 vol 464 cc553-6

12.43 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, at the end, to insert: (4) Nothing in the said Regulations or Order shall prohibit before the first day of October, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, milk which has been treated by heat at one licensed establishment from being bottled at another licensed establishment. We may pass on now to the more harmonious subject of milk. The Amendment which is down on the Order Paper is one which no doubt the right hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food will accept and it hardly requires any discussion because, in point of fact, the point which it raises was discussed at considerable length in the Committee stage upstairs. It was on an Amendment originally moved by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Battley). The point at issue was that in certain districts there are certain firms in the dairy business who have their milk pasteurised in one establishment and then bottled afterwards when they retail it in their own name. The point was that these were old established businesses and that they should have a period of transition during which this could go on.

The proposals were put up by an organisation representing the distributors called the Central Milk Distributive Committee. The right hon. Lady was a little at fault on that subject, because she said that the Co-operative societies were not on the Committee, nor were some other big people but that it represented most of the small people in the business. I understand that the Committee was set up a good many years ago and represents everyone, concerned, including the Cooperative societies.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summerskill)

indicated assent.

Captain Crookshank

Be that as it may, the point is quite simple and no doubt the right hon. Lady will concede it, because she said that the trade had had warning on 31st July, 1946. That was nearly three years warning already. I am now quoting from the Standing Committee Report: We shall make this provision— that is to say a five year provision from the time of the first notice being given— in the Regulations, but we recognise that there is a shortage of bottling plant and that this cannot be effective forthwith, and after having heard the Debates on this Committee I am now prepared to assure the small distributors that this provision"— that is to say, a break from the existing system— will not become operative until 1st October, 1954. The Committee will no doubt agree that that is a generous compromise.


For any part of the country?


Yes. In the first place, therefore, the trade was warned in 1946 and this provision will not become operative until 1954."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 22nd March, 1949: c. 27–28.]

The right hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend are entirely in agreement on the point, and the only issue raised by the Amendment is that as we are legislating at the moment we think it would be better to make the position abundantly clear by putting the words of her assurance into the first Clause. While we recognise that if the Minister gives an assurance we are entitled to accept it without doubting either the Minister of Food or the right hon. Lady, we think that it would be better in this perfectly simple Clause to say what exactly the assurance is. We should like to put it into the Bill at this stage, and I hope the right hon. Lady will agree to it because she is going to do it. She told us that in Committee and she will no doubt repeat it in the House today. To put it into the Bill would be just that much more security for the persons concerned.

Dr. Summerskill

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has correctly summarised the position. I made it clear in the Committee upstairs that we had no intention of being harsh to the small man. Everybody knows the trend is to pasteurise and bottle milk on the premises. In the regulations we intended to insert this provision, but we are fully conscious of the fact that the bottling plant is very limited at the moment. Therefore, in response to requests from both sides of the Committee I agreed to postpone the date until 1st October, 1954. I stand by that now.

I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to agree to one thing—which I am sure he will do, because on the Committee we recognised that many of the provisions would be put into the regulations. I suggest to him that he should allow this to be inserted in the regulations in the appropriate place dealing with the matter. I will assure him that the same date will be put in. he will recognise that it is very difficult for the trade or anybody else to interpret this Bill without the Special Designation Regulations which cover all the details. If he accepts that I am only too willing to put it in.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

I should like to suggest that my right hon. Friend makes this positive. In other words, I would suggest that not only should the regulations state that they will not come into force before 1st October, 1954, but that they will come into operation on that date. The trade will know exactly where they stand then, and it will be a positive decision.

Dr. Summerskill

My hon. Friend has asked me something which administratively, is a little difficult, because the regulations may come into effect beforehand. In the regulations, however, which must be read, of course, by people who are concerned with this matter, there will be the specific assurance that that provision will not come into operation until 1st October, 1954.

Mr. Hastings

Will there be the specific assurance that it will come into operation on that date?

Dr. Summerskill

I am sorry, I misunderstood my hon. Friend. I thought he was asking for what I took to be an assurance to the trade that they need not operate this provision. Yes, I can assure him there will be a positive assurance of that kind, that that is the last date. As the right hon. and gallant Member has reminded the House, I said in Committee that the trade, had, in effect, already received a warning in 1946, which means that we are giving them nine years grace.

Captain Crookshank

I quite see that point. All we are seeking to ensure is that they should not be prejudiced in the meantime, in view of what the right hon. Lady had said upstairs. I still think it would be better if this provision appeared in the Bill, for it has, of course, to appear in the regulations; but it seems that it is merely to be, so to speak, mandatory that it should appear in the regulations. However, the fact that the right hon. Lady has, in sight of all the world, given us this assurance in the House this morning is sufficient really for the purpose we have in mind. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the Amendments appearing in my name, in page 2, line 30, to leave out "Food and Drugs," and to insert "local," and in line 31, after "area," to insert: other than the council of a county, are being called?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)

They are not selected.