§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Summerskill)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is my good fortune today to move the Second Reading of a Bill which at times during the last 20 years I had despaired of ever seeing on the Statute Book. There are some hon. Members in the House this afternoon who have pleaded with successive Ministers to introduce a Measure to ensure a clean and safe milk supply. I am very pleased to see here this afternoon hon. Members who have played an important part in this campaign in the past, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). I think they will all say that today we are here to celebrate a triumph, a triumph over ignorance, prejudice and selfishness. I am indeed fortunate, for it is very seldom that an hon. Member has the opportunity of moving the Second Reading of a Measure of this nature as a Government Bill after having experienced the frustration and the disappointment always associated with pleading an unpopular cause.
I would go so far as to say that this Bill can be regarded as ancillary to the National Health Service Act because, when it comes into operation, it will be found to have the effect of reducing the incidence of tuberculosis and disablement. Even the death rate in the country will be reduced as the result of the introduction of this Bill. On looking at the title, many hon. Members will probably regard this as a technical Bill. I agree that it is a rather unattractive title. The "Milk (Special Designations) Bill" does not seem to herald what I consider to be a reform of great social significance. I shall always think of it as the "Milk (Save the Children) Bill" and I believe that hon. Members who are also colleagues of mine will agree that the majority of the medical profession will do likewise.
The history of the Bill covers something like 50 years, but it was not until 1922 that the first milk special designa- 1605 tion regulations were introduced under the Milk and Dairies (Amendment) Act, 1922. Later on, in 1936, further regulations were introduced which were more detailed in character. Later still premiums were paid to producers in order to encourage them to produce designated milk. Hon. Members will remember that there was, however, a setback in 1938 when proposals for establishing areas in which non-designated milk would require to be pasteurised before sale to the public were included in the Milk Bill and could not be proceeded with because that Bill had to be withdrawn. I entered this House in 1938 and I was intensely interested in that Measure.
I remember when the Bill was introduced feeling such pleasure and satisfaction that I thought I should like to congratulate the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) who was then Minister of Agriculture. But sitting on the corner seat of that back bench over there in 1938, and looking at the Ministers representing a Conservative Government on this side, made me feel a little nervous and apprehensive; they seemed to me to be very inaccessible. However, I waited one day in the Lobby—I remember it very clearly and I am very sorry that the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury is not here today—and I congratulated him on Part VII of the 1938 Milk Bill. However, I was a little premature. The Bill never had its Second Reading, and the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury had to resign from the office of Minister of Agriculture. Once more, prejudice, ignorance and selfishness had triumphed. I confess that after all these years, every time I see the right hon. Gentleman as he comes into the House, I still regard him with great sympathy and respect.
Then the war came, and the Government of the day recognised that it was important to ensure that the milk sold for liquid consumption should conform to the highest standard of purity. Another big step forward was taken in 1943 when the Government issued a White Paper on milk setting out the measures which they intended to take in order to ensure that the milk of the country should be of a high quality. Since that time, steady progress has been made with cleaning up the dairy herds. Since 1944 the number 1606 of attested herds in the country has been doubled, and this comprises something like 16 per cent. of the cattle population in the country. However, I am sure that hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies will agree that the cleaning up of the dairy herds, particularly the eradication of those animals infected with tuberculosis, will take many years to complete.
Quicker progress could have been made by the removal or destruction of all animals reacting to the T.B. test, but this would be a very costly business. Furthermore, there would be a considerable drop in milk production and this would accentuate our problems during the winter months. Therefore, such a policy, although advocated by many people who do not fully understand the problem before us, is quite unacceptable. Eradication must be a gradual process, so that considerable quantities of non-designated milk will be produced during the years to come. Therefore, in the interests of the public, it is vitally necessary that this milk should be pasteurised before it is sold for human consumption. In 1938 and before there were hon. Members on both sides of this House who accused other hon. Members who advocated pasteurisation of being cranks. In fact, I remember quite a lot of heat being generated in this House when we debated the subject. Today I am pleased to say that the consensus of opinion amongst responsible medical people and health authorities is strongly in favour of pasteurisation, and these authorities are continually expressing concern about the serious consequences that may result unless the Government take action.
I feel that the country owes Professor G. S. Wilson a great debt of gratitude for his work in this field. A recent estimate by him puts the number of deaths that can be attributed to milk infected by the tubercle bacillus at about 1,500 annually and many more thousands are crippled. Our orthopaedic hospitals throughout the country are filled with small children lying in splints sometimes for months, sometimes for years, suffering from surgical tuberculosis which can be attributed to infected milk. So far as the child population is concerned, the percentage of deaths is 10 times greater in rural areas where, of course, more milk is drunk raw than in London. This may surprise many hon. Members who are 1607 proud of the milk covered with cream which is obtained straight from the cow in rural areas. Many are ignorant of the fact that in that thick creamy milk lurks the virulent tubercle bacillus. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not only creamy milk."] I am suggesting that the cream disguises it.
The Cattle Diseases Committee estimated that about 40 per cent. of the dairy cows of this country would react to the tuberculin test, indicating that they were infected with tuberculosis, and that about 0.5 of milch cows suffer from udder tuberculosis and excrete active tubercle in their milk. Hon. Members will know that there are other diseases also which we are anxious to eradicate, but again this will take a lot of time and, then again, pasteurisation is essential. There is contagious abortion and mastitis. These are common, and recent estimates of the incidence of these diseases show that probably some 20 per cent. of the cows in this country are infected with the former disease, and that 2 per cent. are excreting dangerous organisms in their milk which infect human beings with undulent fever.
Surely the House will agree that no Government today can ignore the danger of infected milk, and I say that the responsibilities of the Government in this matter are made even greater by reason of the official encouragement given to the drinking of milk through our welfare food schemes, milk in schools, and the constant publicity directed to encourage people to consume a most valuable food. During the flush period this year, when we hope that milk will not be rationed, we intend to draw the attention of people to this. When we know that a large percentage of milk in this country is still infected, we recognise that we have a duty to the general public which we must perform. This Bill will be taking an important step forward.
I say—and I say this having obtained the best advice possible—that the pasteurisation of milk, if carried out efficiently and under proper conditions, destroys all pathogenic organisms in milk.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The hon. Gentleman must not interrupt; he will have plenty of time afterwards. This method of 1608 treating milk is widely known. It has been adopted in many other countries, but we must remember that the provision of increased pasteurisation facilities does not mean that the cleaning up of the herds is less urgent. It is most important that the milk produced on our farms should be above suspicion and of the highest quality. Pasteurisation does not make poor milk good and it does not make good milk better, but it makes all milk safe. Much has been done in recent years to encourage pasteurisation, such as the introduction of heat treatment allowances to increase the sales. At the present time some 70 per cent. of the quantities of milk sold for liquid consumption are subject to some form of heat treatment in this country.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
Before the right hon. Lady leaves that point, will she state whether pasteurisation has any adverse effect on the milk?
§ Dr. Summerskill
No. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that Professor Wilson is probably the greatest authority on this subject in the country, and he says that it has practically no effect on the nutritional value of milk.
Now I want to deal with some of the details of the Bill. The Bill limits the sale of milk by retail in areas to be specified by the Minister of Food to the classes of milk which are sold under a special designation. The restrictions also apply to the supply of milk free of charge under the Welfare Foods (Milk) Scheme, and the Milk-in-Schools Scheme, and to the sale or supply of milk to catering establishments, hotels, restaurants, institutions and schools.
The approved specially designated milks will be T.T. (certified) milk—this designation may be changed to T.T. (farm bottled), because T.T. (certified) simply means that the milk is bottled on the farm; T.T. milk, and accredited milk derived from a single herd. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Barking, who wrote an excellent article recently in "The New Statesman and Nation," will agree that it is an important step forward to insist that accredited milk should come from one herd only, because it is then possible to trace any infected milk. Then there will be pasteurised milk and sterilised milk in England and Wales; and in 1609 Scotland, certified milk, T.T. milk, standard milk derived from a single herd, pasteurised milk and sterilised milk. Standard milk in Scotland is equivalent to out accredited milk in this country although hon. Members from Scotland will suggest that it is a little superior.
Descriptions of these milks and the conditions which must be complied with before they can be sold under the designation, will be set out in the regulations. Hon. Members have asked me why the descriptions that I have just read out and the conditions which must be complied with should not be included in the Bill. It may be necessary to change these classes, and it is much easier from the administrative point of view to change the regulations than to bring an Amending Bill to this House. The recognition of accredited milk and standard milk as specially designated milks will be restricted to a period of five years from the commencement of the Act. As hon. Members know, accredited milk and standard milk do not reach the standard of safety which we now expect. However, as many farmers during the past few years have incurred a great deal of expense in complying with those conditions which we have laid down for people who produce accredited milk, we feel they should be given a reasonable time to grade up their herds to T.T. standard.
The limitations which I have described will not apply to the sale or supply of milk by a producer to his agricultural employees in cases where he does not also sell milk by retail. Should hon. Members object to this provision, they must recognise that when a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament the next step is to ensure that that Act is enforced. It is difficult to compel the producer of milk to supply his employees with a designated milk unless, of course, he himself supplies a designated milk. We all know that the employees on a particular farm who are supplied with milk may be dipping into the bucket and taking it themselves every day. It might be very doubtful whether they would be prepared to wait for that milk to be designated and then brought back to the farm.
While the Bill empowers the Minister of Food to make orders applying the restrictions to certain specified areas, he will, before making an order, consult with 1610 representative bodies in that particular area. Then the statutory instrument will be laid before Parliament in draft 40 days before the order is made. If within that period either House resolves that the order shall not be made, then it will be withdrawn. I think I have made it quite clear, therefore, that anybody in a specified area may have an opportunity to make representations to his Parliamentary representative who, in his turn, may make a Prayer against the order. The Minister will have the power to suspend an order. It is possible that there may be a hitch and that, for instance, the pasteurisation plant may break down. We must, therefore, give the Minister the power to suspend the order if he thinks fit.
Although we shall look at the country as a whole, the policy will in the first place be applied to groups of large urban areas and then extended, as far as is practicable, to rural areas. An appointed day will be fixed on which the provisions of the Bill will apply to each area having regard to the special conditions obtaining in the area. Before an area is specified, of course, a survey will be made of the pasteurisation facilities available. Where they are insufficient to provide for the pasteurisation of all non-designated raw milk sold in the area the distributors will be asked to increase their facilities and producer-retailers of non-designated raw milk will be encouraged to upgrade their milk to T.T. standard or to arrange for their milk to be pasteurised.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (Plaistow)
Can the Parliamentary Secretary give any indication of how soon the scheme will apply to the country as a whole?
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Does the right hon. Lady mean merely the first area and not the whole of the country?
§ Dr. Summerskill
Yes, Sir. For the country as a whole it may be five or 10 years. The hon. Gentleman must not be too depressed about that. The fight for this Measure has been going on to my knowledge for 25 years. One of the first speeches I made in my political career was on this subject. Indeed, I may go so far as to say that this is my finest 1611 hour. The Minister himself will have the power to operate heat treatment plant or to arrange for local authorities or other persons to provide plant in any area in which there are insufficient facilities to provide adequate quantities of heat treated milk.
In the existing regulations there are no penalties for the infringement of licence conditions. The sale of special designated milk today is voluntary and if a vendor infringes the conditions the only sanction provided is the suspension or revocation of his licence. The effect today of the revocation of a licence is to prevent the holder of the licence from selling milk under special designation, but this does not mean that he is prevented from selling milk. He can then revert to selling raw milk, as he has done in the past, and apart, perhaps, from losing a little goodwill his business will not be damaged in any way. When, however, the restrictions imposed by this Bill are in operation, the revocation of a licence held by a retail distributor, in a specified area, would mean the closing of his business, because all the milk in that particular area would be designated and he would be unable to sell raw milk.
We consider that the immediate revocation of a licence on the infringement of one of its conditions would be too drastic. Therefore, while it is intended that a distributor should not escape punishment if he is persistently negligent and has exposed his customers to risk through their consuming infected milk, it is felt that he should not be punished by the loss of his licence until it is quite clear that he is persistently negligent. Even then, revocation will not be enforced until the circumstances are fully investigated.
I should like to draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that the Bill, therefore, introduces very important changes in the present procedure for dealing with the infringements of the conditions under which a licence is granted. It provides that a warning notice should be given for the first breach of the conditions and that only when the vendor has been guilty of a second offence within 12 months of the warning may he be the subject of proceedings. Certain defences are made available to holders of licences who may be charged with the infringe- 1612 ment of conditions of their licences. In general, it will be sufficient for a licence holder to prove that the infringements were not in any way due to neglect or default on his part or on the part of his servants.
The restrictions on the power of revocation will not, however, apply in the case where the licence is suspended. The House will recognise that the licensing authority must have power to suspend a licence immediately if necessary. Let us take the case of a producer of milk who has a re-actor to the tuberculin test in his herd and fails to remove that reactor. It will be necessary then for the Minister of Agriculture, in the interests of the public, to take action immediately. He will suspend the licence, but the suspension would last in the first place for only three months. It may be renewed afterwards for a similar period.
The vendor of designated milk will be afforded every protection under the Bill. There has been some suggestion that if a Bill of this kind were introduced there would be a danger of the Department acting in an arbitrary manner but the vendor is given every chance of putting his case. For this reason we are giving the person affected—the person who has had notice that his licence would be revoked or suspended—an opportunity to state his case before the appropriate committee of the authority. He will be able to make representations himself or he may have counsel or solicitors to represent him. He may call witnesses or may question witnesses called by the other side. In the case of appeal to the Minister by retailers in the specified areas the Minister will be required, if the appellant so desires, to set up a tribunal. The tribunal will investigate the whole case and will report to the Minister, who must take their report into consideration in making his decision.
The authority responsible for enforcing the provision will be the food and drugs authority in England and Wales. When the Food and Drugs Act, 1944, comes into operation, on 1st October this year, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries will be responsible for all matters arising out of the use of a special designation by a producer-retailer where he sells raw milk which he has produced on his own farm. In the case of sales by a producer-retailer from other 1613 premises, or in the case of sale of specially designated milk purchased by him from another producer or distributor, the local licensing authority will continue to be responsible for enforcing the provisions. In Scotland the local authorities will be responsible for their enforcement.
I think the House will agree that in recent years great progress has been made in improving the milk supplies of the country, but we cannot possibly rest satisfied with the present position. As production increases, we hope that more milk will be consumed by the general public, but, unless the public have the fullest confidence in the quality of the milk, they will refuse to respond. Therefore, I say that this Bill will go a long way towards creating that confidence and safeguarding the health of the community. I hope the Bill will commend itself to all parties in the House.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
If I do not speak for very long on this Bill, it is because the right hon. Lady has made its provisions so clear, that there is not anything further that need be said in regard to its machinery, on Second, Reading. I should imagine that everyone, not only in this House but throughout the country, is in complete agreement with its general purpose. As stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, the object isto ensure that milk supplied for liquid consumption shall conform to the highest standards of purity.Obviously, no one can disagree with that object in any legislation dealing with this important foodstuff, and certainly none of my hon. Friends is going to offer any opposition in this place. Like the Minister of State for the Colonies in another place, we share in the pride of original authorship, for he was at pains to point out that this Bill stems from the White Paper of 1943 when those who were members of the then Coalition Government worked together planning the future policy of the country towards a safe and clean milk plan. So, while the right hon. Lady is quite entitled from her personal point of view, having taken so much interest in this matter for so many years, to consider this as a triumph for herself, it is also a triumph for those who have planned in the past. If one wished to be unkind, one would 1614 wonder what has happened since 1943 and why it is only today that we get the Bill. However, I am not going to be unkind to the right hon. Lady, because we all want to see clean milk.
Obviously the best method is by cleaning up all the herds. We are all agreed about that, and if by a magic wand that could be done tomorrow morning, of course everyone would be extremely happy, but it cannot be done all that quickly. I am sure it was by pure oversight that the right hon. Lady in her speech overlooked the importance of cleanliness at all stages of the process, not only at the milking—the first stage—but right through, until the ultimate bottling. That is still an important point and a great deal remains to be done in that connection. The increasing scope of the veterinary service of this country, for which we passed a Measure last year, will also have a part to play in this problem and, at the end of it, the Bill is meant to deal with the residue of what cannot be cleaned up quickly. It says that in designated areas of the country—perhaps taking five or 10 years, the right hon. Lady said—milk will be pasteurised or sterilised.
That is the brief outline of the plan and, speaking for myself, I take no exception to it. Of course, the battle of pasteurisation has gone on a very long time although the right hon. Lady said that its advocates used to be considered as cranks, I do not know that "used to be" is necessarily the end of the story. There are a great many people who still consider the pro-pasteurisers as cranks, or rather—I do not know quite what word I would rather use. I am certain the right hon. Lady has critics in her own party, just as much as there may be on this side of the House. Of course, this has nothing to do with any political issue, but is partly medical, partly scientific, and partly common sense. The fact remains that there are some people who do not like the idea.
On the whole, however, I think opinion on this matter has changed very much in the last few years, probably owing to the fact that there has been a tremendous increase in the consumption of liquid milk. But for that the change would probably have never come. Owing to the various schemes which now exist, the consumption has gone up so much 1615 that the matter has been brought far more vividly to the public consciousness—the real importance of having the fullest confidence in the milk provided—whether at cost, or free, is immaterial from that point of view. The aim is as soon as possible to get to the final objective of clean milk everywhere and, in the meantime, to take such safeguarding action as modern or—I do not want to prejudge the issue against those who do not agree—the great bulk of medical and scientific opinion agrees with, that of cleaning by pasteurisation and sterilisation. With that objective of the Bill we are in agreement.
There may be matters of detail which we shall wish to raise on the Committee stage and with which I will not trouble the House now. But I am glad that the plans for safe, clean milk drawn up during the worst period of the war, when one may have been forgiven for thinking of other things, were drawn up and this milestone along that road is a matter of satisfaction for everyone who is now a Member of this honourable House. For my part, I commend the Bill to my hon. Friends. On its actual details there is little to be said, although I quite recognise that a Second Reading on a matter of this kind opens up the whole question of milk, but that is not a topic which I am prepared to go into today.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I join in congratulating the right hon. Lady on the aims and objects of this Bill. No one will quarrel with the aims and objects of providing the maximum amount of clean milk, although one may have leave to discuss whether this is the best method of obtaining it. The right hon. Lady herself said, that the provision of clean herds was really the best security, and that could have been achieved a good deal more rapidly than it has been achieved in this country. It is very interesting to note that Scotland easily leads the way, and I am proud to say that my own country is not far behind. But, in this matter, England lags very far behind.
The percentage of clean herds in Scotland is about 35 per cent. for the whole country, in Wales it is about 27 per cent., Whereas in England the percentage amounts to only about 10. If one takes 1616 particular counties, the figures are much more satisfactory from my point of view, for in Cardiganshire T.T. herds have been brought up to 85 per cent. of the total herds, in my own county of Carmarthen T.T. herds have been brought up to 69 per cent. of the whole, and the percentage for Pembrokeshire is 45. The best figure I know of for any English county is about 27. Why is England lagging behind? Obviously if counties like Cardiganshire and Carmarthen can bring up their percentages to 85 and 69 in a few years, it should have been possible for the same to be done over the whole country in the same time.
As between the provision of pure milk and the provision of milk for children, I would make the point that far more die from tuberculosis from want of milk than die from bovine tuberculosis. I believe that the incidence of bovine tuberculosis is about one-half per cent.; at all events, it is a low figure, and one which I venture to say is far smaller than the number who die for want of milk. An increase in the supply of milk is a far more urgent problem. The benefits to the farmers themselves from the increased provision of milk, apart from the increase in health which that would bring about, is another consideration. I understand that the farmers of this country are losing about £3 million per year at present from the under-provision of milk. That sum would be a substantial addition to the agricultural prosperity of the country and would be of increased benefit to infant welfare in this country.
When I look at the details of this Bill, however, I am not quite sure that they carry out effectively what the Government have in mind. As I have said, I fully agree with the aims and objects of the Bill, but when one looks at the details of it, one sees provisions which I hope will be carefully looked at in Committee. For example, all the milk will now have to be bottled where it is treated. That means that the small business man will practically be driven to accept his bottled milk from a central organisation. The big dealers—the Co-operative societies and such organisations—will be all right, but what about the small man who will not have the necessary plant or will not be able to instal plant to pasteurise his milk? It will mean that the milk will have to be bottled at the place where it is treated, 1617 and presumably will be put into the bottles of the wholesaler who has treated it, not the bottles of the small dealer.
Why should the small man lose the goodwill derived from the bottle? Why should the milk not be sent in bulk from the treating point to the small dealer and bottled by him? I know that the argument advanced against that suggestion is that it would not secure that the milk is clean and healthy and that we should not run any risks. Very well, but T.T. milk, which will not be treated under this system, is already sent in bulk to the small dealer and will still so be sent to him when this Bill is law. Why should he be able to bottle T.T. milk in safety and yet not be able to bottle this other milk in safety? After the milk has been treated, the wholesaler will presumably keep it in tanks until he bottles it. Why can it not be sealed in churns in exactly the same way as T.T. milk and sent to the small dealer. Why should not he be allowed to put it in his own bottles and retain his goodwill? I hope that an Amendment to secure that will be accepted during the Committee stage.
I turn to the penalty provisions. The Bill is confusing. I do not know whether the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) can explain some of the Clauses, or whether even the right hon. Lady can do so. What is the meaning of Clause 5? I do not know. I also note that the Minister who commended this Bill in another place also did not know the meaning of that Clause. We have had no explanation today of the meaning of that Clause. The right hon. Lady spoke about the penalties provided in the Bill. Penalties are two-fold. A man may be prosecuted in the courts for a breach of the licence conditions, or he may be brought not before the court but before a departmental committee with a right of appeal. Why should that dual treatment be possible? Why should be not be prosecuted and the licence dealt with in a court of law, in the same way as offences in other matters?
There is another provision about the penalty for a breach of the licence conditions which I find odd. A man who has committed such a breach and then commits a second, can have his licence suspended for up to three months. If that period coincides with the end of 1618 his licence—that is if his licence is suspended for three months within, say, one month of the termination of an existing licence—he may be granted another licence or deprived of one for another two months. That is an odd kind of provision to put into an Act of Parliament. To include a penalty relating to an existing licence is something that I can understand, but to provide for the penalty in regard to a licence which is not in being is not intelligible to me. I hope that there will be careful scrutiny of the two points which I have mentioned—the preservation of the rights of the small trader and the penalty Clauses of the Bill. They merit serious consideration. As to the general purpose and aims of the Bill, I am in agreement with the rest of the House, and I wish the Bill well.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
May I first thank my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food for the kind references which she made to me in her speech. I am as keenly in favour of the principles of this Bill as she is. Anyone who has seen the frustration, continued ill-health and incapacity, as well as the premature deaths due to drinking tuberculous milk, must feel the same. In a long professional life, perhaps the saddest and most distressing cases I have ever seen have been those of tuberculous meningitis in children. Now little can be done in such cases by means of streptomycin, but until recently, nothing whatever could save such children. We know that 50 per cent. of such cases are due to the bovine variety of tuberculosis, and are presumably due to drinking milk.
We are all glad, as the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) has pointed out, that more milk is being drunk, particularly by children. I believe that children and others are now taking 50 per cent. more liquid milk than before the war. The hon. and learned Member points out that some of these children need more milk. That some children may well be suffering from want of milk I agree, but I do not think it can be many. If that is so let us give them more milk but let it be pure milk, which we can be sure will not harm them. The Minister of Food is proud of his groundnuts scheme, from which he hopes to be able to make much margarine. But I would remind him that 1619 the ordinary domestic cow can go one better. It can produce from grass, or hay, which may contain no fat whatever, butter, which is even better than the margarine which is derived from groundnuts. But the more milk that is produced and the more milk that is used in this country, the greater danger there is if that milk it not pure and harmless.
What will pasteurisation do? Can we depend on it to give us a pure milk supply? Ninety-eight per cent. of the milk in London is pasteurised. Repeated tests for tubercule bacilli have been made during the last four years. I took the trouble to make inquiries, and I find that tubercule bacilli have not been found in one case in the commercially pasteurised milk in London during the last four years. There are certain other figures which are useful as regards London. The Parliamentary Secretary did mention them, but I should like to extend them a little. Abdominal tuberculosis in children in 80 per cent. of cases is due to drinking milk. In 1944 London, with its pasteurised milk, has had a very low death rate from abdominal tuberculosis in children under five. In that year figures were carefully analysed, and the death rate was only one-tenth of that of the combined rural districts. In Toronto, where milk has been compulsorily pasteurised since 1915, I am informed that in ten years they have not had a single case of any form of bovine tuberculosis, although 26 per cent. of the milk entering that city contained the germs of tuberculosis.
It is not only tuberculosis in milk that will be eliminated by pasteurisation. There are other diseases carried by milk. There is undulent fever, as the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned, and this accounts for not fewer than 500 patients a year. There are also many epidemics due to the infection of milk by those who handle it. Between 1912 and 1937 there were in Britain 115 epidemics of dysentery, scarlet fever, typhoid and septic sore throat, involving 14,000 people, which were found to be due to milk. The trouble is that people who handle milk, however careful they may be, cannot be sure that they are not infecting it, because these diseases may be carried by people who do not know that they have them. I consider that only by pasteurisation can 1620 infection by such diseases through milk be eliminated with certainty.
The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen suggested, if I understood him aright, that milk might be pasteurised in bulk and then be bottled separately. It seems to me that that would introduce a very serious danger of contamination by anybody who handles the milk and that the only safe way is to bottle it directly after it is pasteurised.
§ Mr. Hastings
I was coming to that. I was about to point out that, careful as we may be with tuberculin tested milk, it may carry infection. In a few cases the germs of tuberculosis may well be present in it. In 1945 in London, 267 churns of T.T. milk were tested, and three of them actually contained tuberculosis germs. In my view it is much better—and I think we shall come to it in time—that tuberculin tested milk and milk from attested herds should also be pasteurised. In Sweden since 1939, there has been compulsory pasteurisation of all milk, including T.T. milk. I myself use daily pasteurised tuberculin tested milk. It is admirable milk and satisfactory in every way.
Suggestions have been made that compulsory pasteurisation of all but tuberculin tested milk in one area after another may possibly tend to slow down the development of the tuberculin tested herds which we all desire to see. I would suggest that that ought not to be the case. Figures have been given which show that in other countries a larger number of herds are tuberculin tested. In the United States, for instance, I understand that all but one-half per cent. are tuberculin tested; in Canada all but 2 per cent. and in New Zealand all but 4 per cent. I do not think that pasteurisation will materially delay that most desirable process. First of all, the development of an attested herd really pays. The farmer can get a better price for his milk, 2d. a gallon more. But there is a much stronger reason. In this country our cows are by no means as healthy as they should be. I understand that on an average, a cow has less than four lactations, and that the average cow in this country produces about 500 gallons of milk at each lactation; whereas in 1621 countries like Denmark, Finland and Holland, where there are many more tuberculin tested cows, the average number of gallons per lactation is as high as 750 to 800.
§ Mr. Hastings
The number of lactations is also more. I do not think that I need deal with objections to pasteurisation which have been raised. All I propose to do is to quote Professor A. D. Kay, of the National Institute for Research on Dairying, who wrote quite recently that ordinary controlled commercial pasteurisation caused practically no nutritional change to milk.
Clause 4 states that in five years' time the term "accredited" will be removed from the list of designated milks. As I am sure all hon. Members will realise, "accredited milk" is milk that is produced under clean conditions. That is to say, where special cleansing takes place of the cowsheds and dairy, and where the milk is frequently tested and it is found that its bacterial count, not from germs of tuberculosis, but from ordinary germs of decay and sourness, is low. I believe, and many people agree, that the term "accredited" is a misnomer. There is not as much to the credit of this milk as people imagine. Certainly, there is no guarantee that accredited milk does not contain the germs of virulent tuberculosis.
In 1946 many churns of milk coming into London were tested. Some contained ordinary milk and others contained accredited milk. It was found in that year that there was a higher proportion of the germs of tuberculosis in the milk in churns from accredited herds than in that of ordinary milk. It is easy to understand how this may arise. A farmer who is producing accredited milk has clean cow sheds and a clean dairy. Naturally, because he obtains a higher price for it, he will like to go one better. He will want also to develop an attested herd. The milk from that herd will command a higher price. Therefore, when he has his cows tested and he finds that certain of them do not react to tuberculosis he will remove them in order to produce an attested herd. The result is that the remaining cows which produce accredited milk may be to a larger and 1622 larger extent tuberculous. Indeed, a time may come when all of them may be suffering from tuberculosis. I look upon Clause 4 as a most important part of the Bill for it will remove one source of danger which is not appreciated by the general public because of the name which is given to this milk.
I am enthusiastic about this Bill and I am sure that every member of my profession who really understands the subject will agree with it. On behalf of all those of my profession of whom I have any knowledge, I give this Bill a warm welcome.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
The entire House was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). Undoubtedly over many years he has made a close study of this subject. But whilst I was listening to him, just as when I was listening to the right hon. Lady, I could not help feeling that possibly the dangers and unpleasant aspects of the present situation were being enlarged to such a degree as to deter people from wishing to drink milk at all until the whole country had been cleaned up at the end of the trial period. I hope that nothing which has been said here today will turn people away from the drinking of milk. I am sure that the hon. Member for Barking would detest that result if it came about from anything that he had said.
He was alarming us to a considerable degree when he said that he was not even satisfied with tuberculin tested milk as it is today and when he suggested that even that milk should be pasteurised as well. It is not very encouraging to the producer of tuberculin tested milk if he is to be told that all his work must go for nothing, and that all his produce must be treated as if it was the lowest grade of milk allowed on the market. I regret that that sort of argument should be used. I honestly feel that it will do a great deal of harm if that argument is allowed to rest, and I hope that the Minister will be able to dispel some of the deterrent effects of the words which have been used and also some of the fears put into people's minds that the highest grade of milk produced in the country today is still not good enough to be drunk without being pasteurised.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I did not understand that the hon. Member for Barking was arguing. He was making a statement which, I say with the greatest respect, had very little substance behind it. It may or may not be the case—though I am sure that it is the case if he said so—that a very small proportion of milk which came into London and which had been tuberculin tested was found to contain germs. That milk may well have been contaminated after it was placed in the conveyor. However much I support the cleaning up of herds—we all support that, and being a Scot I support it even more than would an Englishman—however much I support the steps that are necessary to safeguard the public from consuming contaminated milk, I stress the fact that the milk passes through a good many hands and a good many processes where it can be damaged, and that we must not lessen our attention to the intermediate stages merely because of this legislation. When the hon. Member for Barking was making the point about T.T. milk, he might have looked a little more closely into the means of transport and bottling.
I heard the right hon. Lady say that 70 per cent. of all milk in this country was heat treated. We all know that there has been an enormous increase in the consumption of milk. We all know that, tragically enough, there are a great many cases of tuberculosis which can be attributed to the consumption of milk. I wonder if the Minister could tell us whether the number of cases of tuberculosis attributed to the consumption of milk has increased in proportion to the amount of milk which has been consumed, or whether it has decreased as a result of the increased amount of pasteurised milk which is supplied. That is something which the House and the country should know if we are to remove unnecessary fears from the minds of those who consume milk. I am sure that the right hon. Lady did not mean to be unfair about this matter, but there was the implication that the overwhelming majority of all tuberculosis cases could be attributed to the consumption of milk.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am glad that the right. Lady shakes her head. These matters are not always clearly understood outside this House.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I said that over 1 per cent. of pulmonary tuberculosis could be attributed to infected milk and over 25 per cent. of surgical tuberculosis—that includes meningitis to which reference was made—can be attributed to infected milk.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady. I assume that when she says, "attributed," she does not mean "traced." Milk could have been the cause of it; is she going so far as to say it is the cause?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
That makes the position absolutely clear. We have traced the connection between the disease and the milk. That is exactly the thing that should be known, and it should not be assumed that it goes wider. That is what I wanted to be clear about, and I am sure the right hon. Lady will agree that that point should be clearly understood.
The only other thing to which I wish to refer is the effect on the producer-retailer of the steps taken to protect the milk supply. We all want to see an increase, even on the present figure, of milk consumption, but we must keep an eye on the additional cost to which, unless we are very careful, producer-retailers will be put under this Bill. It is no use expecting people to increase their milk consumption if the cost is going to be forced up unnecessarily by anything in this Bill. The part of the country which I have the honour to represent in this House, happens to contain one of the largest concentrations of producer-retailers to be found anywhere. It is a very old part of the agricultural industry as a whole; the small producers are, all round, fairly big populations in that part of Somerset.
Where there are a few producers we could probably work, as is suggested in the Bill, some central form of group pasteurisation either organised by the producer-retailers themselves or, possibly, a Ministry pasteurisation centre serving a group of producer-retailers. But where 1625 there is a considerable number, I think the Minister will agree that the problem is rather acute. I hope that when we consider this Bill in Committee we shall be able to go into that side of it very closely indeed, because nothing could be more unfortunate than that the cost of milk supplied by good, sound producer-retailers should be forced up in comparison with milk supplied through other channels, especially where, as I say, the high proportion of the milk supplied in any area comes through the producer-retailer channels.
In general, we must accept the Bill. I think it has grave dangers unless we watch it very closely, and I hope we are not going to be over optimistic. I do not think the right hon. Lady is justified in thinking that the matter is going to be tied up in five or ten years' time. We are dealing with cattle, and I should rather say that the necessary period will be nothing shorter than 10 or 15 years. However, allowing for that, I think this is a good step forward provided we safeguard the price of milk and also the producer from unfair treatment, which I think we can under this Measure.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
To oppose this Bill is extremely difficult, but to support it with enthusiasm is just as difficult. One's attitude towards the Bill depends on what one wants to get. What this Bill sets out to get is clean pasteurised milk. What I want to get is something different; it is clean unpasteurised milk. For, while it may be true that pasteurisation destroys the bacillus of bovine tuberculosis, it is also true in my experience—and, I believe, in the experience of every country—that it destroys half the food value of the milk itself—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I expected that I should get that chorus, but it so happens that when in London I live on pasteurised milk, and when in the country I live on unpasteurised milk.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
Does the hon. Gentleman say that he peaks and pines when in London? We have not noticed it.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
Is not the hon. Gentleman capable of appreciating that by means of the application of a scientific principle of examination of milk, both before and after pasteurisation, it is possible for experts to tell whether or not it has lost any of its nutritional value?
§ Mr. Brown
It was not really necessary to interrupt me to point out the obvious. It is also true that scientific investigation can prove with certainty that we are well fed on the number of calories we are getting, but nobody feels like it? There is a profound difference between clean pasteurised milk and unclean pasteurised milk. What I want to get is clean unpasteurised milk, and we shall only get that when we tackle the problem at all points.
To get clean milk, we have to start with the water supply on the farm, and in that connection I immediately pay tribute to this Government for having done a great deal towards improving water supplies to farms. But it is a fact that there are, literally, thousands of farms which are still without water, except natural spring water, and thousands more without proper drinking troughs, so that the cattle stand in the pond from which they are drinking. That is where we must start to try to get clean milk. Then we must deal with the farm buildings. Many of the buildings on English farms are in a deplorable state. I do not agree with the hon. Member who said that the addition in the price paid for T.T. milk as against the price paid for ordinary milk would result in any period of time that I can foresee, in the scrapping of insanitary farm buildings and their replacement by modern cow sheds. When considering the 1627 cost of scrapping out-of-date insanitary buildings and replacing them with modern cowsheds which will run into many thousands of pounds, it will be realised how long it will be before we reach that situation. I had a price quoted the other day for a cow shed to house 20 cows. The figure quoted was nearly £2,000. It would take many gallons of milk at an extra cost of 2d. a gallon to meet that cost, to say nothing of the interest which one would have to pay until the cost was paid off.
The next important thing is clean handling. What is the good of having T.T. milk and putting it in the same churn as accredited milk, or accredited milk in the same churn as ordinary milk? These are some of the points we must look at if we are to get clean milk. And we shall never get clean milk unless we are as ruthless in dealing with tuberculosis in cows as we are in dealing with foot-and-mouth disease. When we deal with foot-and-mouth disease, we recognise that it is a disease which will spread very rapidly, and we make quite sure that the farmers shall have no financial interest whatever in keeping alive a cow which is suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. The cow is destroyed, and we pay the farmer the value of the cow. Thereby we manage to keep down the incidence of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain.
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) quoted some figures about the degree of tuberculosis-free herds in America, and the figure he gave was 99.5 per cent. But in America they do with tubercular cows what we do with cows suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. They destroy the tubercular cow, and they compensate the farmer for the loss of it, so that no farmer is under a financial temptation to keep a tubercular cow supplying milk when it obviously ought not to be.
I hold the view that by the adoption of this Bill we may very easily slow down or divert our attention from what seem to me to be the three or four important points that I have made in the direction of getting clean tuberculosis-free but un-pasteurised milk. That is what I want to see in England, and I see no reason why that should take 15 years, provided we tackle it as ruthlessly as they have done in America. It was notorious, during the 1628 war, that it was an offence for an American soldier to drink English milk. So poor a view did they take of the disease laden qualities of English milk, that it was a military offence for the American soldier to drink it, even if it was pasteurised. That suggests that the American scientists, who presumably advise the American Government, do not regard pasteurisation as the answer to the problem.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
—but surely part of the reason was that we had not the milk with which to supply the American Army?
§ Mr. Brown
It is certainly true that if we had tried to feed all the American troops, on top of our own, there would have been a great shortage of milk, but that does not explain why it was made a military offence to drink English milk. It was an offence to buy it and to drink it because of the American view of the quality of our milk. That is a disgraceful situation. The right hon. Lady in her opening speech said that 40 per cent. of our cattle would react positively to tuberculosis tests, and that 20 per cent. were afflicted with mastitis and undulant fever germs, and other things. Those figures are a positive disgrace to our country—not merely a disgrace to us here now, but to all those who in the past have dealt with this problem.
I am anxious to see the problem tackled. It can be tackled first, by still further extending clean water supplies, and secondly, by making it financially possible for the farmer to reconstruct his buildings. I hear rumours that there may be some proposal of that kind in the programme upon which the Labour Party will fight the next Election; I very much hope so. Next, we have to ensure cleanliness of handling at all stages. And finally there must be a ruthless elimination of tubercular animals. I do not regard this as a good Bill. It should be regarded as something done faute de mieux—something which we are obliged to do to prevent infection of people by tubercular milk. But it is not the real answer to our problem. Therefore, while I obviously cannot vote again the Bill—and I hope it will get a Second Read- 1629 ing— I hope its effect will not be to divert our attention from the deeper and more important problems.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
I am sure the House will agree with that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) in which he drew attention to the fact that this Bill must be regarded as a first step and not as a satisfactory solution of the problem with which it seeks to deal. At the same time, I think the House could not agree with him when he seemed to indicate—I hope I am not misquoting him—that he would have preferred it, if this Bill had not been brought forward at all and we had another Bill in different terms.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I agree that if we can only get the sort of milk we are now getting, we must, if possible, prevent it from being tubercular, but the burden of my argument was that that was a temporary stopgap measure, and that the real problem is to get clean herds.
§ Mrs. Middleton
As I understand it, the alternatives to this Bill are twofold: either, on the one hand, to cut down milk supplies in this country so drastically by slaughtering all diseased cows that we would not be able to supply the milk needed for present day requirements, or, on the other hand, to scrap the Bill and not to go ahead with the provisions contained therein. I think that, faced with those two alternatives, the whole House will come to the conclusion that this Bill is a very necessary and very good first step. I would like to express to my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary the thanks of the whole country not only for what she has done since she has been associated with the Ministry of Food, in concentrating attention on this question, but for what she has done even before she became a Member of this House, in drawing attention, in many parts of the country, in her speeches and writings, to the need for a clean milk supply.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who opened for the Opposition—I am sorry he is not in his place—asked why we had not had this Bill before now. I do not want to enter into a discussion today on party political lines or to bring up party points in a Debate which is 1630 charged with so much good will in all quarters of the House, but I would point out that there has had to be so much cleaning up since 1945—cleaning up consequent upon the war and also consequent upon negligent Tory Governments before the war—that there has been a physical limit to the amount of cleaning up which the Government have been able to do in that period.
As the right hon. Gentleman spoke, I was reminded of an experience that I had before the war, when I was asked to go into a provincial town—I believe it was Shrewsbury, but I would not say for certain, because I have not consulted my earlier diaries on that point—to speak in a municipal election campaign. I found in that campaign that there was a great debate going on relating to the provision of milk in schools, the medical officer of health having asserted that all the milk supplied in the schools should be pasteurised. In the first place, it looked as though the medical officer of health would have his way, until it was discovered, when contracts were being considered, that the only organisation in that town which could supply pasteurised milk happened to be the Co-operative Society, and because only the Co-operative Society could provide the school children of that town with pasteurised milk, the Tory-controlled Council refused to supply pasteurised milk for the schools. In the past there has been a great deal of that kind of thing happening in our cities and towns, and I welcome the Bill because it will at least put an end to it.
I was rather alarmed when my right hon. Friend suggested that it might take 10 years fully to operate the Bill. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) suggested it might even take longer than that. I think we shall all be disappointed indeed if a period of 10 years has to elapse before the provisions of this Bill are fully in operation. I urge upon the Minister and the Ministry to do all in their power to speed up the operation of the Bill and to make it fully effective at the earliest possible date. I urge this not only because of the facts already given to the House, and which I shall not repeat, about the number of deaths which are caused by tuberculosis contracted through drinking milk which is not clean. I want to remind the House that we have to think not only of the deaths which have been caused and are 1631 being caused annually, but also of the large incidence of disease and the consequent amount of suffering which is caused through dirty milk. I understand that about 3,000 cases are notified each year—that is, fresh notifications of disease through this cause. I think it will be agreed by hon. Members who are members of the medical profession that the majority of those cases are found among children and not among the adult population. We have, therefore, to face the fact that quite apart from the particulars of deaths, which have been given to the House, there are possibly some 2,000 or more children year by year who are suffering from disease, resulting in many cases in permanent disability, because of the fact that our milk supply is not as clean as it should be.
In warmly supporting this Bill, therefore, I want to draw the attention of the House to that quite unnecessary suffering and to what the Bill will do when it is fully in operation not only to stop deaths from infected milk but to stop much sickness among our young people—tubercular joints, abdominal tuberculosis, and so on. In giving the Bill our blessing today we should pledge ourselves as hon. Members in this House to see that it is brought into operation as fully as possible and as quickly as possible. We regard it as a first step and we shall not be satisfied until the whole of the milk supply of this country is a clean supply because we have clean herds.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh. South)
I see only one Scottish hon. Member in front of me, the right hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Strachey). If there were more Scottish Members here perhaps I should have hesitated to say that this is really an intermediate Measure, which does not alter the fact that Scottish agriculture is being dragged at the tail of a dirty English cow. That indeed is a fact. This, at best, is an intermediate Measure. It aims at dealing with the problem of unsatisfactory milk. I have not yet heard it said in this Debate that pasteurisation necessarily cleans milk. It may make it wholesome milk, but it does not make it clean milk. It is still dirty.
The second point is that this Measure, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), 1632 discourages the very rapid progress which has been made elsewhere in the development of non-tubercular herds. The effect of this Measure will be that these very rapid improvements will be discouraged. As has already been said in the Debate, only 10 per cent. of the herds in England are non-tubercular. Scotland is very far ahead of England in this matter and in Scotland 35 per cent. of the herds are non-tubercular. In Wales, showing that it is not necessarily a quality of the character of the Scottish people but something quite different, the percentage is 27 per cent.
I wish the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) were here because I am informed that his constituency has the supreme honour in this field, for non-tubercular herds in the Shetlands are 100 per cent. In Bute the figure is 86 per cent., in Ayrshire 85 per cent., in Cardigan 86 per cent., and in Carmarthen 69 per cent. These figures show that a policy of non-tubercular herds is not impossible and in considering this Bill we must weigh against its advantages the possible discouragement of the development of non-tubercular herds in other places. I repeat that this Measure might be described as an endeavour to drag Scotland and Wales at the tail of a dirty English cow and these figures I have given justify my comment in that sense.
§ Mr. J. Lewis
Before the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) takes the credit for the cleanliness of the herds in Scotland, has he taken into account the fact that quite a large number of animals are bred in Ireland and grown in Scotland?
§ Sir W. Darling
I do some dairy farming myself and it is an entirely novel proposition to learn that dairy cattle are bred in Ireland and then become part of the herds of Scotland. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. Lewis) has a wide range of experience of farming—beyond my experience—and when he makes his own speech he will be able to inform the House of these remarkable dairy activities commenced in Ireland.
Another aspect of this Bill which has been subject to criticism is its effect upon the producer-retailer of milk. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) has already referred to this point. I think the effect 1633 of this Measure will be that of a further elimination of the small producer-retailer. He has a very important and valuable contribution to make to the milk supply of this country but if he is to be associated, as he must be, with the erection, maintenance and payment for these pasteurisation plants I am inclined to think that his activities will be further circumscribed and that the hon. Lady the Member for Portsmouth will be able to achieve her ideal, which is the complete distribution of milk for this country by the Co-operative societies.
§ Sir W. Darling
As the hon. Lady comes from Plymouth she will be gratified no doubt by the direction of this Bill, not unintentional—although not so far as she is concerned—which will increase the power of the Co-operative societies and also the large multiple firms as distributors, but as a result of which the place of the small retailer will be less and less, individualism will disappear and Socialism will be triumphant. That no doubt will be extremely gratifying to the hon. Lady as well as the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale).
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
I should have thought the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling), with his fervent belief in private enterprise, would welcome this Bill as a special encouragement to those private enterprisers who are exceedingly well equipped and who have taken the trouble to instal first-class apparatus. While I am interrupting, may I suggest to him that the explanation of his point that cattle in Scotland are comparatively speaking better—I do not accept his figures—was given by Dr. Johnson a long time ago, when he said that oats were a suitable feed for cattle but not for men?
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Member is not competent in these fields. Dr. Johnson spoke of oats as the diet of men in Scotland, but the diet of horses in England. Boswell reported Dr. Johnson. May I correct an English mistake?
I must proceed. The Debate was dignified if not dull before my intervention and the chorus of approval which greeted the tepid milk-like presentation of the Bill by the right hon. Lady seemed not 1634 unworthy of the character of the Bill. I have one point to make in which I know the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, if no other Scottish Member is present to do so. I must point out that England and Scotland are two different countries. I have protested in this House, and will continue to protest as long as I am permitted to do so, against these composite Bills. This Bill deals with Scottish and English agriculture. They are entirely different. In England, according to the standard of the Bill, it is 90 per cent. inefficient; in Scotland it is 65 per cent. inefficient. There should be a separate Bill for Scotland. There is a separate agricultural Department in Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture has no power over Scotland in that field. I think there is no ground for the Clause which compels this House to contemplate two Bills together.
I go further and ask, not on my own behalf but on behalf of some hon. Gentlemen not here today, Why does the Bill not apply to Northern Ireland? If it is a boon that Scotland must accept, why should Northern Ireland be denied it? There is inconsistency about such legislation as this. Scotland is a separate country with a separate agricultural system. Scotland has a separate and different standard of milk production highly to be envied by England. There is a good case for Scotland's exclusion from the Bill. The Bill, doubtless, has merits, but if ever there was a Bill which could be described as good but an enemy of the best, this Bill can be so described.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
Having listened to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling), always eloquent without being bombastic and pungent without being abusive, I feel a sense of regret that he is not so assiduous in his desire to safeguard the health of children as he is to sell them kiddies' clothes. I am not attempting to be offensive to the hon. Gentleman, but if he would apply the same enthusiasm to both causes, he would not object to this Bill as he does.
It is always difficult to refer to speeches that have been made in a Debate if the hon. Gentlemen who were responsible for them are not in their places. However, I wish to refer to a statement by the hon. Member for Weston-super- 1635 Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) who accused the Parliamentary Secretary of spreading alarm and despondency amongst the mothers of this country. He spoke of the dangers of untreated milk as being virtually negligible. He expressed the hope that people would not arrive at false conclusions about those dangers. But he must know as well as I do that for so long as we can remember—and every mother knows this—milk has been one of the most dangerous food products. I can remember that in my own home we were not allowed as children to drink milk that had not been boiled, and there is nothing new at all in what has been said here today.
So far as the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is concerned, when one has an anti-pasteurisation "phobia" one should be able to back it up with some scientific knowledge. It was regrettable to note that any knowledge of the subject was not apparent in the hon. Member's speech. He did not appreciate that pasteurisation kills not only the tubercular germ to which he was referring but also many other organisms which, we are told, can be carried in milk and harboured in it. Pasteurisation, as I understand it, is a fairly simple process. The milk is heated to a certain temperature, held at it for a specified period, and then cooled. The danger that exists, I understand, arises in the period that elapses between pasteurisation and bottling and in what happens to the milk in that period.
Although this Bill has very good objects there may be certain difficulties in its application—difficulties which, perhaps, we may deal with in Committee, but which the Minister must take into account. So far as the effectiveness of pasteurisation is concerned, the Minister of Health, with all the expert medical advice he has available to him, is satisfied that pasteurisation is effective. In answer to a Question on 20th September he said:I am satisfied that efficient pasteurisation is effective in preventing the spread of typhoid fever in circumstances where untreated fresh milk might be the source of infection."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th September, 1948; Vol. 456, c. 37.]I think it is unfortunate that there are still many cranks, particularly societies of cranks, who continue to try to incul- 1636 cate in the mind of the average mother the fact that pasteurisation is dangerous and that vaccination is dangerous and they are obviously rendering great disservice to the progress of health and physical well-being in this country.
So far as some of the practical problems are concerned, at present one of the greatest problems we have to face in the practical implementation of the Bill is that there is a greater quantity of tuberculin tested milk produced than is sold—a much greater quantity. That is because of the impossibility of its being separately handled. If tuberculin tested milk is to be sold as such, it must not be mixed with milk of any other grade. It would have to be handled in quite independent equipment. Of course, for virtually small quantities of milk this is impossible. Another difficulty is that the quantity of tuberculin tested milk which is received at the depot is extremely small and so does not warrant the cost of installing that independent equipment. I do hope that my right hon. Friend will take those points into account in Committee. I hope he will also appreciate the difficulty that arises in regard to the despatch of small quantities as the creameries usually send their milk to the big centres in large tankers.
The primary object of this Bill must be to improve the herds, to bring them up to an attested standard. However, to my mind, all milk, irrespective of whether the herd is attested or not, should be pasteurised, because there is such great risk of contamination between the time that the milk is produced and when it is bottled. I think the Government should conduct a survey to ascertain how much plant and equipment is required to ensure that all the milk is pasteurised. If they knew where they were in that, they might be in a position to plan effective pasteurisation. In some cases herds may be improved fairly expeditously, but in other cases, I am afraid, there may be great difficulty.
I support the point made by the hon. Member for Rugby in regard to the difficulty arising out of the deplorable state of some of the cowsheds. There is no doubt about it at all that where premises have been registered for many years the local authorities take very little notice, but as soon as the farmer wants to improve matters a local health officer is 1637 called in and the farmer is presented with a number of proposals for elaborate and expensive alterations which he is called upon to do and with which he finds it utterly impossible to comply. I do not think my right hon. Friend will find it easy to implement the Bill. I think that there may be certain opposition from the farmers. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) touched on one or two of the problems. Obviously, if a herd has to be cleaned, and the farmer has to replace some of the cattle, he will incur a capital loss. He will get a much lower price for his herd than otherwise he would have obtained. And this factor will have to be taken into account.
The main point I wish to stress, however, is the necessity that pasteurisation and bottling should take place on the same premises. Where the retailer has the modern plant and equipment to do this, he should be permitted to purchase his milk in churns and pasteurise and bottle it on the spot, because it will be found that in many cases where the wholesaler has sufficient capacity to pasteurise the milk he has not sufficient bottling capacity. Therefore, it would be useful in those circumstances to permit the retailer, if he is properly equipped, to carry out the treatment himself.
The Bill, unfortunately, does not provide for compulsory pasteurisation of tuberculin tested milk, and I think that that is a very serious omission as it is envisaged that this milk should be sold entirely untreated. In my opinion, with the exception of tuberculin tested milk which is produced and bottled at the farm, all other grades should be pasteurised, because there is no doubt that there is a very great danger of contamination between the time that the milk is produced and the final bottling. I think that to compare the dairy industry in this country with Denmark or Scandinavia, as a whole, is very unfair to the British farmer. We cannot hope for a considerable time to reach their standards. In the first place, dairy production is one of their main industries. Secondly, they have not had the effects of the ravages of war, and, thirdly, I believe that for a long period dairy farming in Denmark has received Government assistance.
I hope that between now and the Committee stage the Government will give 1638 consideration to the question of insisting, where that is possible, that even tuberculin tested milk shall be pasteurised. There is, in my opinion, one other point of danger of contamination which should receive the consideration of those responsible for ensuring the safety of our milk supply, and that is the contamination which takes place after the milk bottle has reached the home. All homes I am sorry to say are not hygienic, and all milk is not kept in hygienic places in the homes. I am satisfied that the open milk bottle is often responsible for the contamination of the milk. Some steps should be taken—and I am sure that the ingenuity of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh could well be employed in this direction—to produce a device which would ensure that milk could be drawn off in small quantities from the bottle, and the bottle then become hermetically sealed, so that no organisms could get into the milk.
I, like other hon. Members, welcome the Bill. I hope that it will not only go on to the Statute Book as a pious hope but that it will be possible to expedite its implementation, and I think that as a result of it, the health of the nation in time to come will derive real and lasting benefit.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)
The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. Lewis) seemed to anticipate that there would be considerable opposition from farmers to the Bill. He spoke about the replacing of cattle infected by tuberculosis as one of the things which are covered in this Bill, which, of course, is not the case. I am naturally not entitled to speak for all farmers, but as the husband of a dairy farmer, I see very little in the purposes of the Bill that I would not welcome. I believe that goes for most of the farming community and certainly for most dairy farmers.
It will be within the recollection of the House that the White Paper—"Measures to improve the quality of the nation's milk supply"—which was produced by the Coalition in 1943, and which is the parent of this Bill, outlined four main ways by which a clean milk supply may be achieved. The first was by cleaning up dairy herds by veterinary inspections, and so on. The second way in England and Wales, but not in Scotland, was by 1639 simplifying administration by the transfer of power from local authorities to the Ministry of Agriculture. The third way was by encouraging the production of tuberculin tested milk and its consumption as such, and the fourth way was by encouraging the Ministry of Food to schedule areas in which only heat-treated, T.T. or accredited, or, in Scotland, standard milk should be sold. It is only with the last of these four methods that the Bill deals. What about the other methods?
In another place the Government spokesman said that discussions with the National Veterinary Medical Association of plans for the eradication of bovine tuberculosis on an area basis were to take place very soon. I want to know if they have already started and, if so, what result we may anticipate. The livestock industry and the veterinary profession, and, I believe, also the medical profession have been patiently awaiting the Government's scheme for a long time. There was another report with some bearing on this Measure—the Williams Report. I was reminded of that when the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) spoke about the human carriers of tuberculin infection, because the Williams Report recommended that in scheduled areas persons in depots and dairy premises who are handling milk until it is bottled, should be regularly examined for infections which could be milk borne, and that tests of milk passing through such premises should be taken at least every two weeks. These are recommendations which are contained in the Williams Report—the report of the committee on milk distribution made last June to the Government—and yet I cannot see them in the Bill itself—although it may be that they will be imposed in regulations under the Bill—and I should like to know why they are not in the Bill.
The main thing about which I wish to speak is tuberculin tested milk. Of the total milk sold off the farms in the United Kingdom about 20 per cent. is T.T., but the amount sold to the public is only about 9 per cent., so rather over half the milk which leaves the farms as T.T. loses its identity subsequently by admixture with non-T.T. milk. That seems to me to be not only bad business—and it must be bad business because 1640 we producers of T.T. milk are paid 4d. a gallon more for producing T.T. milk—but a waste of good milk. It seems like the man who laboriously climbs up a hill in order to secure a pail of pure drinking water from a spring and when he gets back mixes it with water from a turgid and perhaps contaminated stream. It is a major defect of the Bill that provision is not made to ensure that T.T. milk is not wasted in this way.
The House may like to be reminded of some of the tests that those of us who produce T.T. milk have to meet before we get our T.T. licences. They are very expensive and difficult to attain. Before a T.T. licence can be granted or renewed the licensing authority has to be satisfied, first, that every animal has undergone a tuberculin test. It has to be satisfied that all re-actors have been removed from the herd. It has to be satisfied that the arrangements for producing the milk, including the structure and cleanliness of the buildings and the cleanliness and sterilisation of the implements, are entirely satisfactory and up to standard. It has to be satisfied, finally, that the milk will pass periodically through laboratory tests. Paragraph 21 of the 1943 White Paper says:it will still not be possible, in view of transport difficulties, to ensure that all T.T. milk is sold to the customer as such, but it will be the policy of the Ministry of Food to take all practicable steps to that end.It seems to me little short of a scandal that after five and a half years, T.T. milk is still being bulked with ordinary milk and sold as ordinary milk.
I have one other point, which is fairly important, though more suited to Committee: the bottling of pasteurised milk, which the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) mentioned. Under the present regulations, as I understand them, T.T. milk and pasteurised milk may be supplied in churns to a retailer for him to bottle on his own premises. I am informed that last year about 80 million gallons of heat-treated milk were sold in bulk to retailers for bottling; this was done by up to something of the order of 2,500 dairymen. Now I understand from a speech made in another place by the Government spokesmen, except in cases where exemption is given under Clause 3, all bottling of pasteurised milk shall be carried out in the same dairy as that in 1641 which it was pasteurised. But Lord Huntingdon, who gave that information on behalf of the Government on the Committee stage of this Bill in another place, added two things: first, that full consultation would take place with interested parties before the regulations would be introduced to bring about this intention of the Government; and secondly, that people concerned would be given plenty of time to obtain the necessary equipment—three to five years, he said, anyhow, before we could bring in a regulation of that kind.
Even so, it does seem to me that is a hardship to the small men in the industry, who perform a useful service to the community—and a hardship which is not really justified on medical or on economic grounds. After all, there are so many safeguards to ensure that the milk reaches the consumer in a clean and pure state. First of all, no retailer can bottle pasteurised milk unless his premises are licensed and unless the milk continuously passes the rigorous tests laid down for pasteurised milk. Although this is perhaps more a Committee point, I would suggest that this proposed regulation should be held in abeyance until it is seen whether, in fact, milk sold in this way is unwholesome or unclean. To insist on the provision of pasteurising plant by all these small men—2,500 of them, or something of that order—is uneconomical, and in the long run a waste of the nation's resources.
It is fatally easy to fall into the trap of being unrealistic in a matter of this kind. When we all have ideals and see what we would like to be done, it is easy to fall into the trap of being unpractical. I believe there is a great need to recognise the limitations imposed at present by the unavailability of supplies so that progress may not be impeded by impossible demands. I use the phrase "unavailability of supplies" advisedly, because we are still exporting 40 per cent. of our output of dairy machinery. I would ask the Minister whether there is to be a halt to that. I have seen it estimated that it may be five years before the provisions of this Bill for the scheduled areas can be carried into effect in the towns. The right hon. Lady told us this afternoon that it may be 10 years before it is carried out generally throughout the country. Even that period seemed to be 1642 questioned, and I think reasonably questioned—though none of us like to see it—in more than one quarter of the House. If we have to wait for 10 years before these reforms can be brought in, could we not hasten them up by making more of this dairy machinery, 40 per cent. of which we at present export, available to meet the home demand? Is there to be no increase for the home market?
In the 12 months to 30th September, 1948, 188 million gallons of undesignated raw milk were sold in this country. I think we would all agree that that is far too much. How much goes under a spurious designation no one can say. I heard a story not very long ago—though I hope and believe that this is not applicable to many cases—of a producer-retailer who had a van, which travelled about the countryside, on which was printed "Milk from tuberculin tested cows": he did not add that none of the cows had managed to pass the test. I am quite certain that on all sides of the House we welcome this Bill, not because it goes a long way to clean up our herds, but because it will be at least a step on the road to a cleaner milk supply.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Goodrich (Hackney, North)
It is not my intention to speak at length, but I feel in duty bound to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill, although it may seem strange that a Londoner, such as myself, should have the temerity to talk of milk herds and tuberculin tested milk. In my view, this Bill is worthy of the Minister, but it does not go far enough. It lays down, in very careful wording, what the Minister requires for the children under the charge of the Ministries; but it deals only with the milk as we are getting it today. It is on that point that I address the House. There is a danger of an argument developing as to the respective merits of T.T. milk and pasteurised milk which I should very much regret. Members may consider that pasteurised milk is a good alternative to tuberculin tested milk. It may be argued that it will take a very long time to get sufficient tuberculin tested cattle. In this connection, I should like to give the House my experience of breeding tuberculin tested herds. I was chairman for 10 years of the London County Council Farming Operations Committee. Arising out of a discussion 1643 we had as to the best supply of milk we decided in 1934–5 to breed a tuberculin tested herd. At that time the Minister of Agriculture, and his advisers, were against a tuberculin tested herd. He encouraged pasteurisation, the argument being that there were grave doubts as to whether we should succeed in breeding a T.T. herd, and that rather than take the risk we should go in for pasteurisation. We did not accept his advice, and we bought 13 in-calf Ayrshires. That was in 1935, and by 1939 we had succeeded in building up a herd of 1,500, producing T.T. milk. My great concern at that time was that instead of the milk going to the children and into the general hospitals, it was going into the mental hospitals. That is an idea of what can be done in five years, in spite of the fact that it has been said that it will take up to 10 years to get the sort of milk we want.
It may be argued that this is all very well when public money is involved, but that the farmer who has to use his own capital will think twice about it. Those of us who travel about the countryside cannot have failed to notice the condition of our farms. We know the difficulties of the farmers in obtaining the sort of equipment they ought to have and in reconditioning their buildings. It is possible to go to certain farms where money has been wisely spent and see milk taken straight from the cow and put into sealed receptacles where it cannot be contaminated. That sort of thing can be done only with the most up-to-date equipment. There are far too many farmers who are unable, for financial reasons, to equip themselves with the necessary up-to-date equipment. I am not in a position to know all the facts and what is being done to encourage T.T. herds, but at one time there was a bonus payment given on the second test for reaction.
If we are serious about this question of milk, we have to start with the farmer and not with the retailer. We must see that the farmer is supplied with the materials to enable him to rebuild and to obtain the equipment he requires. It is far better for the Government to spend money in a preventive sense than in a palliative sense. I am sure that the Minister of Food is concerned to see that 1644 the public obtains food in the best possible form, and I urge him to consult the Minister of Agriculture with a view to bringing in a Bill to help farmers to rebuild and equip their farms.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
I remember this question of pasteurisation of milk being quite a feature at the last Election. It was a matter in which many of the farmers in my area took a great interest. I have my doubts whether they are as convinced as the Parliamentary Secretary of the advisability of the measures being taken. They will regard this Bill as something to put difficulties in the way of producer-retailers, and as something that will undoubtedly have the effect of increasing the powers and opportunities of the Co-operative societies, especially those situated in industrial areas surrounded by farming country, as in Yorkshire and Lancashire. This has been a very notable day so far as concessions from the Ministry of Food are concerned. We have been told that milk will be de-rationed during the summer flush period, which I hope spells the end of milk rationing. I hope it will not be found necessary again to ration milk after the summer.
Other hon. Members have mentioned a point which my own farmers have brought to my notice, concerning T.T. milk. The farmers have gone to great expense to produce it, only to see it mixed in bulk with milk from other sources and disappear into the industrial towns. Another point which distresses me about the Bill is one that sems inseparable from this new type of Socialist legislation. It is that the Bill creates a number of new offences. It is a little hard on the farming community, who are already beset with enforcement officers, inspectors and all sorts of government officials who harry and worry them while they are trying to carry out their task of producing the country's food, that we now have another Bill which creates a number of new offences. Another point is that I am not entirely convinced about the benefits of pasteurisation. I feel that unpasteurised milk, even thought it might contain tubercular infection, has the effect of building up gradual resistance against tuberculosis within the person who is taking the milk. If it is taken from an early age in that form, one gradually becomes immune to the complaint itself.
§ Dr. Summerskill
That argument was advanced 50 years ago. If the hon. Member's argument is to be logically carried out, may I ask whether he would be prepared to give to his own children milk containing tubercule bacilli in order that his own child should be immunised in that way against tuberculosis?
§ Mr. Drayson
I have taken the risk of giving my child milk as it has come from the farms in my own constituency.
§ Mr. Drayson
There is no guarantee that when the whole country has pasteurised milk, if that is what is envisaged, we shall not lose our resistance to tubercular infection. I look forward to a time when not a drop of pasteurised milk will be sold in this country and all our herds will be T.T. attested. There will then be no need for the pasteurising process. Methods of handling milk from the source to the consumer will be hygienic, and the possibility of infection will not have to be taken into account. I regard the Bill as a stop-gap Measure to tide us over to the period when we shall have eliminated all tuberculous animals from our herds.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food most warmly upon having had the opportunity of bringing this Measure before the House. When one remembers the long years of propaganda she has carried out for pure milk in this country, one realises that this opportunity must have afforded her great satisfaction. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) said that the degree of enthusiasm with which one would welcome the Bill depended upon what one hoped to get out of it. I have no hesitation in saying that I know exactly what I want to get out of the Bill, it is the end of preventable suffering in young children.
§ Mrs. Manning
I should have to take the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) on a slow boat to China before I could convince him about anything that I am going to say now.
§ Mrs. Manning
A slow boat to China would do. I was horrified to hear the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) say that "only" half of one per cent. of the children of this country died from having taken milk infected with tuberculosis. I should have thought that proportion was quite large enough, but the deaths of the children are a very small degree—
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I am not justifying that figure. I merely said that was the figure from tuberculous milk and that more children died from tuberculosis due to lack of milk.
§ Mrs. Manning
I do not agree with that remark, especially in these days. Under a Socialist Government children do not die from lack of milk. The question of children dying from the effects of having taken infected milk, is only a very small part of the whole problem. We have to remember the number of children who suffer most distressingly as a result of the effects of tuberculosis. Their number cannot be computed. Whatever figures might have been given in the House today are a conservative estimate of the real position.
Let us take the question of tubercular glands. These may be excised in a village by the general practitioner and nobody knows anything about it. The source of a great deal of this suffering among children never comes to light. For a considerable part of my professional career, I was engaged in teaching in an open-air school children who suffered from the results of tubercular joints. Anybody who has seen bedridden children, or children on a stretcher all day in the sunshine, suffering from a T.B. hip or a T.B. spine, and has seen the wistful look in the eyes of such children when they have seen other children joining in games and generally enjoying the full life of a child, would greet the Bill with the utmost possible enthusiasm.
Many Members have raised the question of whether it would not be better to go straight for tuberculin tested herds. I am in two minds about that matter myself. I remember that I spoke during the Debate upon the Veterinary Surgeons Bill. One of the reasons why I welcomed that Bill was that I felt it would hasten the day when all our herds would be tuberculin tested. I am glad that hon. Members from Scotland have the right 1647 to be proud of the number of tuberculin tested herds that they have in their country. I am glad that America has taken the step that it has taken, and has made milk the most popular drink, except perhaps for Scotch whisky, in the United States today. But I fear that it will be impossible to hasten, to the extent that we would like, the process of establishing tuberculin tested herds everywhere. Therefore, we must go ahead with pasteurisation, side by side with our efforts to deal with the herds.
§ Sir W. Darling
Is the hon. Lady aware that one county in Scotland has in 12 months improved its percentage by 20 per cent.?
§ Mrs. Manning
Yes, I was going to say—do not get so excited—that in some parts of Wales good work is also being done, and I pay my tribute to it. I hope that the Ministries of Food and Agriculture will make a co-operative effort in this matter. As was mentioned in another place, the Ministry of Agriculture is going over the country, district by district, to establish tuberculin tested herds, and that is a very fruitful field of co-operation between the two Ministries which I hope will not be neglected. I join with other hon. Members who have asked for speedier work in cleaning up our herds and I hope that the work will be proceeded with; but that does not make me any the less enthusiastic about this Measure, with which we must proceed at the same time. By the time we have got every herd in the country tuberculin tested, perhaps we can drop pasteurisation. For I am not one of those people who think we must have our tuberculin tested milk pasteurised as well. If it is tuberculin tested, that is enough.
The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) and the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen raised the question of the small retailer-producer having his milk back, in order to bottle it. The hon. Member for West Aberdeen was a little naive when he spoke in favour of these retailer-producers and finished up by telling us the story of the small retailer-producer who 1648 went round with a cart saying that his milk was tuberculin tested when the cows had only been tested and nobody knew what was the result of the test. That was not very logical of the hon. Member.
In regard to both tuberculin tested and pasteurised milk, we ought to finish the process in one go. I would like tuberculin tested milk to be bottled on the farm. We should then be sure about it. That could be done. I should like such provision to be put in the Bill. We should then know, first, that we had tuberculin farm bottled milk of which everyone could be sure, and also that tuberculin tested milk would not be wasted by being bulked with non-tested milk. Of all the foolish things, that is the most foolish. To go to the extreme trouble and expense of producing tuberculin tested milk and then mixing it with other milk which has not been tested is the very height of un-wisdom, is most uneconomic, and is a very great discouragement to the farmers—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Would the hon. Lady disapprove of the present method adopted by a great many farmers where the milk goes straight from the cooler, without touching a human hand, into the churns, is sealed at once and goes to the Milk Marketing Board for distribution in the cities? If not, it will be extremely difficult to get T.T. milk from the country districts in bottles in time for distribution in the towns.
§ Mrs. Manning
I know that the process that the hon. Member for West Aberdeen has described is a good one. Nevertheless, the less the milk is moved about, the less risk is taken. I would be much happier to see the milk bottled on the farms. Milk bottled on the farm would be the safest and best, and milk treated as the hon. Member suggests could be regarded as second-best. I hope that the Minister will not for a moment consider pasteurised milk going back to the small retailer to be bottled, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen, for that will undo all the good that has been done. May I conclude by saying that I am enthusiastic in support of the Bill, and that I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on having brought it forward, for I am sure that it will be the means of ending a great deal of preventable suffering among our young children.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) will agree with me when I say that we are at one about the object of the Bill. However, judging by her last remarks I feel that she is mixing up ends and means. None of us can deny the fact that it is desirable that as many people as possible shall have safe milk. I say "safe" rather than "clean" because pasteurisation will not make milk clean if it has been produced in dirty surroundings.
During the Debate the suggestion has cropped up—it may crop up more in the official world afterwards—that tuberculin tested milk should be mixed with pasteurised milk and that it should be pasteurised as well as non-tuberculin tested milk. Since 1945 I have started a small Jersey tuberculin tested herd. That is not a particularly easy thing to start, particularly if the people involved in it have not been used to tuberculin tested procedure. Apart from the capital expenditure which is considerable, many old ways have to be unlearnt as well as new ways learnt, and it is often harder to unlearn an old method than to learn something new. All this involves the farmer in a considerable amount of expense, time and patience.
If we are to find that after all this expenditure of time patience and capital, the milk produced by these tuberculin tested herds has to be pasteurised as well, I know what my reaction will be, and I am certain that it will be the reaction of many farmers who have done what I have. They will say, "Very well, we will chuck all the rules and regulations, produce as much milk as we can, take no trouble about the quality and then have it pasteurised and leave it at that." That is the last thing that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary want. I hope that we shall not hear any more of the suggestion that tuberculin tested should be pooled with other milk.
My next point relates to equipment, utensils and so on. This is a very important subject, and it was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). Steel has been in very short supply during the War, having been diverted to other purposes, and there is not an excessive amount of tinplate available. The only utensils which are really safe for 1650 dairy work are those of stainless steel, and it is extremely difficult for farmers to get them at present. They are also very expensive. If the right hon. Gentleman really wants T.T. milk produced all over the country and that milk not to be contaminated in transit, there is nothing he can do more likely to achieve that than making it possible for farmers to get stainless steel utensils, churns, etc. One of the surest ways of encouraging the dairy farmer to produce clean milk would be for the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to come to an arrangement whereby a considerable supply of these utensils could be made available through the Ministry. Such utensils might almost be loaned to the farmers. Only in that way shall we get utensils of the requisite standard.
There are people who are prepared to take a chance now and then. I do not know if the right hon. Lady ever looks inside milk churns these days. She would get a nasty shock if she did so. Nothing contaminates milk quicker than rust, and today a great many churns are being used not only for pasteurised milk, but also for tuberculin tested milk, which are very far from being in a perfect condition. I am not suggesting that they are not sterilised. They are, in almost every case, but even sterilisation will not repair the harm which rust can, do inside a churn. Even a little speck of rust caused by the tinplate wearing off can do untold damage to the milk. I hope that the Minister realises this. The last thing I want to do is to discourage people from believing that tuberculin tested or pasteurised milk is safe, but the fact remains that we are in very great need of more capital re-equipment in the dairy industry and no item is in more need of attention than utensils.
As to pasteurisation, I have here a reprint of an article which appeared in the "Medical World" in 1938. There was an interesting point in it. It said:We find that most authorities advise the giving of orange juice to infants fed entirely on pasteurised milk.The reason given for that was that pasteurised milk tended—I do not say it actually reduced it—to produce scurvy. The latest figures I can find are for 1945 and I am glad to have discovered that there were only three babies between six months and 12 months who died from scurvy in Great Britain in that year.
1651 I think it is important for us to realise that pasteurisation does something to the milk that is not altogether to the good, and it has to be compensated for in some way. During the war years, and since, there has been a plentiful supply of orange juice for babies, and I assume that it is considered by the nutritional experts to be necessary. I hope we shall have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the researches made into this matter confirm him in his decision to go ahead with pasteurisation, and that we shall not neglect to provide what is considered by the experts to be necessary if pasteurisation is adopted.
I believe that pasteurisation is the wrong end at which to start. There is no industry more than the agricultural industry which requires capital to put it on its feet. The dairying side of it perhaps requires most because it involves buildings as well as livestock. Many buildings, especially wooden ones, need great attention, and there are some excellent ways of overcoming the difficulty in the case of the latter. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has ever looked into the possibility of obtaining aluminium sheeting? That is an extremely satisfactory way of walling the inside of a cow-shed and in a sufficiently healthy way to pass the rules and regulations concerned with T.T. milk. It would save many pounds spent on bricks and mortar and it would mean that many existing buildings could be adapted which otherwise would have to be pulled down. Now that the aircraft industry is not working at such high pressure as it was during the war, it is conceivable that we might be able to use more aluminium for that purpose than hitherto.
I hope I have given the right hon. Gentleman some constructive suggestions and, if he cannot accept them all now, I hope he will consider and see if he can carry out some of them. If the farmers are to provide us with good milk, the most important thing is to get the capital into the farms, either in the form of equipment or cash.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I am glad to join in this Debate in which every speaker has approved of the Bill in one way or another, and in which it has been officially announced by the 1652 Opposition Front Bench that they will not oppose the Bill.
I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary say that she regarded this as her finest hour. It recalled to me vividly the occasion in 1938 when I went to a constituency where she was standing at a by-election. I said to her, "Do you want me to talk about Foreign Affairs or milk? I would rather talk about milk." She said, "For Heaven's sake talk about milk. It is much more important." I think that represented a sensible and rational point of view. These matters concern us vitally. I do not mean to say that Foreign Affairs must not be looked after, for they need a great deal of attention, but what the ordinary citizen is concerned about are the things of daily life, of which food—particularly milk, which is the food of children—is extremely important.
It was suggested by one hon. Gentleman opposite that mothers had been alarmed by the remarks of an hon. Member on this side, with regard to the amount of infection of milk. Such alarm can be safely allayed when it is understood that in London 97 per cent. of all the milk used is pasteurised. In this field women know how safe they are and how the health of their children is benefited.
I rise to bring to the notice of the House the fact that a fortnight ago, when this Bill was receiving preliminary consideration, the medical group in Parliament was approached by a group of medical officers of health. The medical group in Parliament includes hon. Members of all parties who are doctors, and I am the chairman. We were visited in the House and had consultations with, among others, the Medical Officer of Health of Kensington and the Medical Officer of Health of Essex. The House should know that they were strongly in favour of this Bill as being not only desirable but necessary in the interests of an improved milk supply. I concur in giving this Bill my strong support. I venture to think that all the questions which will come up on the Committee stage are practical points, and not theoretical dilemmas such as have been posed by hon. Members who seem to pose them more frequently the further they are removed from either the scientific or the agricultural side of the industry.
1653 The first question I would ask the Minister is, what powers will be placed in the hands of local health authorities to enable them to ensure cleanliness on the farm? Is he sure that under the provisions of this Bill they will have the necessary powers to carry out inspection? Uncleanliness on farms is still quite common. Recently I visited two unclean farms, one in Essex, one in North Wales. There are farms in remote districts in all parts of the country where elementary cleanliness is not observed.
My second question is with regard to the period of five to 10 years which the Parliamentary Secretary laid down as the period during which reforms would be brought into operation. Can the Minister say by what stages and in what areas it will be done? Could my right hon. Friend give some indication of how the difficulties in the remote districts compare with those in districts more easily accessible to big urban areas, and will he state the general plan of operation? I suppose the operations will be carried out through the medium of orders, and that those orders will come before the House. That will give the House the opportunity of considering questions that require detailed examination. As a matter of practical experience, it seems to me that five to 10 years is a reasonable estimate of the time required. I hope it will not be longer, I do not think it need be, but I doubt very much if it could be shorter. Like every other hon. Member who has spoken, I welcome the Bill heartily and wish it a speedy passage to the Statute Book.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
In presenting the Bill the Parliamentary Secretary referred to this as her finest hour. Everybody joins in congratulating her, and we are glad that her finest hour will be associated with milk and not with blood. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) remarked that Scotland was being dragged at the tail of a dirty English cow, but I should like to point out that Scotland has, in fact, been more advanced than England and Wales in this matter. Rather than make any disparagement of our English friends, we should pride ourselves that in Scotland we have pioneered the clean milk idea and that it has been done only with the co-operation of all sections of the farming industry. The reason is not, as 1654 the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. Lewis) suggested rather remarkably, that there is less tubercular milk in Scotland because we import our dairy herds from Ireland. That is a most novel suggestion, and anybody who had seen the various methods of milking employed in Ireland and Scotland would have no doubt at all that that view could be held only by someone whose research and experience in agriculture and dairy cattle had been confined to Bolton.
In referring to the pure milk supply in Ayrshire the hon. Member for South Edinburgh rightly pointed out that 85 per cent. of the Ayrshire herds are tuberculin tested. That state of affairs has only been possible after a long period of careful co-operation between the, farming interests, the Hannah Dairy Research Institute and the Auchincruive Agricultural College. I had a good many years' experience as a member of the public health committee in Ayrshire. Every month we dealt with questions regarding farmers whose milk was not up to standard, but we were able to obtain the greatest co-operation from both landlords and farmers, who were keenly determined to maintain their reputation for good milk. In addition to the other problems confronting us in that committee, farmers protested against the reports of sanitary inspectors and complained about the lack of necessary facilities to make their herds 100 per cent. tuberculin tested. One complaint was that there was not sufficient facility for the electrical machine method of milking.
In the early part of this year I had the opportunity to go round the farms of Ayrshire with the Departmental Committee presided over by Mr. Phillips, K.C. During that time I visited all kinds of farms, including the very large farm at Monkton, in Prestwich, which, the hon. Member for South Edinburgh may be interested to learn, is the largest of its kind, has the largest herd and has been able to get a very large amount of capital into its project, because it happens to be owned by the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society. The farmers of Ayrshire pay tribute to the way this farm is run and I am quite sure that when the report of the Departmental Committee is presented to the Secretary of State for Scotland it will contain a deserving tribute to the pioneering work which has been done. Even in the cowsheds there 1655 are colour schemes for the cows. The manager of the farm assured us that the various colour schemes had a good effect upon milk production. He went so far as to remark that in that part of the country the cows seemed to be much better cared for than the people who lived in the district.
I suggest that when the Minister considers the giving of grants for the activities provided for in the Bill something should be done to encourage the development of electrical milking, which is a very great aid to cleanliness. Clean cowsheds and byres are essential. Those who have seen electrical milking machinery in use will agree that it is far in advance of other methods. Although some farmers use machines operated by petrol, electricity is by far the most economical and efficient method. I urge the Minister, therefore, to do all he can to see that electricity is introduced as quickly as possible into our cowsheds. The result will be a general improvement in the opportunities for farmers for, apart from milking machinery, electricity is necessary for lighting purposes. Both the Minister of Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland should endeavour to see that as many farms as possible are provided with electricity and water supplies. Many farmers are working under great disadvantages at present.
I was interested in the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) for the introduction of aluminium sheeting into cowsheds, for I see very little hope, in the present state of the building industry, of obtaining the clean and hygienic byres which are necessary. I see no prospect in the immediate future of transferring our labour resources from housing to cowsheds. I hope, however, that the Minister of Food will support the suggestion, in order to have healthy cowsheds built, that he should give his powerful support to those of us who are demanding that the whole question of getting more building labour for farms should be considered in its every aspect, and that he should do his utmost to support us when we argue that new farm buildings are necessary all over the countryside. If we are to obtain the buildings which are required, the necessary labour must be made available. At a time when we shall be faced with this problem of providing 1656 labour for the buildings so badly needed by farmers, I welcome the constructive suggestion that an experiment should be made with aluminium as a possible aid in the construction of new buildings.
The question of tuberculosis is concerned not merely with that of milk. As the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) pointed out last week, we are face to face with the fact that, with all our housing, there has been an alarming increase in the tuberculosis rate. That is a very serious problem with which we are confronted in Scotland. A committee is considering how far this rise in the rate of tuberculosis is due to infected milk, or to bad housing. I hope that when their report is presented, we may be prepared to act immediately and drastically on the recommendations. We have to remember that there is the problem of tuberculosis not only among cattle, but also among human beings who tend the cattle. Until we can assure the cleanliness of those who milk the cows, we shall be faced with the problem of tuberculosis due to uncleanliness on the farm.
This question of clean milk cannot be divorced from the question of housing in the countryside and I hope the Minister of Food will look beyond the immediate provisions of this Bill and use his influence on the larger question of bringing people on to the land, so that we can have a healthy countryside with people living in houses with water supplies and conveniences where they can practise the arts of cleanliness and bring clean hands to the milking of cows. I welcome this Bill as a step forward and hope that as a result in a few years' time we in Scotland will be able to say that we have pioneered the way and that we are getting, in all parts of the country, that for which we have fought and struggled for so long.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)
It is a pleasure to wind up so uncontroversial and constructive a Debate as we have had. The Bill has been welcomed on all sides, with varying degrees of warmth, but at any rate welcomed, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend to whom this is a great moment on having introduced the Bill after campaigning so long for it. It only remains for me to deal with one or two points raised by 1657 hon. Members and try to give some answers, although I think that a good many of those points will come up more specifically on Committee stage.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) raised the issue of whether we ought not to pasteurise even T.T. milk at some future date. He was followed by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) who deplored that very much. This Bill makes no provision for that and I do not pretend to know whether, scientifically, that ought to be done, but, quite certainly, before looking at whether we should do that we should pasteurise, or in other ways make safe, that 30 per cent. Of milk we could not claim to be safe in this country—that is the simple purpose of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare also raised the subject, which was raised by other hon. Members, of the small producer-retailer. I think it would be unfair on our part to suggest that this Bill does not call for some effort from the producer, effort which may cause him some inconvenience in responding to it. I think it does. We are asking him to put his house in order in regard to the provision of safe milk and it will be an effort, but we are giving him ample time to do it under the Bill. I shall deal with the question of time in a moment; some might say that we were taking too long about it. We are giving ample time and, in his best interests, the time has come when we must ask of the producer-retailer, by one means or another, to make his milk safe for human consumption. That is why we must and shall apply the principles of this Bill to him.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) was, I think, most critical because he had strong objections to pasteurisation. He made a statement, which I would not wish to let go without contradiction in this House, that half the food value of milk was destroyed by pasteurisation. He was challenged to produce any evidence in support of that statement and he produced none, but told us that he was just asserting that. That is all he was doing. Let me assure him and the House that it is not the case. It really is known what pasteurisation does to milk. It does do something; it reduces—and the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) was on this point—it re- 1658 duces the vitamin "C" content, slightly. If there is a vitamin "C" shortage from other sources, for instance if children cannot be supplied with oranges, or some other suitable source, that is a disadvantage, but, so far as science can show, that is the only ill effect of pasteurisation and that, of course, is not a nutritional effect in the strict sense of the word. It is a gross misrepresentation to suggest that pasteurisation has any serious nutritional effect on milk.
That does not mean, of course, that we do not agree with many of the statements made about the desirability of what was suggested, perhaps as an alternative course, although I do not think it a true alternative, of eliminating the tubercular reactors among the herd and getting attested herds generally throughout the country. Of course, that is highly desirable and the financial inducements, which are the way of getting that result, are quite unaffected by this Bill. But the figures surely show that while we have 40 per cent. of our dairy cattle reacting to that test, any drastic policy of doing that in a short time would be absolutely disastrous, not only to the farmers but to the supply of milk in this country. We cannot hope to achieve that in a short time but must use the only effective method, in the short run, of getting safe milk for our population which is the more and more widespread pasteurisation of milk.
The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) asked the specific question, why the Bill did not apply to Northern Ireland. The answer is a simple one. Northern Ireland, to its credit, has had a similar Bill on the Statute Book for the past six years and they are ahead of us. As a fellow Scottish Member of the hon. Gentleman I am afraid I must admit that they are ahead of us in Scotland in this field, and are certainly ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom by a long way.
Several hon. Members asked what we were doing about the provision of extra plant and equipment. That is not fully my responsibility, but it is partly a Government responsibility and we are devoting a very substantial share of available capital resources—stainless steel, aluminium, and other valuable resources—to the agricultural industry. But we cannot devote it all to the agricultural 1659 industry as we have the great export trades of the country to cater for and agriculture can only have a certain share. They are certainly having the biggest share they have ever had, which I think is right, considering the importance of agriculture but it can only be a limited share—
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is answering me, but I pointed out that we are exporting 40 per cent. of our dairy machinery and I asked if we still intend to go on exporting 40 per cent. although, apparently, we have to wait 10 years, partly because of lack of machinery, before all the benefits of this Bill can be brought into operation.
§ Mr. Strachey
I cannot, of course, commit myself to the percentage in future years. It must depend on circumstances, our need for dollars, the destination of exports and the like. Certainly I should very much like to have a higher proportion of that machinery to aid the spread of pasteurisation more rapidly; that is the real limiting factor in all this matter. If we could even get a 50–50 division it would help us, but this is a very important and valuable dollar earning export trade, and we cannot take the whole of it for home consumption, however much we should like to do so. There is some prospect that we may be able gradually to increase that percentage or at any rate the amount, as more machinery becomes available.
I think it was the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) who asked whether those who handled milk could not be medically examined, and whether some provision for that should not be included in this Bill. That is undoubtedly a desirable objective. I am not quite sure whether it could be included in this Bill. The point might be examined during the Committee stage. I am sure that it is nothing which the Government would not in principle support.
The hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) introduced a slightly more controversial note. He told us that this Bill was Socialist legislation. This is a safe milk Bill, and I should never have dreamed of claiming that, but if he says so I am most willing to accept that statement.
§ Mr. Strachey
This Bill, over a period of years, makes it an offence to sell unsafe milk. That can perhaps be considered to be Socialist legislation. I think it is a very good idea that it should be but I should not have claimed that, any more than that I should have dreamed of claiming that the sale of tubercular infected milk was Tory policy. Curiously enough, the hon. Member went on to imply very strongly that that really was his view. He told us that he did not really believe in this idea of making milk safe by pasteurisation or other methods, because if we fed our children on tubercular milk it built up their resistance, and by the survival of the fittest, they would be healthier and stronger people. We could apply that not only to tubercular milk but to other evils from which the body social suffers. I am bound to say that sounded to me to be one of the most convincing arguments for having a Conservative administration in this country which I have heard. If it were true that the worse the conditions in which the people of this country lived the better, I could see the point for a change of administration, but I certainly would not have introduced that rather more controversial note into our Debate.
The only two remaining points I have to answer were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). He asked me whether local authorities will have powers under this Bill to enforce cleanliness on farms. The answer is "No." That matter is not covered by this Bill in one way or the other but the responsibility for important measures of enforcement is being changed, not under this Bill, but under the Food and Drugs (Milk and Dairies) Act, 1944. In the Autumn of this year the responsibility for the enforcement of cleanliness on the farms, which is most important, will pass from the local authorities to the Minister of Agriculture. It is vitally important, just as important in some ways, as the provisions of this Bill, that that should be enforced.
My hon. Friend asked me for my view of the period in which the provisions of this Bill should be brought into effect, and whether I considered that the five to 10 1661 years' period mentioned by my right hon. Friend in her speech was a reasonable one. Yes, I think that we cannot expect a complete clean up in less than some such period, largely because of the rate at which new pasteurisation machinery can come into supply and operation in this country. One is bound to admit that this Bill does hasten slowly. Under Clause 4 we cannot—and hon. Members who made this point are quite right—ban the sale of unsafe milk—milk which has not been pasteurised—for five years, even in a designated area. I admit that that is a long time in which to tolerate the grave consequences of the sale of unsafe milk which have been described by medical authorities on both sides of the House this afternoon. But at least it shows that we are certainly not open to any charge of riding roughshod over the agricultural and other trade interests here concerned. We are giving them a long time in which to put their house in order before we introduce compulsory powers which prevent the sale of any unsafe milk of any kind.
This Bill at all events does make a start with the really vital task of ridding the country of something which has been in the nature of a national disgrace—that an appreciable percentage of milk in this country has been unsafe, above all for the children of this country, to drink. It will not be an easy or a short job to end that state of affairs altogether, although we can make steady progress with that task. Some progress has been made, and that progress can be more rapid from now on. We claim that when this Measure has been put upon the Statute Book, we shall have taken another long step forward towards getting rid of this unsatisfactory state of things.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.