HL Deb 01 August 1935 vol 98 cc1078-82

LORD CRANWORTH asked His Majesty's Government if they have any further information to give with regard to the Attested Herds Scheme and any proposals to bring forward for its alteration. The noble Lord said: My Lords, some months ago I ventured to draw the attention of the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, to the Attested Herds Scheme, to ask him whether His Majesty's Government were satisfied with this Scheme, and whether they thought it would effect the purpose for which it was apparently designed because, if so, I said, they would be in a unique position, so far as I knew, for the reason that no one I had met had thought it would effect any such purpose. The noble Earl, in answering, said he was not in that unique position because he was not satisfied with the Scheme and His Majesty's Government had the intention of making some amendments to it. As the Session is getting on, I have reason to believe that the noble Earl is in a position to give your Lordships some information as to these amendments. I should not venture to take up even two or three minutes of your Lordships' time but for one fact, and it is this. As your Lordships are aware, during the course of the next fortnight a poll will be taken as to whether or not the Milk Scheme shall be revoked, and a decision will be taken on that point, which is of vital importance to the milk industry.

I suppose no one would venture to assert that the Milk Scheme had been an entire success. Only an optimist of the first water would have expected that in two years it could have been 100 per cent. successful. There are very few people, I think, who would not agree that this Scheme requires amendment, and not amendment of a. mere tinkering nature, but amendment of a substantial and, indeed, perhaps drastic order. Were the Scheme to be revoked, were the poll to go that way, it would be nothing less than a disaster of the first magnitude to the whole dairy industry. I therefore have brought this Question up to-day because I think everyone of the registered producers should be in possession of every item of information, whether trivial or not, with regard to the Scheme itself, and this Attested Herds Scheme is to some extent such an item, for the reason that I understand it is intended that the Milk Board should take it over at some future date.

The amendments that the noble Earl has in hand may possibly include this and they may mean that it is intended that the money devoted to this Attested Herds Scheme should be taken away from that Scheme and handed over to the very much better scheme, the Accredited Scheme. That would be immensely popular with the producers of this country, and would make a very great deal of difference to the poll. It may, on the other hand, be that the amendments he proposes are trivial. Whatever they are, I think that they should be in the hands of every producer before the poll is taken, and for that reason, and that reason alone, I have ventured to put down the Question which stands in my name.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for putting down this question because it gives me an opportunity of announcing the decision of the Government with regard to the Attested Herds Scheme. I quite agree with the noble Lord that, although this particular Scheme is not directly connected with the Milk Board, nevertheless it has a very close relation to the work of the Milk Board in the sense that it concerns that commodity, milk. Our endeavour in considering this problem has been not to look at it from the point of view of doing away with the Attested Herds Scheme in favour of further encouragement of the Accredited Herds Scheme, or, indeed, not in any way to regard those Schemes as being rivals but simply as tackling different sides of the same problem. It has had to be admitted from the beginning that the Attested Herds Scheme was not being taken up, or was not able to be taken up, by the average farmer in the country, and it has become increasingly obvious that the average working farmer, whom it is essential to get within the Scheme, should somehow or other be enabled to come in. Therefore we are putting forward proposals for altering the Scheme. I should make it clear that these proposals are not in a completely final form, for the simple reason that we are anxious to consult various interests within the industry itself before they are completed.

I will state the proposed alterations. In addition to the bonus of one penny per gallon on milk from attested herds sold through the provisions of the Milk Marketing Scheme, it is proposed to offer additional financial assistance to herd owners in suitable cases. Firstly, where an owner can produce veterinary certificates showing that he has reduced the number of reactors to the tuberculin test in his herd to not more than 10 per cent., the Ministry of Agriculture will be prepared to consider an application for a contribution towards the cost of further tests of the herd, up to a maximum of four tests, in order to assist the owner to complete the eradication of the disease and enable him to qualify for attestation. The contribution will be at the rate of £1 1s., plus 2s. 6d. for each animal tested, in respect of each complete herd test. Secondly, in place of the single official test at present required to determine the final qualification of a herd for a certificate of attestation, the Ministry will be prepared in cases in which one or more reactors are found at such test to repeat the official test at intervals of between 60 and 90 days for a maximum of three further herd tests before refusing the application. The cost of all official tests is defrayed by the Ministry.

Thirdly, herds 'undergoing a series of assisted or official tests under the foregoing provisions will be termed Supervised Herds and be subject to certain rules for the purpose of preventing the re-introduction of infection. To assist the owners of these Supervised Herds to obtain the right type of cattle to replace reactors the Ministry will be prepared to make a contribution of from £3 to £5 towards the cost of replacing a reactor of the same class, except that no contribution will be paid towards the cost of an animal under 21 months old unless the animal is a bull which has been licensed by the Ministry under the Improvement of Livestock (Licensing of Bulls) Act. The larger sum of £5 will be contributed towards the cost of obtaining an animal from an Attested Herd, £3 being the amount of the contribution in respect of an animal from any other herd.

It is estimated that in the case of the average herd containing, say, twenty milking cows the amount of the contribution towards the cost of testing will be £38 and, on the assumption that a contribution will be made in respect of eight reactors on the average for each Supervised Herd, the amount of such contribution towards the replacement of reactors would be £32, bringing the total additional financial assistance thus afforded to about £70. It is to be understood that the operation of these provisions will be carefully watched and that in any event they may only be available during the period of four years specified in Section 9 (1) of the Milk Act, 7934. The intention of these proposals is to afford special assistance to the owners of suitable herds to complete the task of cleaning up their herds with a view to qualifying for attestation as tubercle-free herds, and it is hoped that they will produce a satisfactory response from herd owners. A draft of the revised Scheme will be sent at once to interested agricultural bodies with an invitation to express their views upon the proposals, and it is hoped that, as a result, the Ministry may be in a position to bring them into operation at an early date. I understand that a revised Scheme on similar lines, applicable to Scotland, is also under consideration but it is not yet quite ready.

There is one other point which has not been mentioned to-clay, but was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, on a previous occasion. It does not arise directly on the Attested Herds Scheme, but I think there is considerable interest in it. Under the present conditions applicable to the granting of licences for selling Grade A milk, it is provided that no animal which to the knowledge of the owner of the herd has at any time been tested with tuberculin and has reacted to the test shall form part of or be added to the herd. The result of this provision is that if a producer holding a Grade A licence wishes to join the Attested Herds Scheme, accordingly has his herd tested, and finds reactors in it, lie loses his Grade A licence; and, consequently, holders of Grade A licences are reluctant to have their herds tested. This important point will be met under the new Milk (Special Designations) Order, of which a draft has been circulated by the Ministry of Health to interested bodies, by substituting for the clause above mentioned a clause to the effect that the herd shall not at any time contain any animal which, to the knowledge of the producer, had before its introduction to the herd been tested with tuberculin and had reacted to the test. A producer who holds a licence for milk now described as Grade A will therefore not lose it if on testing his herd he finds a reactor in the herd, unless that reactor was known to be such by the producer at the time he introduced it into the herd.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for his answer which I am sure will give great satisfaction to dairy farmers generally. The thing which gave me the greatest satisfaction was his statement that before the rules are put into operation the industry itself is going to be consulted. I would venture to say that if it had been consulted before the original Scheme was put into operation there would have been no necessity for these amendments which I welcome very much now. As far as I can judge they will be a very material improvement to the Scheme as it now stands. I would like to say that I especially welcome the announcement with regard to the alteration which was made to the Accredited Scheme, an alteration for which I asked, and I think others asked, when I put my previous Question in your Lordships' House. It has been very obviously a grave defect in the Accredited Scheme and I very much welcome the amendment. I beg to thank the noble Earl for his reply.


My Lords, arising out of the reply of the noble Earl may I ask a question about milk designations? Will information about the new milk designations be circulated so that we shall know what they are and that when the matter comes before your Lordships' House we shall have had time to consider the matter well beforehand and not have it sprung upon us at the last moment?


My Lords, I gladly give an undertaking that before the Order is put before your Lordships' House there will be plenty of time to consider it.