§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.— (Earl De La Warr.)1120
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, I want to take this opportunity of asking the noble Earl one or two questions. I want to ask him about the milk subsidy which has been, I understand, paid to Scotland on the ground that if they do not have a subsidy paid to them they will send milk into England. It is said that at the present moment a subsidy of 4d. per gallon is paid to the Scottish producer of milk in order to get him not to send it into England. I ask the noble Earl whether he will enquire what is the actual price and also whether he will say upon what number of gallons the subsidy is paid, whether it is 4d. or whether it is a smaller amount. I notice that the Farmer and Stockbreeder, in its issue of last Monday, stated that this milk which came from Scotland was outside the jurisdiction of the English Scheme, seeing that as far as the Milk Board are concerned, and I suppose as far as the Minister of Agriculture is concerned, they have no power to stop this raiding by Scotland upon England.
In the past there has been a good deal of that sort of thing, but then there was open competition generally. Now the producer in England has the price fixed for him; he is not a free agent in this matter. It is not a question merely of supply and demand. I notice also that it is said by the Farmer and Stockbreeder, which I have already quoted, that great advantage accrues to Scotland in that they are able to send all their surplus milk over to England and get the liquid milk price for it, whereas if they had to retain it in Scotland they would get simply the manufactured price, which shows that they have made a very good bargain indeed and have got a very great advantage over the English producer. They have practically no liquid milk left on their hands; all of it can be used as liquid milk instead of being used for manufacturing purposes. This milk upon which the subsidy is paid now will have to go for manufacturing purposes, but if they get 4d. per gallon, or even 3d. per gallon, they are doing very much better than the English producer, whose surplus milk has to be sold at a price of 3½d. or 4d.
I notice with much amusement that the Farmer and Stockbreeder says that it was a very good bargain indeed for England. It is a very good bar- 1121 gain indeed for Scotland. I am very well aware that the Scottish people are very good at bargaining, and very clever at all that sort of thing. They have certainly got the advantage of the Englishman in this case as very often in other cases they have got the advantage of him. I venture to point out to the noble Earl that this is very hard upon the English producer, because it is of course the English producer who has to find this money. The Milk Board have got no money with which, to pay for it, and they have got to raise extra money from the English producer in order to pay this sum of money to Scotland. Of course the noble Earl may tell me that the Minister of Agriculture has no power to require the Milk Boards to give him any information about this matter. If this is so I would venture to suggest to the noble Earl that it would not be at all out of the way—Departments often do it—for him to make inquiries of those organisations and ask them as a matter of courtesy to tell him what is the exact state of things.
I am sure that farmers would be very disappointed indeed if the noble Earl were to give me that answer, because certainly farmers look upon the Minister of Agriculture as the man who is to look after their interests and protect them, not only in Parliament but also outside Parliament. If this state of things goes on I think it will be found that English farmers will say: "It is not fair to us to be fined in this way and to be taxed for the benefit of Scotland," and therefore they will ask for some legislation in this matter. I hope that he will give us full information in some way or another. On the other hand, if he cannot give full information to-day I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will do something to bring pressure to bear upon Scotland to ensure that they do not behave to England in this way, to the detriment of the English producer.
EABL DE LA WARE
My Lords, I am afraid I really cannot help the noble Lord upon the point on which he has put this question. To begin with his whole speech was based on certain statements in the Farmer and Stockbreeder and on something which he has heard about 4d. per gallon being paid to the Scottish Milk Board from the English Milk Board. There is no authority whatsoever for the 1122 statements which, have been made and which the noble Lord has brought to your Lordships' notice. It is understood that the English and Scottish Milk Marketing Boards have arrived at an agreement whereby the unnecessary movement of milk between the areas of the two Schemes will be reduced as far as possible, but the Minister is not in possession of the detailed information necessary to enable him to give the noble Lord an answer to this question, nor indeed, so far as I am aware, has the actual agreement yet been signed.
I would make the point very clear—the noble Lord suggested that I would do so and certainly I wish to make it clear—that there is no statutory obligation at all upon the Boards to furnish the Minister with particulars of purely private trading transactions of this nature. Speaking for myself, I think it would be most undesirable, if it were possible, for the Minister of Agriculture to be able to step in and interfere in the day-to-day trading arrangements of the Boards. Fanners require no protection from the Boards. The Boards are composed of the appointed representatives of farmers, and I suggest that the relations between the Boards and farmers are far best left to the farmers and the Boards themselves to look after.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.