HL Deb 15 June 1955 vol 193 cc115-8

2.55 p.m.

THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (EARL ST. ALDWYN) rose to move, That the Draft Amendments of the Milk Marketing Scheme, 1933 (as amended to 1950), reported from the Special Orders Committee on the 27th of April last, be approved. The noble Earl said: My Lords, these amendments to the Milk Marketing Scheme for England and Wales have three main objects. First, they are designed to give the Board the necessary powers to continue the marketing arrangements introduced during the war and operated since under Defence Regulations. Secondly, they will enable the Board to operate the guarantee arrangements for milk. Thirdly, they will bring the Scheme up to date in certain other respects.

These amendments are some of a larger number which were circulated to all registered producers about a year ago to give them an opportunity of asking for a poll on whether or not they should be submitted to my right honourable friend. In fact, no requests for a poll were received. Formal submission followed, and then the amendments were published and an opportunity was given for objections to be made. A number of objections were received, and a public inquiry was therefore held. In the light of the objections and of the Commissioner's Report, my right honourable friend decided that certain modifications should be made to the amendments, and to these the Board gave their assent. The Agricultural Marketing Acts require that only those amendments to which objection has been taken should be submitted to Parliament for approval, and that is why the full number are not before your Lordships to-day. I might add, however, that the remainder are in many cases of comparatively small importance.

Of the seven amendments that are before the House, a few are also relatively unimportant and I need not dwell on them. This applies, I think, to the first two. Their purpose is explained in the covering explanatory notes. The third amendment relates to matters which are considerably more important, the first of which is the implementation of the guarantee arrangements. The Board have in fact been implementing the guarantee for milk on behalf of the Government ever since the Board's marketing powers were restored on 1st April of last year, and this amendment will make permanent provision in the Scheme to enable them to continue doing so. The third amendment will also require the Board to give the Minister notice of their intention to exercise certain of their main marketing powers. This derives from the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1949, and is now a common feature of marketing schemes. It enables the Minister to consider the matter before a board take action which might conceivably be contrary to the public interest.

Under the third amendment, the Board's powers will also be extended in certain ways, for which the 1949 Act provided. In the form in which this amendment was originally submitted, it sought power for the Board to manufacture anything required in the production and distribution of milk, as well as a general power to provide services for the benefit of registered producers. In the light, however, of the objections made, and the Report of the Commissioner, my right honourable friend could not be satisfied that a general power of manufacture would, in fact, conduce to the more efficient operation of the Scheme, and decided that this power should be limited to the manufacture of dried grass. On the other hand, he was satisfied that the other new powers sought in the same paragraph, and particularly the general power to provide services, was a useful and proper one for the Board to have and that this provision should remain as part of the amendments.

I now turn to the fourth amendment, which is also quite important, in that it will confer on the Board the power to require producers to sell their milk only to, or through the agency of, the Board. As your Lordships will know, the main control exercised by the Board over marketing before the war derived from a system of contracts, to which the Board were a party. Since 1942, however, the Board have acted as sole buyer of milk produced in England and Wales except that sold by producer-retailers operating under licence. Until last year they did so under the control of the Ministry of Food, deriving the necessary powers from Defence Regulations, and it was proved that very worthwhile economies in distribution could be achieved under this system. The main purpose of this particular amendment is to give the Board permanent power to continue in the same way.

The effect of the fifth amendment is to revise certain provisions of the Scheme relating to the Board's obligation to buy milk. It introduces some changes in the circumstances in which the Board may refuse to buy or cease to buy milk, and I think that the nature of these changes will be apparent from the text itself. The sixth amendment relates to the Second Schedule to the Scheme in which is specified a list of commodities which the Board are empowered to produce from milk. The amendment extends this list to include margarine and any other corn-modifies of which milk is a substantial ingredient, except that there is a proviso limiting this power in relation to margarine. The seventh and last amendment is concerned only with the renumbering of paragraphs.

In commending these amendments to the House, I am sure that your Lordships on all sides would wish me to pay tribute to the fine work done by the Milk Marketing Board over many years in helping producers it a variety of ways to improve their standards of production and marketing. I art confident that these amendments will help the Board in their continued efforts to this end, and that for that reason your Lordships will wish to give them your approval. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Amendments of the Milk Marketing Scheme, 1933 (as amended to 1950), reported from the Special Orders Committee on the 27th of April last, be approved.—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl for his clear explanation of this revised Milk Marketing Scheme. These alterations, which he has explained to us in some detail, are perhaps less important than they appear on paper, because they will not for the most part involve any change in the structure of the Milk Marketing Board. The Board are already doing most of the things it is proposed that they should do under the revised Milk Marketing Scheme, but it is desirable that these alterations should be embodied in permanent legislation and should not be renewed from year to year by Defence Regulations. We are grateful to the noble Earl and the Government for con-tinning this basis of tidying up the law.

I know that your Lordships desire to get on to the debate on the gracious Speech, but I feel that I should comment briefly on two new powers which it is proposed to give to the Board and which are of some importance—namely, the power to produce more commodities, such as margarine, from milk, and the power to provide more services for producers. For my part, I think that both of these powers are extremely necessary. The Board should have a free hand to deal with any surplus milk. In relation to the other power, I feel sure that farmers will benefit from extended services provided by the Milk Marketing Board. I am particularly glad to see that the Board will be given permission to provide grass-drying centres, because grass drying is an expensive business and most farmers cannot do it for themselves. We support this amended Milk Marketing Scheme because, like the noble Earl, we feel it will be in the best interests both of the consumers of milk and of the dairy industry.

On Question. Motion agreed to.