HL Deb 10 April 1935 vol 96 cc671-83

LORD CRANWORTH rose to call attention to the Tuberculosis (Attested Herds) Scheme for Milk Production, and to ask His Majesty's Government to explain the purposes which this Scheme was devised to achieve, and to state their reasons for believing that the desired results will be attained; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be recalled that during the autumn of last year His Majesty's Government voted three-quarters of a million of money for the purpose of improving the supply of milk in this country and for diminishing the incidence of disease among cattle. In accordance with that Vote, during January of this year a Scheme was instituted by means of an explanatory Memorandum, and on February 1 the Scheme, known as the Attested Herds Scheme, was brought in. I am a supporter of the National Government, and I am deeply grateful to them for what they have done and are doing in the interests of agriculture. Therefore, when any new scheme is brought in by them, my first inclination is to look through it and to discover all those points in which I may find satisfaction. I accordingly looked through this Scheme with that object, and I am afraid I had to look somewhat closely, but I did eventually find one matter for congratulation and I should like to express my sense of pleasure in finding that one matter in the Scheme. The Scheme does not invent a new crime. It does not add to the crimes which are now so freely being forced on the whole body of the population. On the other hand, it seeks to achieve its object by means of a reward. I think that is a matter for congratulation. But when I have thrown this little bouquet, I am afraid I have come to the end of my flowers, and I would proceed to ask some questions and to make a few criticisms.

The first criticism that I would make is this. I should have thought it would be desirable, when any scheme dealing with the production of milk was brought forward, that it should be done in consultation and, If possible, co-operation with producing interests. I regret that that has not been done. It may, of course, be said that this is the direct result of the Cattle Diseases Committee, but, even if that is so, I would point out that that Committee took voluminous evidence of which at least 90 per cent., quite rightly no doubt, was from the scientific and even from the distributive side, but very, very little from the producing elements. In proof of that I would point out that neither the agricultural workers' organisation nor the landowners' organisation were consulted at all, notwithstanding that the one has tens of thousands of members whose livelihood depends upon agriculture while the landowners in the other supply two-thirds of the capital of the whole of the agricultural industry, farm one-third of the land, and in all probability own a very large proportion of the high grade herds of this country. Whether that be so or not, I think it is unfortunate that this Scheme should have been brought forward without the good will of producing interests and organisations, but with the disapproval, as far as I know, of every one of them.

To come to detailed criticisms, those which I have to offer are the cause of the disapproval given to this measure. The first one is this. A premium is being given out of public money, that premium is only available to a comparatively small number of producers of milk, and that small number is composed, in nearly every case, of men of considerable means. The reason of that is, in the first place, the high initial cost of the two preliminary tests. A man will be very, very lucky he has only had to pass two or even three tests before he qualifies for an official test. Again, this Scheme demands buildings of an expensive and superior type which will provide complete and indeed widely separated isolation. Furthermore, in the majority of cases, it not only demands such buildings but it demands two farms. If you turn to the Rules your Lordships will note No. 11 and will, I think, conclude from a perusal of it, that no wise or prudent man would ever dare to keep pigs on the same farm as that on which he kept his attested herd.

The second criticism I will make is this. I presume—and here I shall ask the noble Earl to correct me if I am wrong—that one of the objects of having an attested herd is to produce attested milk, and I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that no man can make a contract for attested milk for a longer period than 364 days and that the correct odds against it being so long as that are 363 to 1. If he goes to a. hospital or a school which requires milk of this quality he cannot give them a contract for a year because, when the next test takes place, if there be a single reactor in his herd he loses his licence. Furthermore, clinical examination of the herds is carried out now in most counties and will shortly be carried out probably in every one. I am not clear whether, if the clinical examination reveals a suspected animal, that animal is thereby proved to be suffering, as it may very well be, from tuberculosis, and in that case the owner will ipso facto—it is reasonable to suppose he will—lose his licence forthwith. That seems to me to be a very grave defect in the Scheme.

The third criticism which I have to make contains my greatest objection to this Scheme. There will not be, as far as I can see, one single tuberculous animal less in this country. The tuberculous animals will be removed out of the herd and go into the keeping of some one else. There will not be one single gallon less of tubercular milk drunk. It will merely be drunk by some other people, and probably—I think unfortunately—by the poorer class of people. It seems to me very unlikely that many, or indeed any, people will change their methods of milk production in accordance with this Scheme. The noble Earl who is going to answer me no doubt has later information than I have. My latest information goes to show that in England there were thirteen people accepted as attested producers. I am further informed, and I think it must be the case, that every one of those thirteen people is already producing Grade A (T.T.) milk, and not the slightest difference is made to his mode of milk production by getting this extra penny.

I would like your Lordships to contrast with this Scheme the Accredited Scheme which comes into force on the 1st of May. I do not look on that Scheme as by any means perfect. In one important particular it seems to me to be very inferior to the Scheme originally produced by the Milk Marketing Board in that it actually puts a premium on not having your herd attested. That seems to me a retrogade move in milk production. That premium was not present in the old scheme of the Milk Marketing Board. With regard to the Accredited Scheme, I would wish to point out that it differs in the result that already, three weeks before it comes into force, there are thousands of men who are improving their milk production, buying sterilising plant and improving cleanliness in every way. That seems to me in marked contrast to the Scheme which I am at the present moment criticising.

Then it seems to me that this Scheme banks too highly on the efficacy of the intradermal test for tuberculosis. Every week that goes by seems to prove how unsatisfactory is that test. The highest testimony in favour of the test that has been given by any one that I know has been given by the veterinary profession, and they state that in the hands of skilled and trained men it is ninety-seven per cent. effective. That is looked upon by the profession as satisfactory, but I contend that it is not satisfactory. Suppose a man has one hundred cows tested twice a year and loses three each time through the failure of the test, that would be six a year. I hardly think that would be called entirely satisfactory. Are all these veterinary surgeons experienced men? The veterinary profession is expanding daily and very quickly, and I am glad that it is so, but it can hardly be said, when expansion takes place at such a rate, that the experience—I do not say the skill—of the men can remain constant at the same high level as it was before.

The other criticism is perhaps a minor one. It is that beef herds are not included in the Scheme. Beef herds are not so subject to tuberculosis perhaps as dairy herds, but there are a great number of reactors, and many of them are in daily contact with dairy cattle. I sincerely hope that the noble Earl, when he replies, will tell me, and prove to me, that my criticisms are ill-founded. But until he does, I cannot but think that this is a hastily conceived scheme coming from a Department which is perhaps overworked. I know of no body connected with the milk interest that is not anxious to achieve the two great objects of improving the standard of milk in this country, and of decreasing to the lowest extent the incidence of disease in dairy cattle. I do not think this Scheme will effect either object. Unless the noble Earl can persuade me that I am wrong, I sincerely hope that the Scheme will be dropped and something more practical substituted for it. I beg to move.


My Lords, I do not want to detain you very long, but I would like to deal with three aspects of the case, and with three objections which are vital to the Scottish Scheme. First, I would like to congratulate the Ministry on the fact that they have at last awakened to the necessity of having some Government-organised scheme in this country to deal with the work of eradication of disease from our herds. This Scheme in its main aspects is very similar to one put forward, I think in 1931, by the Scottish Veterinary Medical Association in the drafting of which I had a hand; but there are vital differences. I was glad to hear the noble Lord who has just sat down say that he considered that one of the defects of the Scheme was that no provision was made for the inclusion of beef herds. I am not suggesting that beef herds should be subsidised out of money provided out of the Milk Act of 1934, but I am suggesting that some means should be found by which they can receive official recognition of freedom from disease and qualify also for the segregation at shows which is an essential part of any scheme of disease eradication.

The Scheme as it is in force in Scotland has the vital defect that the men who are incomparably best qualified by practice and experience to administer the test are debarred from having any further part in it once the herd has received an attested certificate. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Department of Agriculture in Scotland would sanction renewal tests for these certificates being carried out by the veterinary officers of local authorities, the response would be immediate. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A staff of three veterinary surgeons, no doubt amply qualified, administer this scheme from the Department. The whole value of the confidence established between the veterinary surgeons and the farmer over many years has been sacrificed. Unfortunately, there has been already in Scotland one very disastrous case which has shattered the confidence of the farmer in the Department's veterinary officers, and it has undoubtedly had a very large effect in preventing farmers from going on with the Scheme.

I understand that up to the present only ten certificates have been granted. Thirty-two applications have been made, and four certificates have been refused. I do not know whether my own application was included amongst the thirty-two, but when I saw that the Scheme was very largely on the same lines, with practically no amendment, as the Draft Scheme, I, for one, would have nothing to do with it. So far as my county goes, in November we had seventy-three herds which were free and held licences for the production of tuberculin-tested milk. Fifty of those were eligible at once for attestation certificates if they had liked to apply for them; only three have so far applied. There are in Ayrshire at the present time, due to the stimulus which has been given by the "Milk for school-children" provision, over 120 licensed herds. There are only five herds which have taken out attestation certificates, and four of those already held tuberculin-tested licences: the other one has been tested for a great number of years and was in what was known as the Hanna area, near Galston. While undoubtedly a chief veterinary officer is necessary at the Department to prevent irregularities, it is essential, if this Scheme is to be a success, that the routine tests should be left in the hands of the county veterinary officers. They have had the experience, they have the confidence of the farmer, and if anomalous results do arise, the confidence will not he shattered in the same way as it has been shattered in those cases where tests have taken place under the Attestation Scheme.

Another criticism which I have to make is that before the removal of an animal from one attested herd to another a permit has to be received in writing from the Department. Surely this is unnecessary. Before an animal can be removed from an attested herd, even to a market or to a slaughter-house, a permit must be obtained from the Department. I have no doubt that, with the best will in the world, it might take two or three days at least for this permit to come through; it might possibly take a week or even more. Surely notification within seven days of a removal from an attested herd to unattested premises, or from an attested herd to another attested herd, should be sufficient to satisfy the Department as regards the safeguarding of the health of the animals. Then again there is to be a re-test within two months after shows, even where the animal has been in the segregated accommodation. I do not know whether the noble Earl who is going to reply can assure me that the incubation period of tuberculosis is two months and that after that time all danger is past. My own impression would be that two months is a very inadequate period, both from the point of view of making certain that the animal was free, and even to give a chance of detecting infection that had taken place such a short time before. The danger that I can foresee in this respect is that, in order to encourage people to take out these attestation certificates, some laxity in administration and regulations may creep in. I hope that this will not be the case; I hope that either the regulations will be amended or that they will be carried out with the utmost stringency, otherwise the Scheme is bound to be an even greater failure than it is at the moment.

It has been said to me by some that it is the intention of the Department and of the Ministry to bring the licensed herds under the Milk (Special Designations) Order into conformity with the attested herds. I would point out to your Lordships that one case concerns the public health and the other is directed to live-stock disease eradication. The two cases are entirely different. There is no question whatsoever that the Milk (Special Designations) Order has worked exceedingly well in Scotland. The survey which was made a year or two ago showed clearly that the danger of infection in tuberculin-tested milk was practically non-existent. At the same time nobody would contend, in Scotland or anywhere else, that the whole of the tuberculin-tested herds remained without reactors over a series of years. The two cases are entirely different, and I hope that the Ministry and the Department will look upon the Attested Herd Scheme not so much from the public health point of view as from the point of view of supplying a reservoir for the filling-up of herds which are licensed to produce tuberculin-tested milk.

As regards the question of pigs, to which the noble Lord who has just sat down referred, one of my friends has decided not to take out a licence for this very reason. He has a certificate; he has had a licence for the production of Grade A (T.T.) milk for a number of years and has built up a very good trade. At present his custom is, when he requires extra milk for his pigs, to buy Grade A (T.T.) milk from other farms and feed it to the pigs. If he came under the Attested Herds Scheme that Grade A (T.T.) milk is good enough for the school children of Scotland but not good enough for the calves on his farm, and he would have to get it from another attested farm. As there are only ten in Scotland, it makes it rather difficult for him to submit himself to these regulations. I do not believe there has ever been a Scheme passed through in more direct opposition to the practical farmer and the whole veterinary profession. I hope that some amendment will be made to bring it more into line with the opinion of those who hope to benefit by it and of the veterinarians who have to administer it in the future.


My Lords, I think we should all wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, for bringing up this question. It is one of vital importance from the point of view of the public health and of vital importance from the point of view of the farming industry also. Your Lordships are aware that, as the noble Lord has indeed said, there are two Schemes that are open to the milk-producers to join; one is the Accredited Producers Scheme that has been promoted by the Milk Marketing Board, and the other is the Attested Herds Scheme that has been promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture. I was just a little bit sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, put those two Schemes before us as though one were really in opposition to the other: "How much more effective, how very much better for the purpose which we desire to attain, is the Scheme that has been promoted by the Milk Marketing Board; how much preferable it is to that promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture!" Those two Schemes are not in opposition to one another. They are to be regarded as complementary.

They are dealing, it is true, with two different sides of the problem. The Accredited Producers Scheme is designed to deal with the mass of milk that is offered to the public to drink, and is a short-term attempt to clean up and to offer inducements for the cleaning-up of milk supplies. The Attested Herds Scheme, as the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, has already told your Lordships, is very largely a live-stock disease eradication scheme and is designed to build up a number of clean herds from which the producers of clean milk, or those who wish to build up tuberculosis-free herds, can draw their stock. It is true that there is one particular point in the Accredited Producers Scheme which does stand out as rather cutting off one Scheme from the other. I propose to deal with that in a moment.

Now the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, have referred to the Attested Herds Scheme as a failure, and they have done so on the ground that so far very few applications have been made for entering into that Scheme. I would, however, draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this Scheme did not start until February 1, and I think we all realise that in the farming world things do not always go very fast. Nevertheless, up till now we have received in England and Scotland, taken together, seventy-eight applications, of which twenty-seven have already been granted. There are a number of other cases at the present moment under consideration. I am quite prepared to admit that, although the Scheme was only started on February 1, that response is not really a very gratifying one. I would be prepared to go further and say that when we put this Scheme forward we realised that we were, as Lord Rowallan has already reminded us, for the first time in history endeavouring to tackle this great problem, and we realised that any scheme which we put forward must of necessity be of a somewhat experimental character. For that reason I think we must all value this opportunity for discussion to-day.

A number of criticisms and proposals for amendments have been put forward by noble Lords, and I would like to assure noble Lords that those proposals will receive most careful consideration. We have never believed that the Scheme would necessarily be in a perfect form as we originally introduced it, and we shall most certainly consider any proposals which have been put forward. What are the main criticisms which have been mentioned to-day? I think one criticism was that it makes no provision for beef herds. That is not so. Beef herds are perfectly free to register. I think Lord Rowallan laid particular stress upon this, and therefore I will deal with the Scottish point. Under the Milk Marketing Scheme in Scotland beef herds are perfectly free to register, and then receive all the benefits under this Scheme. The same is true under the Milk Marketing Scheme in England.


May I interrupt to ask the noble Earl whether it is proposed that the beef breeding herds shall have to comply with the regulations as to premises if they are to register under the Milk Marketing Scheme? That is an important consideration.


Of course the buildings would be subject to inspection, and I have no doubt that if milk was not being sold off the premises the inspector would use his discretion. I think the point will be perfectly well met under the Scheme. I was very glad that neither of the noble Lords suggested that the conditions of the Scheme were too onerous. In fact I think Lord Rowallan particularly mentioned that point—the difficulty of eradicating this disease and the importance of not slackening, under the provisions of the Scheme, the precautions against infection. Similarly, I do not think the criticism was made that the inducements are not sufficient. I do not think the value of the inducements have been quite appreciated in the agricultural world. I have tried to work out what it really does mean to a man to get the extra penny per gallon under the Scheme for an attested herd of twenty cows, producing 600 gallons of milk a year—not a very high average. It comes to no less than £50 a year, and if the average milk production is higher, the benefit would be proportionately greater. In addition to that there is the free test every year, there is the better health of the cattle, the freedom which undoubtedly exists from risk of other diseases, the greater number of lactations probably obtained from particular cows, and the greater value of the breeding stock.

I think your Lordships will agree that they are a very considerable inducement to a breeder, or a dairyman, to go into this Scheme. If I were asked myself what it is that will tend to make it difficult for the ordinary farmer to go into this Scheme, it is really the amount of work that has to be done before any of these advantages can be gained. I am very glad that that was mentioned, because I think it is art important point and one which I think we will have to consider. I notice that Sir Merrik Burrell, speaking at the meeting of the Red Poll Cattle Society the other day, brought it up, and Dr. James Mackintosh, in an article, wrote the following words: If an owner has reduced the proportion of reactors to 10 per cent., or even to 15 per cent., and his management and conditions are such that freedom from reactors can reasonably be expected, he should be placed on a probationary list. He should then receive free advice as to isolation and prevention of reinfection and free tuberculin-testing until he complied with the conditions of attestation. That does seem to me, speaking off-hand, to be a proposal which might very well be discussed, and I would like to say, before sitting down, that if noble Lords or any other members of the agricultural world have suggestions to make which we could discuss with regard to possible amendments in the Scheme we would be very willing to consider them.

That does not mean to say that within two months of the starting of the Scheme we can at once talk of altering it. I think everyone will agree that it must be given a fair chance. After all, before it was initiated there was very considerable discussion in the agricultural world. I think Lord Cranworth is not quite fully informed on that point. We discussed the subject not only with the producers of Certified and Grade A Milk, but with the Veterinary Medical Association and the Milk Marketing Board. This was, I think, before the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, was himself a member of that Board and perhaps he has not looked up its old minutes. I think your Lordships will agree that that is a very full consultation with the interests concerned. We are most anxious to continue that consultation. We are very grateful to the noble Lord for bringing up the subject. We are grateful for all his proposals, except his proposal to abolish the Scheme altogether, and we shall most certainly consider anything that he may suggest.


My Lords, I feel very grateful to the noble Earl for his courtesy and for the way in which he has replied to me. I am sorry I gave the impression that I thought the two Schemes, the Accredited Scheme and the Attested Scheme, were opposed to one another. I do not think that a bit. I was merely pointing out the practical effect. Under the Accredited Scheme, which does not take place until May 1, already thousands of people are making applications, whereas under the Attested Scheme, which came into operation on February 1, only thirteen people have joined, and they are doing exactly the same with their milk as they did before. I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl is a little optimistic about the profit which will be obtained by people who become attested. In the first place, if they are not already supplying Grade A (T.T.) milk, their costs will be very heavy before they get on the attested list. If they are supplying tested milk they are not, in all probability, registered producers, but to get this penny they have to become registered producers. In that case they will have to pay twopence a gallon or more to get a penny, and that is not a very profitable operation.

The only other point is in regard to the Milk Marketing Board having been consulted. I have been a member of that Board since July last, and they have not been consulted during that time. I asked the Chairman the other day whether they had, and he said the answer was in the negative. He said he himself had seen a copy of the Scheme, but he had not been asked to place it before the Board and had not done so. So I think there must be some misapprehension. I hoped that the noble Earl was going to say that he would produce some Paper which would explain this Scheme more fully, and that was the Paper for which I was moving, but as I think he has made it quite clear that he has no such Paper, with your Lordships' permission, I will withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.