HC Deb 29 April 1949 vol 464 cc557-9
Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move, in page 3, line 38, to leave out from "which," to the end of the line.

The House will remember—there are many hon. Members here today who served on the Committee—that there was some confusion over Clause 3. I was not present at that particular sitting—I had influenza.

Captain Crookshank

That was why there was confusion.

Dr. Summerskill

I thank the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. The reason for the misunderstanding in the interpretation of the Clause was, I think, that it was felt that the Clause was too restrictive. My right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General interpreted it and said it might be interpreted as limited, so far as the Minister's powers were concerned, to the breakdown of a plant. We had no intention, of course, of limiting the powers of the Minister in this way. We were anxious for him to have power to grant exemption from the requirements of the Bill to meet any difficulties that arose. That is the reason for the Amendment. I think it will meet the wishes of the House.

Captain Crookshank

The right hon. Lady is very kind to those who made mistakes upstairs. This is the really important Amendment on the Report stage. All through the discussions on the Bill, both in another place and upstairs, it was constantly being said, "Well, the Minister has real power to deal with this or that little difficulty as a result of Clause 3." That was frequently said, but when we came to the Clause and examined it further I took the view that its words were limited purely to certain things the Minister could do if there was "a failure of plant." Next come the words" or otherwise," and I thought, naturally, that in that context they must refer to something connected with a breakdown of plant or similiar matter. The Minister of Food disagreed with me—the right hon. Lady would not have done so—but the Solicitor-General supported my point of view. The Amendment, therefore, has been brought in to justify all that had been said by the Minister and spokesmen in both Houses on the point of dealing with emergencies.

We cannot, of course, discuss all this now, but as some hon. Members are here who were not on the Committee I think I am entitled to say that the reason why we were particularly interested in this point was the difficulties we foresaw under Clause 1 (3). There it is made possible for milk to be sold by a producer of milk from cows to persons employed by him in or in connection with such production or employed by him otherwise in agriculture, if he does not engage in any other selling of milk. … That is to say, the practice which up to now has existed, by which a farmer who is not in the milk trade but who provides milk to those whom he employs, is safeguarded. We wondered, however, whether the difficulty might arise of the case where, for example, he had always sold milk to a man in his employ and the man dies and the widow continues living there. Can the farmer sell the milk to 'her in future? The second kind of case we have in mind was that of remote areas with no possibility of pasteurisation until such time as the cows had been cleaned up. Would the people living on that remote farm, who might not actually have been employed by the farmer himself, never be able to use the milk of those cows? Or, because there was no delivery of milk from anywhere else, were they to be condemned all their life to living on tinned milk?

The right hon. Lady was not present at the sitting when these matters were discussed, but these are the sort of points we had in mind and on which we thought there should be some power of the kind we suggest, subject, of course, to all the safeguards anybody desires. We are not suggesting any wide gateway through which people could obtain a lot of impure milk, but anyone with experience of the remote areas of Scotland and Wales, and small parts of this country also, knows that because of long distances, bad roads and so on there is no delivery of milk. That is why we thought there should be power for the Minister—not himself, but through his food officers—to give certain exemptions. We could not find that this was covered in the Bill.

Then we came to Clause 3, when the Solicitor-General told us, "All you had expected out of this Clause is impossible. It deals only with the breakdown of pasteurisation plants in some particular dairy or other kind of establishment." That was the difficulty, and I am very relieved that the right hon. Lady has found it possible to overcome it by a most simple Amendment, by taking away the limitation of these powers only to the failure of plant. As a result, the Clause now makes it possible for the Minister—while the words are fairly wide, he retains control—to give consent either generally … or restricted to a particular retailer or establishment … Even then, he can do so either unconditionally or subject to conditions … If we are to allow exemption by which the Minister retains the right to specify, even in one establishment, the kind of conditions which are to be effective in that establishment, none of us, enthusiastic as we all are for the quick development of clean milk, need have any great anxieties about the door being open too wide. On the other hand, it seems to me that she has provided a means for dealing with some of the difficulties which we foresaw upstairs. For that reason I welcome the Amendment, and I am much obliged to the right hon. Lady for the steps she has taken.

Amendment agreed to.