HC Deb 24 June 1953 vol 516 cc2053-68

10.37 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Milk (Great Britain) Order, 1953 (S.I., 1953, No. 726), dated 28th April, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th April, be annulled. It would probably meet the convenience of the House, Mr. Speaker, if we had a general discussion on the subject matter of this and the following two Prayers, one of which deals with milk and the other with rice. Then, if necessary, the Prayers could be put separately.

Mr. Speaker

Milk and rice go very well together, and if the House agrees I consent to that course.

Mr. Willey

We have debated rice on Prayers twice before. The facts are that under the present Government, in less than two years the price of rice has gone up by 5d., whereas under the Labour Government in 6½ years the price went up by 3d., although while we were in office the shortage of rice was much more acute than now.

The reason, presumably, for the measure of decontrol which this Order is proposing to enforce is that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister envisage further price increases, and they are going to do with regard to rice what they have done with regard to other foodstuffs, ran away from their responsibility, let the price go up, and leave the housewife to fend for herself. The Parliamentary Secretary can say, as he has said before, that it is not a very important matter for the British housewife, because we consume in this country only 100,000 tons out of the 4 million tons which go on the world market. If that is the Parliamentary Secretary's view, our representatives on the recent International Conference on Rice ought to have said that. They ought not to have discussed seriously, as they did, the necessity for countries resorting to alternatives for rice to relieve the world shortage. I have said before that the action which the Parliamentary Secretary has taken is antisocial. Indeed, it is disruptive of our influence in the Far East. I hope that Lord Beaverbrook will have something pungent to say about the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary.

To deal with milk: We have had these Prayers down for two previous occasions and the Parliamentary Secretary has probably rehearsed very carefully what he is going to say about milk. He has every need to do that. Those who brief him may well wish they could give him the sack. Alternatively, he may wish he could give them the sack. I do not know. On every occasion that the hon. Gentleman has spoken on the subject of milk, he has spoken a lot of nonsense. The first occasion on which we protested about price increase in milk, he said that consumption had risen, despite that increase; but, when we obtained the official figures which showed a decrease, his statement was shown to be absolute nonsense and was later admitted to be so by both the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. On the second occasion, the Parliamentary Secretary admitted that there was a decrease in consumption. This was in July, but he claimed that in that month the decrease had been only 3 per cent. Then we got the official statistics, which showed that the decrease was, in fact, six times as great.

In December, knowing that the decrease was so obvious, that it was fatuous to rest on the defence which he had used before, the Parliamentary Secretary said. "Oh well, look at school milk." That, he said, had not had a price increase, but consumption had gone down. For the third time we had this inaccurate, irrelevant nonsense; for we found when we got the official figures that whereas the consumption of full-price liquid milk had gone down in 1952, consumption in the schools had risen in 1952 by 5 per cent. It was also argued that although there might have been a decrease in consumption of full-price milk, it had nothing to do with the retail price.

At that time, the Ministry's officials were negotiating with the dairymen on the subject of margins, and conceded to them that there had been a decrease of 2 per cent., and that that was due to the increase in retail prices. That was what the Ministry told the retailers, and I want to tell the hon. Gentleman that it is not good enough for one thing to be said in this House while another is told to the traders outside with whom the Ministry is negotiating. It is an affront to this House.

Again, the hon. Gentleman told us that if one did not get milk because it was too expensive, one had milk in the form of butter and cheese; but he did not say that while milk consumption was going down, the cheese and butter rations were quite inadequate. Next, he resorted to the silliest comment of all when he told us that if there was no doubt that there was decreased consumption, nevertheless it was the wealthy people who were not drinking so much milk.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

Quite right.

Mr. Willey

I am not surprised at that interruption, because the hon. Member would support his hon. Friend in any of the nonsense he talks. If the Parliamentary Secretary was right we would have heard from the Housewives' League, but in fact we have heard nothing about this from the Housewives' League. I had a communication from the League a few days ago drawing my attention to the fact that there was fluorine in the water supplies in Alberta, but there was nothing about milk in this country; and if that section of the people was being hard hit, the League would be the first to tell us about the fact.

In the first 12 months following the first price increase, the consumption of fresh milk fell by 30 million gallons; and the decrease has gone on during the last six months, over and above the 2 per cent. decrease to which I have referred. In December last we had a decrease of 1½ million gallons compared with the decreased consumption of 12 months before. In January the figure was 1,400,000 gallons, in February between 2 and 3 million, after making the adjustment—which the Ministry usually fails to make—for the fact that last year was a leap year, and in March 1,700,000 gallons. In April we had a reduction of 1,600,000 gallons. In other words, the reduction in consumption is now not 2 per cent.; it is between 3 per cent. and 4 per cent., compared with the consumption as it was under a Labour Government.

The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister have reversed the trend of increasing consumption and have reduced it today to less than it was in 1950. It is against this background that the Parlia- mentary Secretary and the Minister introduce this present Order which I say at once, does not substantially alter the milk prices as an average over the 12 months.

I have three complaints to make against this Order. First, why was it so suddenly announced? Why are the Ministry so flat-footed? Why cannot they consult the distributors? We have had this situation arising time after time. With every change that is made we get these complaints from the retailers, wholesalers and other distributors. Why should the Ministry do it when the distributors themselves say—and I quote from their official journal: All retailers view the introduction of these seasonal prices with the utmost dismay"? Is that why the Ministry did not consult them?

The second complaint is that in spite of the impression created by the Minister and the Department, this Order does reduce the milk subsidy. That is a plain matter of arithmetic. It means a reduction of the milk subsidy, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what is the figure. It is a very back-handed way of reducing the subsidy. Why should he not come out in the open and tell us what he is doing? In fact, he has further slightly increased the cost of milk to the consumer over the present 12 months.

The retailers say—and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, if he disagrees with it, to say why—that seasonal prices have always reacted disadvantageously on consumption. Let us take the position as it is. The National Farmers' Union have said, following the February Price Review, that the Government made it quite clear to the farmers that they did not want to increase milk consumption, because they did not want either to increase the subsidy or, alternatively, to increase retail prices. Is the policy of Her Majesty's Government based purely on financial considerations? As I have said time after time, the real culprit is not taking part in the debate today. It is the Treasury. Are the Treasury running the Ministry of Food now? Are they saying that for financial reasons the nutritional benefits of increased milk consumption are to be thrown overboard?

The next complaint is that the dairymen also suggest that this action is deliberately taken to decrease consumption. They say, in their official journal, the "Milk Industry": Another more potent reason may have been in the minds of the Ministry in making monthly variations in the price of milk. In July, 1952, when the retail price went to 6½d. per pint, that rise lowered the level of retail sales. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food a month or so later justified … the action taken by stating that consumption had apparently fallen by no more than 1.7 per cent. to 1.9 per cent. Most retailers would have placed the effect far greater for many were known to have suffered local variations of from 2 per cent. to 5 per cent. That price rise, by its timing, did however have the effect of curtailing, at the very moment when the usual autumn shortage of supplies was about to assert itself, and the steep increase to 7d. per pint which is proposed for August, 1953 may be sure to so depress the level of sales this autumn that no shortage problem will occur and no schemes for the equitable distribution of milk will be necessary. Any short term blessing in this direction will be far outweighed by the long-term fall in demand for milk which will continue throughout the winter and into the spring of next year, even though the price will have reverted in November to its present standard. They go on to estimate what the effect of this price of 7d. a pint will be and say: One must anticipate a further loss of throughput of not less than 2 per cent. on national totals with but little compensation for extra sales during May or June. The fact that retail prices will have reverted to 6½d. in November will not restore the position, for the public reaction to a jolt is swift and sudden, and the following rise is so slow that consumers grow accustomed to a lesser demand. The price has obviously had and will have an effect on consumption. I would not argue, as the Parliamentary Secretary does, too much from current figures. But there has been no decrease in the consumption of milk this month, taking the figures we have been given, and perhaps the decrease of price this month has held the decrease in consumption. It is quite clear, if the retailers are right, that what the Parliamentary Secretary is seeking to do by this Order is to depress the consumption of milk later this year, and that by the autumn the consumption of milk will be running at 6 per cent. less than it was under a Labour Government. Does the hon. Gentleman regard that decrease as significant? The only ground left to him now is to say there is a decrease but that it is not significant. He should have the courage to tell the House what he thinks is a significant decrease. This is playing ducks and drakes with the nutritional standards of this country.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

Poultry Order.

Mr. Willey

I am making a different point. If that point be in order, it will be made later. Both parties were committed to maintain those nutritional standards. If the Parliamentary Secretary was true to what he said in the past, he would resign his office and get out of it.

10.53 p.m.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

I beg to second the Motion. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rum and milk."] I observe that hon. Members opposite who are interested in the matter seem to have reinforced themselves—I am not quite sure that the reinforcement has taken the form of the subject we are discussing. I have my doubts, but I do not believe it would be in order to say any more.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that the milk supply and its increasing consumption from the point of view of public policy and public health is one of the important issues that the Government should always have clearly in their minds. I am not going into details of the increase, if the Parliamentary Secretary is going to prove that, or of the decrease in consumption, which I think my hon. Friend has proved. I am going to say that if there are to be any serious alterations in the price, any great alteration in the periods when price changes are made, or any inconveniences in the length of the periods, that can lead to a fall in the consumption of milk, then it is a very serious and wrong action to have taken.

I am arguing with the Parliamentary Secretary that at a time when milk consumption should increase in this country, as it is increasing in other countries, when we should be in a position to have per head of the population at least a consumption similar to that existing in America, there should be a much more careful appraisal of the problem facing us by the Government.

On the issue of milk for school children, about which there is a differ- ence of opinion between the Government and my hon. Friend, the figures in the Monthly Digest of Statistics show a remarkable fall in consumption. No matter who is right, the milk supplied through schools was never intended to be all the milk that children consumed; the scheme was intended to guarantee the absolutely necessary minimum for the developing health of the community.

I had hoped—I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me—that the regular taking of milk by school children would lead to increased consumption of milk by the same children in their homes. But the disturbance in the price is bound to have an influence on family budgets, and there will be an unwillingness, and even an inabilility, in present circumstances to buy the milk for home consumption which ought to be bought for the general needs of the community. After the short period of May and June, the price is again to rise for the short period of July.

There are hon. Members opposite representing agricultural interests who will share my concern about the effect on milk producers of continual price increases. However, at the moment I base my case upon the needs of the children in particular and, ultimately, the general needs of public health. It is from those points of view that I criticise the action of the Government.

I sympathise with the desire of hon. Members to end these proceedings, and I shall not make a long speech. Hon. Members opposite are listening to me quietly, and if they continue to do so I shall not be long upon the subject of rice. Rice puddings are not the perfect diet for English children when the children of the Far East go hungry for need of rice. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite express derision, forgetting the Colombo Plan, the Convention of Bangkok and the statements made by our own representatives about the need for Western countries, in these days of world shortage of the commodity, to find an effective substitute for rice. Although our consumption of rice may be small, the psychological effect would be very great if this country—after all, the taste of our children for rice is a passing one—were consuming nothing which is necessary to meet the truly terrible need which exists so widely in the East.

My objection to the freeing of rice is that it will result in a greater consumption in this country when there is such a scarcity of this commodity in the East. We need not absolutely keep to rice and the rice puddings which have been so enthusiastically spoken of this evening. Like most hon. Members opposite, I started in my early days with the rice pudding. I also had a good mother who knew how to cook—[An HON. MEMBER: "Apple pies?"] No, instead of making apple pies she gave us the fruit in its natural state, and used the warm ovens for barley pudding.

Mr. H. Nicholls

That was from the brewers.

Mr. Hudson

Hon. Members opposite always like to——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

As I understand it, these Regulations relate to the restrictions on the purchase of rice and of price control.

Mr. Hudson

It was price control with which I was concerned. Any alteration in price control is intended to make it easier for more rice to be obtained for this country. I found out, for example, that in Woolwich Co-operative Society, of which I am a member—I am willing to give the House the benefit of my practical experience—the price of rice is 1s. 1d., which is an average for the country, but that if it is attractively wrapped and in cartons suitably arranged, the price is 1s. 5d. a lb. That is also the price with private traders.

People here are willing to buy rice at this price although there is a great shortage of this commodity among the great mass of the people in the Far East. I say that unless there is some sense of responsibility shown by the Government towards the people of the Far East, there will be a greater demand for rice here which will increase consumption, and will draw these supplies from the stocks available for feeding the people in the East. It is against that sort of thing that I am protesting, and I say that in order to prevent that disastrous state of affairs happening we should offer the people something else as a substitute. That is what I want to be allowed to put before the House on this Motion. I was trying to tell the House when you interrupted me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that barley can sell at 8d. a lb. and is an alternative to rice pudding.

Barley, which is offered at 8d. a lb. and can be used for puddings as palatable as those made with rice, for which now a much higher price is threatened, ought to be used in this way, and there ought not to be waste in the interest of those who make profits out of barley when so many children are in need of the rice in other countries. That is the most important argument in this matter, and although there are other issues to be dealt with in regard to milk and rice, I content myself with these general statements about the position which faces us.

A humble man who provides me with what I regard as necessary for my welfare, namely, my milk roundsman, complains that as a result of this Order, and as a result of the imposition of higher prices, on the first day of the month every milk roundsman will be confronted with a new problem of calculation. This happens every time the prices are changed. I am told that in the North of England, where people buy milk tokens before the actual purchase of the milk, there will be a difficult and serious problem. I submit that that is one of the defects of this Order which the Minister ought to take into account.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

I want to endorse the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). Although they have not been met with the sympathy and understanding which they deserve by hon. Members opposite, they are nevertheless important, and some day must be considered by this country and the rest of the European nations to which he referred. [Interruption.] Everybody in this House knows that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is not a teetotaller or he would not conduct himself as he does.

The Parliamentary Secretary, the Government, and everyone who has the health of the country at heart must be concerned about the substantial drop in consumption of liquid milk. Paragraph 10 of the Order reads: No person shall buy or sell any milk in a bottle of a capacity of one-third of a pint except to, or for the purpose of resale to, any person having the management of any school or any person acting under his authority, for consumption as a beverage by the pupils of that school. We have just had the Report of the Committee on Estimates, and from that Report it is obvious that school places are not available for many children for whom there ought to be places. If there were school places available for these children they would get the one-third of a pint of milk to which they are entitled. Because there are no school places they are denied that——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is now referring to something not covered by the Order.

Mr. Fernyhough

This Order deals with those entitled to a one-third pint bottle of milk. According to the law every child of five years of age is entitled to that at school. But because there are not sufficient school places many children are not getting that. I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider providing that cheap milk for the children for whom there are not school places. They are entitled to it, and they receive it at the cheap rate while they are under five. If that facility could be extended, it would satisfy me.

11.12 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

I was interested in the last remarks of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). If there is any shortage of school places it is because of plans made 18 months ago——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker


Sir H. Williams

I am merely following the point made by the hon. Member for Jarrow.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I called the hon. Member for Jarrow to order on that very point.

Sir H. Williams

I was only covering the point up to the time when he was called to order. I wish to know whether the hon. Member for Jarrow can give any example of what he says has in fact happened?

Mr. Fernyhough

Yes, there are something like——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think this argument can be carried on.

Sir H. Williams

I am sorry I am not permitted to follow the hon. Member. It is obvious that this paragraph is to prevent the improper sale of milk supplied for the consumption of school children. That is the sole purpose of it, and anyone knows——

Mr. Willey

No. It has nothing to do with that.

Sir H. Williams

It reads: No person shall sell or buy any milk in a bottle of a capacity of one-third of a pint except to, or for the purpose of resale to, any person having the management of any school or any person acting under his authority, for consumption as a beverage by the pupils of that school.

Mr. Willey

If I may help the hon. Gentleman. But for this provision it would be an offence under the Weights and Measures Act to sell one-third pints. It allows one-third pints to be sold and prescribes the conditions under which they may be sold.

Sir H. Williams

It has precisely the same effect. Bottles containing one-third of a pint of milk are supplied for a specific purpose, and this prohibits their sale for other purposes. This prohibits a commercial transaction in one-third pints of milk. The hon. Member for Jarrow must agree that that is a desirable precaution to take. His speech has no relevance to the purpose of the paragraph on which he based his remarks. I should not have intervened in this debate had the hon. Member not made so many misleading statements.

11.14 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

If I deal first with the points on the rice Order made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) it is because he put his points with sincerity as well as force, unlike the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who thought on this, as on other occasions, that abuse was a good substitute for effective argument.

If we shared the fears of the hon. Gentleman about the effect on Eastern countries of the de-control of rice, then we should not proceed to its de-control. The hon. Gentleman will recall that he told the House that he had examined the figures of the world production of rice. He said that out of the 100 million tons produced, 4 million tons goes for export, Out of some 80,000 tons required to meet our own demands, roughly 60,000 tons are required for human consumption in the way he described and the remaining 20,000 tons for use in industry for the extraction of starch and the making of certain powders.

As we see the position today, the consumption of rice in this country will not rise as a result of de-control. I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that should it rise above the present level steps will be taken under the import licence procedure to see that it remains at approximately the level of consumption which obtains today. I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that assurance, because I share his fear, not that our increased consumption could be a substantial subtraction from world supplies, but a substantial——

Mr. Willey


Dr. Hill

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me an opportunity of replying to the points put by his hon. Friends, I will deal with the question of price in a moment.

The fall in the consumption of rice since pre-war days has been in the industrial field. I ought also to add that the export of rice from Burma takes place under an export control system tightly administered, and there would be no guarantee, even if we denied ourselves rice altogether, that our supplies would go to the countries in greatest need of them.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North said that the reason for this decontrol was because we anticipated further increases in the price of rice. That is the opposite of the truth. We do not anticipate increases in the price of rice.

Mr. Willey

Just like bananas.

Dr. Hill

We have reason to believe that the price of rice well may fall, because its price is being sustained at a high level by the exporting countries.

Mr. Willey

What an argument.

Dr. Hill

If the hon. Gentleman cannot listen to the replies being given, he might at least give his hon. Friend that opportunity.

Now I come to the milk story. It has been decided that it would be wise to sell milk cheaper when it is plentiful and when it is cheaper to produce. Accordingly, a schedule of prices has been arranged making milk cheaper in those seasons when it is flush and cheaper to produce, and dearer in the scarce periods of the year, without reducing the subsidy on milk. In fact, the estimate of the subsidy for the current financial year is £87.5 million as compared——

Mr. Willey

Including welfare milk.

Dr. Hill

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will exercise a little courtesy even if he cannot exercise patience and listen to the replies.

The subsidy figure this year is estimated at £87.5 million as compared with £85.6 million last year. As a matter of fact the subsidy this year will be approximately £2 million higher than for the previous year. Is there anything unreasonable in having a schedule of prices that makes milk cheaper to the public when it is in plentiful supply and cheaper to produce? It seems a reasonable course. If it is unreasonable, why did not the hon. Gentleman take steps to bring to an end the system of seasonal prices which obtained while he was in office? Between 1942 and 1951, the system operated in Northern Ireland. What is more, that system operated before the war.

Is it successful? The hon. Gentleman put down a Question to my right hon. and gallant Friend and got an answer. He knows that in fact in May of this year, the first month of the lower price, the consumption of milk was raised. He quotes the retailers to suggest that variations in price make no difference, and in another breath he tells the House that it is the factor of price only which has resulted in the fall in the consumption of milk. If he believes that, why did he not tell the House that the consumption of milk fell in this country between 1945 and 1947, and fell substantially? It fell more in that period than it has fallen in the past year. This demonstrates that price is but one of the factors concerned.

Mr. J. Hudson

Would the hon. Gentleman deal, on this question of the level of prices, with the point that I tried to make, perhaps rather ineffectively, that the lower price is only for a very short period of two months, May and June, then there is an intermediate price for a shorter period of only one month, and then we go on to the top price for all grades of milk for several months in the winter?

Dr. Hill

The hon. Gentleman may recall that I said there were twin purposes, one to cheapen the price when milk is flush, and the other to keep within the present level of subsidy. It therefore follows that, in the flush period of greater supply of milk, the price reduction must necessarily be made for a shorter time than the period of scarcity and higher prices, if the subsidy level is to be sustained.

Now for the break-up of these figures. I have the figures for milk for the full financial year, to 31st March, 1953. The figures quoted by the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board are not wholly accurate because he has omitted to point out that the 1951–52 period was a year without an Easter and was a leap year and that certain other corrections have to be made. Indeed, the fall in milk consumption, after the corrections have been made, and after allowing for the fall in the number of beneficiaries for welfare milk, is of the order of 1½ per cent. per head.

Let us look at what has happened under the various headings. The drop in the consumption of ordinary milk—not school nor welfare milk—in the United Kingdom is 2.2 per cent. There is no change in the school milk total consumption, but allowing for the rise in school population between the two years, the fall in consumption per head of those taking school milk is about 3 per cent. I am recording this fact and I, like the hon. Gentleman, deplore it. My only comment is that those who allege that price is the only factor in the consumption of milk must reckon with the fact that school milk is free and that the consumption per head of the beneficiaries has gone down by 3 per cent. That leads us into another field, but I want fairly to record the fact and to deplore it.

Mr. Fernyhough

Would the hon. Gentleman make inquiries, as there are times when children who want milk find that there is not a sufficient supply to allow every child in the school to have a third of a pint?

Dr. Hill

If the hon. Member will permit me in not pursuing him, might I, however, add that I am particularly interested in this problem? In the case of welfare milk, there has been a drop of 2.7 per cent. and, on the face of it, that is wrong. But if one does the honest thing and calculates the change in the number of beneficiaries, partly due to the fall in the birth rate, one finds that there has not been a fall, but that the figure per beneficiary is up by 2.75 per cent.

The House does not need to be reminded of what happens to the surplus milk. In May of this year, despite the fact that consumption of milk was equal to that of May last year, there was a greater quantity—in fact, a record amount—available for manufacturing purposes. Indeed, that available milk was one of the factors which made possible the extension of the higher rate of cheese ration. So, on the general topic, we have taken a sensible course of reducing the price of milk when it is flush but re-arranging the price structure for the year so as to keep the subsidy roughly at its present level.

Milk not consumed in liquid form is all consumed in some other form and, I might add, in forms which some people prefer, namely, as butter, cheese, dried milk, or tinned milk. But the fact is that liquid consumption is 60 per cent. above the pre-war level. Lest it be thought that this phenomenon occurred, as has been suggested today, during a Socialist Administration, let us remember that school milk was introduced in 1934, and welfare milk in 1940. Let us remember that the years of biggest increases were 1940, 1941, and 1942 and that, indeed, the bulk of the increase took place before 1945. For two years after 1945 the consumption of milk went down, and I suggest that that fall, associated no doubt with lower production, does not make it reasonable to claim that price, and price alone, is responsible for lower consumption.

I do appreciate the roundsman's difficulties in his arithmetic for the week in which the change occurs. Our accounting period for other purposes is the calendar month, but I will give the assurance that if experience suggests that seasonal prices are an advantageous way of securing the consumption of the milk available, I will do my utmost to see that this obvious inconvenience to the roundsman, if not wholly avoided, is minimised.

So, in conclusion, I would point out to the hon. Gentleman who moved this Prayer, that he has not been praying on a number of fruitful food topics which have been before the people in recent months. He has not put down a Prayer about the de-rationing of sweets, or the increased rations of butter, cheese, and margarine, or the increased——

Mr. Willey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand the rules of order, we are strictly confined to the subject matter of this Prayer. Surely this is a matter with which the Parliamentary Secretary ought to be conversant by now?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is perfectly right, but it is customary to allow a little latitude in a peroration.

Dr. Hill

I can appreciate the hon. Member's discomfort at the references I have made. Bearing in mind what he has not done in the field of meat, I suggest that he shares with St. Paul the view he expressed in Corinthians: I have fed you with milk and not with meat. I invite the House to reject these Motions. The rice de-control makes no difference to price; it is an unnecessary control and to abolish it saves a relatively small sum of money—perhaps between £8,000 and £12,000 a year. It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to remove any control which is unnecessary, and this is one of them.

For the rest, by this new milk system we seek to make milk cheap when it is flush and to sell increasing quantities of it, and that has been proved by the experience of May this year. The hon. Gentleman has, as usual, the thinnest of cases, and the admixture of abuse is but a confession of the thinness of the case he has presented to the House.

Question put, and negatived.

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