HL Deb 26 July 1939 vol 114 cc535-8

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, this is a scheme prepared and submitted in accordance with the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1931. It seeks powers for the regulation of the marketing of certain milk products by a board elected by producers of those products. The products are butter, cheese, condensed milk, condensed skimmed milk, dried milk, dried skimmed milk, cream and sterilised cream. The promoters of the scheme are representative of practically all the more important manufacturers of these products in Great Britain. The scheme follows the usual lines of agricultural marketing schemes. It would set up a Board elected by the producers of the various milk products, and the Board would possess the main powers authorised by the Acts for inclusion in such a scheme. They would be able to regulate the prices at which the products may be sold by registered producers, the persons to whom, or through whom, they may be sold, the terms and conditions of sale, and so on. The Board would also have power to buy or sell any regulated product.

The main objective will be to secure stability in the market for milk products, and the scheme seems to fit in well with the regulating of imports of processed milks and the plan for an International Council for processed milks. The need for such a marketing scheme has been stressed by those who have inquired into the problems of the industry, and I think that it will be generally agreed that the establishment of a Milk Products Marketing Scheme is a logical development in the organisation of the industry. I will not say much about the provisions of the scheme itself unless any members of the House wish to raise any questions, but I should mention that this is a scheme for controlling the marketing of the factory product, and accordingly the farm producer of these products is exempted, and also the small dairyman producer who makes only a small quantity of these products. I think that the scheme is generally acceptable to those who require to register under it, and it should bring substantial benefit both to them directly, and through them, to milk producers in general. I beg to move that the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee on Thursday last, be approved.

Moved, That the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee on Thursday last, be approved.—(The Earl of Feversham.)

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene on a subject about which I really know nothing, but I do so for this reason. Only yesterday there appeared in a London evening paper a report of proceedings before the Brighton Town Council which showed that a certain company, apparently in Brighton, which makes ice cream, had applied to the Brighton Town Council for permission to pour 1,500 gallons of milk down the drain. I do not know whether ice cream is one of the products dealt with under this Order, or whether it is as the result of legislation passed by this Government that a state of affairs like this can exist. I am quite sure that there are a great many people living in small back streets who would give a good deal to obtain a lot of this milk, and one wonders whether we are doing right in passing all these Orders and schemes.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I also saw the report in the Press in regard to a large gallonage of milk which, by permission of the local borough council, was to be thrown away. I understand that the milk in question was skimmed milk and therefore it was unfit for human consumption.


Not "therefore."


It was skimmed milk, and it was consequently not milk which would receive the approval of the medical officer of health under the cheap milk scheme. I agree with the noble Earl that every avenue should be approached for the absorption of such milk, but unless such milk is going to be dried, or used in a condensed form, by a manufacturer, it would not come within the provisions of this marketing scheme. This is a marketing scheme solely for processed milks, which term under the provisions of the scheme, includes butter and cheese. I do not think that the noble Earl need have any apprehension that by the inauguration of a scheme of this character the sort of instance that he has quoted to your Lordships will be encouraged in other parts of the country.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, I should be glad if the noble Earl could give us a little more information on one aspect of this matter. I cordially agree that a scheme generally on these lines is required, and should be very advantageous, but not, I hope, directed on the lines of limiting the supply. There are ever so many ways in which the utilisation of milk products may be encouraged under an organised scheme. The incident to which the noble Earl has called our attention is only one of many, and such things occur frequently. If there had been a proper scheme for the utilisation of milk byproducts, that scandalous waste would never have occurred. As we all know, though it was skimmed milk, it had exceedingly good food value in it, utilisable for many purposes.

May I ask the noble Earl about another point? Will this scheme be accompanied by any standardisation of the products? I am told, for example, that a good deal of what is sold as ice cream has never seen a cow, and I believe it is possible to manipulate milk fat and other things with suitable adjuncts so that it tastes not unlike the sort of thing that we see retailed as ice cream, and passes muster as ice cream. This business is a very large business in these days, and I hope that the noble Earl will be able to assure us that there will be powers exercisable under this Order that will secure that products which are sold as milk products shall really be as described. If that is so, it would be an exceedingly valuable extension of our present powers.

4.9 p.m.


The products that come under this scheme have naturally to be sold in competition with imported products, and it is therefore very important that they should compete in quality and in their presentation with the imported product. I hope that wise exercise by the proposed Board of their powers in regard to grading, marking, and packing of these regulated products will be of great service to the home industry in improving the quality and standards of its products, particularly in the case of products such as butter which, as your Lordships know, is imported into this country in great quantities in standardised form, suitably marked. As the noble Lord has indicated, there is great room for development in standardising and marking such products as come under the terms of this scheme, and I can assure him there will now be greater incentive for the production of the standardised commodity which he desires to see.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, may I emphasize the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, in regard to cream? Representations have repeatedly been made to the Ministry of Agriculture as to the need for standardising cream. I came across a case myself quite recently where cream was supplied containing 23 per cent. butter fat. Suddenly, without any intimation to the public, it was altered to 16 or 17 per cent., and the purchasers still believed they were getting the same quality of cream, although that great change had taken place. Although this is a matter on which it is probably impossible ever to obtain general agreement, particularly on the part of the ice cream gentlemen who use no cream at all in the production of their product, if some notice could be taken of these representations we might have a standardised 30 per cent. cream and probably also a 23 per cent. butter fat cream. If the figure was definitely marked on the container it would be a great advantage to the agricultural producer and also a considerable benefit to the consumer.

On Question, Motion agreed to.