Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The reason why I am introducing this Bill at this stage of the Session and asking the House to pass it before we adjourn, is because in 1915 a Milk and Dairies Bill was passed, the operation of which was postponed until after the War, and which comes into operation automatically on the 1st September. The Act of 1915 was a very large and ambitious Measure, dealing with the question of milk and milk production on a very elaborate and expensive scale. It was felt at the time the Bill was introduced that it was impossible to put it into operation during the War. The condition in which we find ourselves now, both in regard to the finances of the country and the industry of agriculture, is such that it will be generally agreed that the Act is not one which we can wisely put into operation at the present time. I, therefore, had to adopt one of two courses. One course was merely to postpone the operation of the Act of 1915 for a further number of years, when both of the causes I have mentioned may have been very much ameliorated, and the other course was one which I have adopted, namely, to endeavour at the present time, in the least ambitious and least expensive way, to improve the supply of milk and the production of milk, which is very far from satisfactory from the public health point of view.
The Act of 1915 required large staffs, and placed very heavy duties upon the county councils, and was estimated to impose a charge of something like £800,000 per annum, rising to £1,000,000 in the cost of administration. Everyone will admit that this is an expenditure which we cannot possibly undertake at the present time. The Bill put expenses on landlords and farmers which in the present financial condition of the industry I am quite sure neither of them would be ready to carry out. With the very natural anxiety to get our milk supply improved, so far as quality is concerned, we are a little apt to overlook the fact that a great many milk producers, if we place too onerous conditions upon them, will cease to produce milk, and will adopt the more easy form of growing beef, and devoting their attention to other forms of agriculture. You cannot compel the farmer to produce milk. There are many other directions in which he can divert his energy. Therefore we always have to be very careful, in dealing with a problem of this kind, not to stop our already too scattered supply of fresh milk which is so very essential to the welfare of the country.
The Bill I am now introducing has already been passed through another place, where it has been very carefully considered and several Amendments introduced. It is the result of very careful consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Central Chamber of Agriculture, the Farmers' Union, the leading producers of high-grade milk, and all those who have taken most interest in the clean milk question. I am glad to say that the Measure has met with the approval of all those somewhat conflicting interests.
The consumers' point of view has been very carefully con- sidered, and I think, as I develop my remarks, my hon. Friend will agree that it is on the consumer that I am very largely relying in this attempt to improve the quality of milk. I am introducing this Bill with a view to endeavouring to encourage the production of good milk. When I say "good milk," I mean that I wish to establish a grade of milk which is not so dear or expensive that it cannot be used or bought by a large part of the population. Instead of endeavouring to act by a form of compulsion, I want to act by a form of persuasion. The best form of persuasion, undoubtedly, lies with the consumer. If the consumer asks and insists on having a better standard of article, my experience shows that he will always get it. Practical experience shows that to be the case. I was interested in a hospital situated in a very poor part of London, and which concerned itself with infants under 12 months who suffered from mal-nutrition. To the out-patients' department mothers from a very poor strata of society brought their children. When one talked to them of the good milk which they ought to have, they went to the retailers and refused to take the bad milk which they had been given in the past, and thus they effected in that district an extraordinary revolution in the quality of the milk. Therefore the consumer has it in his power to deal with this matter by demanding a better article, and I hope he will exercise that power. I hope the retailer, also, will insist on the producer producing good milk, and by this chain work I have no doubt that a very considerable improvement can be made.
Local authorities already possess very considerable powers of securing sanitary conditions in production, storage and distribution of milk. The Milk and Dairies Order, of 1885, really gives very large powers to local authorities, and if it were more generally in force we should have gone much further than we have at present in the direction of obtaining clean milk. The powers of the Orders of 1885, 1886 and 1899 provide for the registration of all dairies and milk shops; the lighting, ventilation, cleansing, drainage and water supply of premises, and for precautions against infection or contamination. The Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1885, Section 6, makes it an offence to sell to the prejudice of the consumer an article of food which is not of the nature, substance and quality demanded. The Order of 1885 requires local authorities to keep registers, but outside London there is no general power to revoke registration once it has been granted. The result is that if the local authority has once registered a dairy, it has no power, at present, however much complaint may be made of any person who carries it on, to take away the registration. I propose in this Bill to give that power, and I think the local authorities will find it extremely useful in keeping those places on their registers under better supervision and control.
I have endeavoured to guard against, arbitrary action on the part of the local authorities against the retailer. If a revocation of a licence of registration is intended, seven days' notice is required, with the reasons, and the man must be given a hearing, with an appeal to a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and, if necessary, an appeal to a Court of Quarter Sessions. This power will be a very valuable one, because obviously, if you have power to register a dairy, and if you have not the power to take that dairy off the register in cases where it is not conducted as it should be, you cannot exercise the necessary supervision-and control. I am endeavouring at the present time in this Bill to work on the methods of grading up. We have made some progress in that direction already. We have at present certified and Grade. A farms which are properly controlled, and in which a very strict inspection is made, with tuberculin tests in regard to the cattle used. The number of licences for' the certified grade and grade A has in creased from 17, in March, 1920, to 57 in July, 1922. That is some increase, but it is on a very small scale, and this milk is at present rather a luxury article than one useful to the great mass of our people. The reason, for that is that the tests which are asked for are really more rigid than was thought at the time that the average farmer would be ready to comply with. I propose to try and provide a system under conditions by which any reasonably careful farmer ought to be able to supply this quality of milk without any great additional cost to himself. We want to set up, as a standard article, milk which for health purposes ought to be satisfactory. I do not want pure milk to be any longer the luxury of the rich, but I want to try and make it a common commodity for the use of all our citizens. I am certain when that is understood the demand will grow, that the producers will meet it, and there will be a general levelling up of the standard. The grading will be done by Orders,. which will have to be drawn up when the Bill is passed and which, of course, will have to be submitted to the House.
I was saying a word a moment ago on the question of milk, and of the tuberculin test for cattle. I do not want to go into too much technical detail, but I would say that what we want to get is milk which is free from tuberculosis bacteria. It is not the case that every cow which reacts to the test gives tuberculous milk. At the present- moment, the Medical Research Council, at my instigation, is carrying on an elaborate investigation into the whole question of the value of the tuberculin tests. I propose to go on the lines of testing the milk rather than the cow, and I am laying down a standard of a bacteriological kind in the milk test rather than dealing with the animal which is producing it. By an investigation into these problems we shall find many new and interesting facts about which at present our knowledge is very obscure, and finally arrive at something more satisfactory.
In Clause 4 we introduce provisions for prohibiting the addition of colouring matter or water and other things of this kind to milk. This is a continuation of a Food Control Order of 1921. This Order will naturally lapse on the 1st September this year if it is not embodied in this Bill and made part of our permanent legislation. Under the Food and Drugs Act already there are many offences as to the sale of adulterated milk with which it is difficult to deal. If a customer asks for a pint and does not say "milk" to the retailer, it would be difficult to prosecute the retailer for selling adulterated milk. Under this Clause it is made an offence to sell, offer or expose for sale adulterated milk. That is, it is immaterial whether the customer asks for pure milk or any other kind. The mere fact of a man exposing for sale adulterated milk brings him under the penalties of the Act.
Under Clause 5 it is made an offence for any person knowingly to sell milk from a cow with tuberculosis of the udder. The penalties are severe. For the first summary conviction there is liability to a fine not exceeding £20, and for second and subsequent convictions a fine not exceeding £100 or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a period of six months. The penalties are purposely made severe because a person selling milk of that kind is retailing not food but poison. That is crime against society, and society has a full right to protect itself against it to the best of its ability. This continues Article 15 of the Dairies, etc., Order of 1885, as amended by the Order of 1889.
Clause 8 gives the Minister power to make Regulations for the prevention of danger to health from imported milk. The quantity of milk imported is small, but there are no Regulations at present for dealing with it, and it is only right, when we place upon our own people obligations imposed by Parliament, at the same time to see that no milk is allowed to come into this country which is not of equal quality. It is not a question of condensed milk, but a question of fresh milk. Condensed falls under another category. The question of the standard of condensed milk is one more of food value than of liability to spread tuberculosis. Regulations not yet settled may-lay down some standard such as bacteriological count, and empower appropriate authorities to reject milk not up to standard. I would not at the moment like to say what they shall be. I have not considered all the details.
Considerable powers already exist under milk and dairy Orders issued in the past, but in many cases even existing powers have been allowed to become a dead letter. Under Clause 11 powers may be exercised by a county council where a district council within the county have failed to exercise any of the powers under this Bill or any enactment relating to milk and dairies or any Order or Regulations made thereunder. The Minister of Health may after such inquiry as he thinks necessary by Order determine that all or any such powers and duties be transferred to the county council either for a definite period or until the Minister shall otherwise direct. This, I think, will be a very valuable provision in certain cases for equalising, standardising, and enforcing these Orders throughout the country. Up to the present, enforcing these Orders has been very unequal. In some districts existing Orders are being enforced with very great zeal. In other parts of the country they have been let lie as a dead letter.
This is bad from several points of view. It is not fair to the producers of milk that one man in one district has got to put up his standard and that the retailers of milk in one district have to put up their standard, while in another district producers and retailers are not asked to observe that standard. It is equally unfair to people living in the district. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that by extending the power to a county council and giving a larger area, some county councils being more zealous and more responsible than some of the smaller district councils, we shall get a better and more uniform administration of the Orders and Acts which we are now discussing. The Orders, of course, which will have to be framed, will have to be laid before Parliament in the usual course. Consultation will have to take place between myself and the Minister of Agriculture on the framing of these Orders. That, I think, is only a reasonable provision. There is a number of other smaller provisions, with which I need not trouble the House at present. They can, if necessary, be discussed in Committee.
The Milk Act, 1915, is not in any way repealed by this Bill. I am merely postponing it for a certain number of future years, and the House will be able then to make up its mind as to whether or not more complex Measures shall come into law or what further Amendments, if any, will be necessary. I have endeavoured to frame a small and modest, but, I think, a useful, Measure, which will be a good step forward in the production and retailing of a better class of milk. We are all anxious to see progress made in this very important matter. No one can be very proud of the position we occupy, compared with the United States, on the question of our milk supply. As I have indicated, I propose to move by gentle steps. I thought that that was better than to take a purely negative attitude or to postpone any improvement. I hope that this Bill, when passed, will carry us a stage fur- ther on the long road, which has been travelled for many years, to provide the people of this country with a better and purer, and I hope not more expensive, supply of milk, which is so much needed.
I am sorry that there are so few Members present to hear my right hon. Friend's interesting explanation of the Bill. There must be many hon. Members who at present are more practically interested in other fluids than in milk. Otherwise I am sure they would have been here. I am glad of this Bill and am in favour of it. I may claim to have done my little best, at any rate, to create an atmosphere, so far as I could, in which the right hon. Gentleman would have good hopes of making progress in this extraordinarily important matter. There was a great deal of disagreement among societies interested in milk production. That seemed to me to be unnecessary. Therefore, a few months ago, as Chairman of the Agricultural Organisation Society, I took it upon myself to have a Conference, which came to certain conclusions, and generally to agreement for the first time on lines very similar to those of the Bill. It is an extraordinary fact that, if this Bill reaches the Statute Book, it will be the first Milk Bill to become an Act in force in this country. We have the 1915 Act, but that is not to come into force yet. It is rather remarkable, when one realises the extraordinary importance of milk to public health, that there is no Milk Act, as such, in force in the United Kingdom—only certain Clauses in the Sale of Food and Drugs Act. It is high time that we made a beginning of practical action in the matter. I hope that this Bill will not be the last step forward.
The general line taken by the Minister of Health is right. He is going to make a great effort, first to improve the milk supply and, secondly, to popularise the consumption of better milk. I hope he will have the assistance of all persons interested in public health. I believe he is right in beginning from that end. If a considerable proportion of our people, persons in schools, persons with families of young children, and so on, can be got into the habit of asking for one of the simpler grades of really good milk, it will be the beginning of real progress. It is right to try that, especially now, when the farming community is so utterly dis- gruntled and depressed, instead of harassing the producer with regulations as to his cow-sheds and all sorts of elaborate inspection, with safety pins on cows' tails and all that sort of thing. The farmer simply will not stand having a Government inspector on his farm, and until he has forgotten something of the way in which he has been treated, first in the passing of the Agriculture Act and then in the repeal of that Act, he will not come to any better frame of mind. It is justifiable to postpone the Act of 1915, although that Act contains all sorts of valuable provisions from the point of view of health. The fact that it necessitated inspectors going all round the premises of every producer of milk would be fatal to its practical working, and we cannot stand the extra expense for officials of from £800,000 to £1,000,000.
The only person whom I have yet read of who wished to bring the Act of 1915 at once into operation, is the Noble Lord in another place who has a feeling of paternity towards the Measure. It is surely right that the licences hitherto given, or supposed to be given, by local authorities, should be made revocable, so that when a retailer's premises are not fit for retailing milk he can be put out of business or he can be required to abate the nuisance—take his cesspool away from the place where he sells his milk, or something of that kind, or at any rate put his methods of milk retailing into proper condition. Then, of course, there is the simplification of grades. There has been some development in the consumption of graded milk, but when all is said and done it comes to one common end. Either "certified" or "grade A" now is very much less than it ought to be. A simplification of grading ought very quickly to lead to greatly increased consumption of really graded and tested milk, which is what we want to aim at.
I am glad that, although bodies like the Co-operative Congress and a committee of the Trade Unions Congress have wanted to go farther, and to bring all the powers of the 1915 Act into force as soon as possible, yet they have, I understand, passed resolutions in favour of a development of the simplification of the grading of milk. The general basis of examining, not the farmer, but the milk itself, seems to me to be right. That is the thing that counts—the condition in which the milk reaches the consumer. If the milk comes up to a reasonable standard, I am sure you can trust the people who handle the milk to see that milk of that standard is produced under reasonably good conditions. If it once pays the retailer to sell this new A milk on the simplified grading, he will see that he buys from the producer milk that is either produced under proper conditions, so that it will not develop too many bacteria, or milk that is passed through proper pasteurising processes, which make it the best grade of milk for human consumption. There will be much quicker progress in getting the retailer to look after the producer by these means, than by pushing Government inspection right away to the producer himself.
I wish to raise a few points by way of question. The first is, what is to be done in those districts in which at the present time the registering of retailers is practically a dead letter and where, even although my right hon. Friend proposes to give the county councils powers, the county councils do not choose to exercise those powers? It will he no good to say retailers are to be registered, if they are to be registered in some counties and not in others. There must be uniformity, and that is one of the things which is really important if we are to get a better milk supply. At present there is no power in the Bill for getting uniformity among the district councils. The only power is that the county council "may"—not "shall"—if it pleases and if it finds a district council is not registering the retailers properly take over the power of that district council and do the work for it. What will be done if not only the district council but the county council fails to take proper action?
Secondly, I think we should know what exactly is covered by the word "retailer"—if the producer, the ordinary farmer who, as so many of them do, sells a few quarts of milk to private customers is to be covered, even though in the main he is a wholesaler and sends his milk off by train. I imagine there is no intention yet of having registration of the ordinary milk producer in the country if he happens to retail a little milk, but sends practically all his milk off by train. Probably that is as far as we can go at present. I do not think you can register all producers of milk, but I would like to have that point cleared up, and to know to what extent registration applies to the ordinary farmer and whether it covers him if he is in fact to any extent a retailer. Then with regard to the grading which is intended in the Bill I am bound to say that, both in another place and here, all that has been presented to us rather as a pig in a poke. I admit it is an easier task for my right hon. Friend to get the Bill through without having to tell us what he is going to do with regard to these grades. That, however, is one of the central points of the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman will have to be a little more explicit—as will also his representative in another place—as to what is definitely intended. He said to-night, and it was said in another place over and over again, that the new grading "certified," "Grade A" and so forth would be worked out afterwards. The House cannot be asked to give all sorts of powers of grading and not to know at all what is intended. I have no reason to think there will not be fairly considerable agreement on the matter. In regard to what is meant by pasteurised milk, for instance, I think most people agree it must be pasteurisation by the whole process, and there will be agreement, too, as to the new Grade A that it should not be merely tested bacteriologically, but should go much further than that. Before the Bill leaves the House and is passed into law we should have some closer idea of what is really meant, and I should like to know whether the Minister has it in mind to set up any standard of visible dirt in milk. I do not think it is possible to do that usefully. That is another matter in which people who are interested in the question ought to know the line the Minister is likely to take with regard to these grades before we give him power to set them up.
In Clause 4 the Bill provides that no person shall add any colouring matter or water or any dried or condensed milk or any fluid reconstituted there from to milk intended for sale. There is no prohibition, however, as to selling reconstituted milk as milk. There is no prohibition against a man taking dried or condensed milk, adding water to it, and selling that as milk. It is something very different from milk, and should not be sold as such. Clause 5 deals with the prevention of tuberculosis. I think my right hon. Friend ought to go slow about that extraordinarily important and very difficult question. I believe the hon. Member for the Wavertree Division of Liverpool (Lieut.-Colonel Raw) is one of the greatest authorities on the subject of tuberculosis alive at the present time, and I have seen it stated as his opinion that as long as children can get enough milk a certain amount of cow tuberculosis infection in that milk is not harmful, but may be beneficial, because it tends to immunise the children who take it from human tuberculosis. If that is so, it revolutionises a great many of our previous ideas, and we ought not to hurry too quickly with regard to Regulations as to tuberculosis. Many people hold that the repeated testing of cows with the tuber culin test is a mistake, and it has been suggested recently—again quite contrary to previous theory—that the constant testing of cows with the tuberculin test tends actually to infect the cows with tuberculosis and to make them react, whereas if they had not been tested so often they would not have reacted at all With regard to tuberculosis in cattle as in human beings there is a great deal to learn medically. My right hon. Friend has not laid down the law with regard to that matter, but has put it over into the domain of a Committee of Medical Research who, if anybody can arrive at a conclusion, is the body to arrive at it. The only other point which is of particular interest to the farmer arises on Clause 9. The farmer has long suffered under the grievance that he was capable of being convicted on the analysis of a sample of his milk taken after the milk had left his custody and taken out of a vessel which had not been sealed or effectively closed. The farmer has alleged that in such cases the vessel has often been tampered with. It is often alleged that porters at a railway station or other persons have taken the lid off and taken a couple of pints out and put water back instead of the milk or that the milk has been tampered with in some form or another. I am glad the Bill proposed to deal with this matter. The Bill provides that a person shall not be convicted in respect of a sample taken after the milk has left his custody, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the churn in which the milk was contained was effectively closed and sealed at the time when it left his custody and was not so closed when it reached the person by whom the sample was taken. It has been suggested to me that it is going to be rather difficult to administer the Measure in this respect and I ask for further information on this point. The railway companies sometimes refuse to accept churns which are properly closed and sealed. That may at first sight seem to be a difficulty. The railway companies, I suppose, refuse to accept a sealed or closed churn because there are unscrupulous farmers who try to swindle them by saying that the churn is half empty and only paying for the transport of half the milk, when really the churn is three-quarters, or it may be quite, full; and the railway companies have said, "We must have the right to open these churns to see how much milk is in them." It seems to me that that ought to be capable of being got over. I think the railway companies ought to accept the churns properly closed and sealed in order to meet this important point. Of course, the way to detect the attempted fraud by the farmer is to weigh the milk, but the difficulty is that the milk is landed at the station in the early hours of the morning two or three minutes before the train goes, and is rushed by the porters across the platform into the waiting vans, but I think it would be fair for the railway companies to say, "If you want not to pay for the full churn, you must have your milk at the station a quarter of an hour before the train is timed to leave, so as to give a chance of weighing it."
I do not think it would be legal proof of what a churn contained, to tap it. That point can be got over only by weighing. I have a good many other points, but I will not put them now. I do not want, when the Bill gets into Committee, to obstruct on any of these questions, but I think this is a matter of first-class importance from the point of view of the public health, and I am sure that in Committee my right hon. Friend will be prepared to consider the points I have raised, and others that will be raised in the course- of the Debate. If I have seemed to be a critic, I am a friendly critic. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in the Bill, and I think he is on the lines of least resistance, and that on the whole we have got to go slowly, but we need a Bill on the basis of which we can start a real campaign for the consumption of more milk, and better milk.
I want to say a few words with regard to milk from the health point of view. You may look at milk in two ways, one as a food and one as a possible carrier of dangerous organisms and so as a producer of disease. I will not go into the question of milk as a food, for what I want to speak about is especially the danger of tuberculosis in milk. Milk may be a carrier of disease in two ways. Milk may carry typhoid, not through the cow having typhoid fever, but because the water used to dilute the milk may have come from an infected well, or because the milkman is a carrier of it, having the typhoid himself. Similarly with diphtheria or scarlet fever, but in none of those cases is it infected till it comes into the outer world. In the case of tuberculosis, however, the milk carries the germs of an extremely serious and fatal disease from a cow infected with that disease, and I think that anyone who has had dealings with tuberculous diseases in men would feel that no pains should be spared in preventing the carrying of milk from the cow to man. What has struck me as extraordinary is the difficulty that one, has in getting agreement with agriculturists or dairy people as to the necessity for taking special precautions in regard to tuberculosis. I cannot believe it is due to anything else than want of appreciation of the real danger. I cannot believe that anyone would knowingly sell milk containing tuberculous virus, knowing that, by doing so, he was spreading the disease among the children and the younger members of the community.
I am very glad to see what the Minister has said about tuberculous milk in the Bill, but there are two points which I think would improve matters. In the first place, the Bill says:
No person shall knowingly … sell…the milk of a cow suffering from tuberculosis of the udder.
That leaves a loophole for evasion which seems to me almost to spoil the value of the Clause, because anyone can say he did not knowingly sell such milk. It is put in here, but it is not allowed to be an excuse in other matters. For instance, a man goes into a restaurant and orders a pie, and eats it, and is taken ill from ptomaine poisoning. He brings the restaurant keeper to book and compels him to pay expenses and damages, although the restaurant keeper undoubtedly sold that diseased pie unknowingly, and I do not see why it should not be just as necessary for a dairyman to know whether his milk does or does not contain tuberculous virus as it is for the restaurant keeper to see that what he sells is not poisoned. I do not, therefore, like this term "knowingly," because it would be very easy for a dairyman to say that he did not know, and I should like the Minister to consider the question whether he should retain that word "knowingly" or not.
The other point I want to make is in regard to the latter part of the Clause, where it says:
No person shall knowingly…sell…the milk of a cow suffering from tuberculosis of the udder.
Scientifically, that may be quite correct, and I do not believe there is much danger in the milk of a cow, even if it suffer from a general tuberculous disease, unless the udder itself is affected, but I am afraid that, by putting those words in the Bill, you will mislead the farmer, who will concentrate all his attention on the question of whether or not the udder is tuberculous, and so will forget to look to see whether the milk is free from bacilli. This question of tuberculosis in the udder is an extremely difficult one. Diagnosis for tuberculous disease by external handling of an udder is almost impossible, and, in any ease, plenty of expert veterinary evidence would be given in a Court of Law, some saying that the udder was tuberculous, and some saying it was not. I do not believe you would get a conviction, in any case, if something be not said about the im-
portant point, namely, whether the milk contains tubercle bacilli. One knows quite easily whether the milk is tuberculous or not by examining it microscopically for tubercle bacilli. The farmer naturally does not do it, but, of course, skilled people can do it, and it can be done quickly, cheaply and accurately by a microscopical examination of the milk. The milk can be examined for a few shillings, and the matter decided absolutely. Of course, if it became a necessary thing to do, there is no doubt that a class of men would very quickly grow up and become quite expert in ascertaining tubercle bacilli.
I would like to see in the Bill after the words "milk of a cow suffering from tuberculosis of the udder," the words "as determined by the presence, of tubercle bacilli in the milk," or else leave out the words referring to the udder, and say "sell, or offer or expose for sale, the milk of a cow containing tubercle bacilli," The danger of partaking of that milk is so great, that it is absolutely essential that information should be obtained by anyone who is selling milk as to whether he is selling milk containing tubercle bacilli. Tuberculous disease of the intestines, bones, joints and so forth in this country is to a great extent due to that particular form of infection which affects the cow, and I cannot imagine a man who is selling milk, knowing these great dangers that arise, not trying, as far as he can, to ascertain whether he is selling milk which contains this terrible poison or not, and if the subject were once organised and became the rule, it could be perfectly, simply and cheaply done. I was talking only the other day with a doctor who had practised in America for some time in one of the States, where very stringent precautions, which are smiled at here, are enforced, and he told me that he had been several years in private practice there, and had constantly visited the large hospitals in the city and immediate neigh bourhood. He had never once all the time he was there seen a case of tuberculous glands in the neck. You have only to go to any hospital in this kingdom, especially children's hospitals, and you will see cases of tuberculous glands in the neck, but in this particular State in America, as the result of the stringent regulations made by the Government in regard to tuberculous milk, that form of tuberculous disease is not in evidence at all. I think that in this respect this country, which for many years was the leading country in all matters of public-health, has fallen behind in this matter. It is the greatest pity in the world that it should be so. What I want to point out here is that you are dealing with one of the most terrible poisons that can be introduced into anyone. If a milkman were to sell milk diluted with arsenic you would say that he was a terrible man and that that was a terrible thing to do— even though it were done accidentally. Why should he be allowed to sell milk filled with tubercle bacilli of the most virulent description? This is a matter that deserves most serious consideration. I am very glad indeed to see the Minister has taken up this matter. He is on the right lines, but I beg him to strengthen the Bill and to think over what I have said about making the demonstration of tubercle bacilli the real test for the regulation of the supply.
I regret that I am unable to share the enthusiasm expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland). At the same time I should say that those with whom I am associated will not vote against the Bill on the principle of taking what we can get. We deplore the further postponement of the Milk and Dairies Act, 1915. We consider the further suspension of that Act to be regrettable, and believe that under present and existing circumstances it cannot be justified. We are entitled to expect from the Minister of Health, having regard to the suspension of the Act, some alternative conditions in the present Bill which will meet the requirements of the, existing situation.
With my right hon. Friend I share the view that the provision of a wholesome, plentiful, and cheap supply of milk has become a serious and pressing public question. If we accept that position, and we look at this Bill, we are compelled to admit that it makes little contribution towards making good that condition. The Minister of Health excused the further postponement of the 1915 Act chiefly on the ground of expense. I want, however, to suggest that many of the most valuable and important provisions of the 1915 Act were provisions of the greatest advantage to the community and could have been put into operation without the expenditure of a single penny. The present Bill, where it sets out to remedy the grievances of the existing system, falls far short of the mark, and puts into operation some very clumsy expedients and alternatives. Clause 5, which has already been referred to, imposes a penalty upon an individual who knowingly by himself, or any servant or agent, sells, or exposes for sale, the milk of a cow suffering from tuberculosis. I look upon that Clause, well-intentioned though it may be, as being weak and futile. Does the Government or any hon. Member think that any individual will offer for sale tuberculous milk if he knows that that milk is in that particular condition? I agree that human nature is differently constituted. I am going to give milk vendors the benefit; of the doubt and I say that, whether from the point of view of the producer or the retailer, there is not a man in a thousand would sell tuberculous milk if lie knew that it-was so affected. Even if it be admitted that an individual here and there may commit an offence of that character, surely it does not need the provisions of this Clause to bring that individual to justice. How is the retailer or the producer of milk to know that an animal is producing tuberculous milk, or how is the retailer to know that he is selling it in that condition when he gets hold of it? As has already been stated, it is exceedingly difficult to know when milk is affected with tubercle bacilli. A clinical examination of an animal will not always disclose the presence of tuberculosis and even when the tuberculin test is applied, it may tell us that there is tuberculosis in that animal, but it does not tell us where it is.
Those entitled to speak with authority say that from 25 to 30 per cent, of all milk-giving animals in the country suffer from tuberculosis in some form or another, and that only a comparatively small number—I think it is about 3 per cent.—give tubercle milk. The difficulty of the situation is emphasised by these facts, and they seem to establish the necessity of dealing with the milk not as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, but by going to the sources of supply and endeavouring to put the matter right in that quarter. There is a very simple provision in the Act of 1915, which, I think, ought to be included in this Bill, and some local authorities have already adopted that principle. Some municipalities employ a veterinary surgeon whose duties are to inspect dairy cattle in their area once or twice a year. There is no law to compel them to undertake that work, but in the 1915 Act there is a provision where a number of authorities may combine for that purpose, employ a veterinary surgeon, and set him looking after the dairy cows in that way. The right hon. Gentleman well knows that in those parts of the country where this principle has been adopted there has been a general advance in the type of dairy cows kept, and there has been a lower type of animals where this inspection is not in operation. I think such inspection ought to be made general, and the Clause in the 1915 Act should be included in this Bill.
It is Section 10. The effects of tuberculous milk upon the health of the population is well understood. I have been looking up the findings of the medical officer to the Board of Education in connection with this matter, and his report says that something like 50 per cent. of tuberculosis in the abdomen is due to the bacteria from milk affected with tubercle. That report commits itself to the declaration that 85 per cent. of tuberculosis in the glands of children under five years of age is due to the infection of tuberculous milk, and in a summary of conclusions which that report presents it is stated that out of 1,400,000 children who were inspected in 1920—a routine inspection and not an inspection of special cases—over 6,000 children were found suffering from tuberculosis—that excluding all suspected cases. The medical officer to the Board of Education also committed himself to this declaration:
We must restrict and, if possible, stop the consumption of tuberculous infected milk.
My view is that we are not going to prevent the consumption of such milk by this Bill. We could prevent it by going to the sources of supply. It will be 12 years ago or more when at Health Conferences in different parts of the country one made the acquaintance of the hon. and gallant Member for Wavertree
(Lieut.-Colonel Raw), and I well remember how he startled his hearers by suggesting very drastic methods of eliminating tuberculosis from this country. I am speaking from memory, but the hon. and gallant Member's declarations at that time made a very profound impression on my mind, and had not a little to do with my pursuing the investigation of problems of public health. I remember hearing the hon. and gallant Member declare that he would slaughter every milk-producing animal in this country, even if it involved a cost of £10,000,000, because, when that had been done, we could have a fresh start so far as milk production was concerned. Having regard to existing circumstances, financial and otherwise, that might be considered an extreme position to take up, but What a tremendous gap is there between that declaration and Clause 5 of this Bill. The latter says we are to prosecute any person who knowingly offers for sale tuberculous infected milk, but we are to go on producing out of the 3 per cent. of animals in this country that throw off tuberculous milk. I have heard my hon. and gallant Friend state that if the milk from one infected animal was mixed with milk from 25 other animals it would contaminate the whole supply. Who is going to challenge the authority of an hon Member who speaks with such knowledge of this particular matter? Clause 5 of this Bill is a long way short of Section 5 of the 1915 Act. That would have done more service in this direction, but Clause 5 of this Bill will do very little.
I want to inquire in a friendly way what this Bill does to stabilise the general quality of the milk which is consumed in the country. I can quite understand the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from this side. His chief concern seemed to be with the producer of the milk, but I think we ought to protect the consumer at every point, and the difference between this Bill and the Act of 1915 is, in my judgment, that, while the Act of 1915 had a tendency to go for the producer of the milk, we are now, by this Bill, throwing all the onus and responsibility upon the retailer. I want to put to the Minister a proposition in connection with this matter of the low quality of milk. If we go back for a year or two we shall probably discover, from the records of prosecutions for poor milk, that those prosecutions were for adulterated milk; but I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a change in those circumstances in recent times, and that comparatively few prosecutions to-day are for adulterated milk. The prosecutions to-day are for a low standard of milk—milk deficient in the fat content which gives sustenance to those who consume the milk. If that be so, it is an indication that there is a general low standard of milk in the country.
We hear something about milk being graded; my view of the matter is that the milk supply has been degraded at the present time, and that there is a considerably lower standard of milk on sale than was the case in days gone by; while we have the retailer standing before the justices and vigorously protesting that he is selling the milk in the condition in which he received it. In the majority of cases he is right, but still the penalty comes upon him for selling low-grade milk in the condition in which he received it. Some time ago, having seen some statistics in the Board of Trade returns in connection with the matter, I wrote to the President of the Board of Trade asking for further information, and I got a letter from the President of the Board of Trade to the effect that, in 1920 and 1921, 22,622 mechanical cream separators were imported into this country. These things were not imported for ornamental purposes, but for use, and hon. Members will have seen these mechanical appliances at work. I wonder if they have sampled the milk before it went into one of them and after it came out. If so, they will understand the difference in the article. In the old days, when cream was taken off for any purpose, the milk had to stand all night. It was then old milk, or blue milk, and was sold at a copper or two for a bucketful. Often it was given to the pigs. But now, within 10 minutes of the milk being produced, it goes through the mechanical separator while still warm, and all the fatty content is extracted. The milk is still warm; it is new milk: and I assert that this milk is not now given to the pigs, is not being sold at a low price for a considerable quantity, but finds its way on to the market, and much of it. in our industrial towns, is sold and consumed as the genuine article. An hon. Member says I have got to prove it. I am expressing the view that it is done.
Hence the prosecutions for the sale of milk, not adulterated, but deficient in fatty solids. Now it is urged that we should have a classification of milk. I am down on this classification and grading of milk, because, as we move in the direction of grading the milk on the lines which have been suggested, the low-grade milk will get where it gets to now. It will go into the homes of the poorest section of the population, because their purchasing power compels them to purchase the cheapest article. They buy the commodity which has its sustaining properties extracted, and do not get the benefit of the higher-grade milk which is on the market. We urge that there should be one standard of pure milk for consumption by all classes of the community, and we urge that there should be a Clause inserted in this Bill to establish a fixed minimum of fatty content in milk, below which standard milk shall not be sold as genuine.
After we have dealt with quality and with the evils of the existing system, what about the quantity of milk? Does the Bill do anything in the direction of giving a greater quantity to the population? We have been living in days of high prices and scarcity of milk supply. Before the War the supply of milk worked out at less than half a pint per day per head of the population, and in 1918 and 1919 a quarter of a pint was about the average available. During the war period, when restrictions wore very extensive, when everyone had to sacrifice something, the Food Committee, which had this matter in hand, made an allowance of a pint and a half per day for every child under 18 months, and one pint a day for children above five years. A quarter of a pint per day per head of the population is altogether insufficient. This Bill makes no attempt to improve the supply available. We have a mass of unemployment. We are talking about land settlement. For every 100 acres of arable and pasture land there are only half the number of milch cows that there are in Belgium, Holland and Denmark. Then with re-
gard to the question of price. [Interruption.] I can quite understand the sarcastic references of hon. Members opposite. They will not be troubled with the question of price. The question with them will be one of supply and the price will be quite immaterial. But to a large section of the population both the price and the supply of milk are matters of very serious concern. We have been living in days of high prices and the operations and the ramifications of the Milk Trust have been generally discussed. There is nothing in the Bill to protect the population against excessive prices. It: makes no provision for labelling the vessels in which milk is contained similar to the provisions in the 1915 Act. One Section in the 1915 Act stipulates that every vessel shall be labelled with the type of milk it contains. That will not cost anything and it would at least protect the poorest of the community. There is nothing in the Bill to compel local authorities by pasteurization or any similar method to ensure that some of the worst properties of the milk are extracted. Further, there is nothing in the Bill which extends the powers of local authorities. We had a Bill before the House last year which set forth very definite proposals in respect of the powers of local authorities. It enabled them to purchase and sell such milk within their area, to make milk products from surplus milk, to distribute milk within their area and in fact to do everything from the point of view of the production and distribution of milk. There are anomalies which ought to be removed by this Bill. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to incorporate this provision so far as the powers of local authorities are concerned from the Bill of last year in the present Bill. I was a member of a municipality before I came to this House and we started a municipal farm. We had from 20 to 25 head of cattle, and we produced what was recognised as the best milk in the locality; but we could not sell the milk. We had to enter into a contract with a milk vendor, and the only stipulation we could make was that he should supply the infirmary. It was one of those conditions that was honoured, but which we could not insist upon. The milk was taken by hotels and restaurants in gallons, and the people who only wanted gills and pints, the ratepayers of the district who
maintained the farm, could not get any of the milk because it had to be sold to the ordinary milk vendor, and disposed of in large quantities. There ought to be provision for municipalities extending not only to the production of milk, but to their being able to sell it when they have produced it. The powers of Clause 6 in the Bill of last year would meet these requirements, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should incorporate it in this Bill. It would enable the local authorities to set a standard both in milk production and milk distribution. The right hon. Gentleman has a very responsible finding to go upon. I ask him to compare the provisions of this Bill with the findings of the Astor Committee. The Astor Committee went into this question of milk production and distribution, and this is what they say should be the policy of the future in respect to this question of milk supply:
To bring about the utmost possible economy in production in order that:
There is a charter for the milk policy of the future which would bring benefits and advantages to the community if carried out. This Bill does not attempt, and the right hon. Gentleman does not pretend that it attempts, to approach that standard. We, knowing the working people and the difficulties that they have to encounter in regard to milk supply, both from the point of view of quality and price, ask that there should be a much higher standard given to them than this Bill gives. We shall vote for the Bill, not because we are satisfied with what it contains, but in the hope that it may be the starting point of greater achieve-
ments in the direction of securing the benefits of a cheap and pure supply for the people.
Those who are interested in this Bill will regret that it has come on so late at night. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health made one remark in regard to this Bill with which I thoroughly agree. He said it was a little Bill. Last week we had a Bill introduced ostensibly as a little Bill, which some of us had no difficulty in showing was a very big Bill. This is a little Bill. It is an exiguous affair. This professes to be a Milk Bill. I notice that in one of the Clauses it is made an offence to add water to the milk. Clause 4 provides that no person shall add any water to the milk—a thoroughly original and enterprising proposal. As a matter of fact, the Bill ought to be described as a "Milk and Water Bill." That is what it is. As the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) said, the Bill will be the first Milk Act to be put into operation. As he said, and as the Minister of Health indicated, it is very discreditable to this country that that should be so.
What are the two big requirements of the day in this matter? It is not a question of harrying unduly the unfortunate middleman who has a shop, nor of imposing swarms of inspectors on the farms of the producers. We shall never get what is needed in this country until we frame our policy to encourage the production of a much more abundant supply of cleaner milk. That is what the public really need. I cannot see that this Bill—I am sorry to say it—with the exception of one provision, is going to help us on that road in the very least. Let me refer to two of the main points in the Bill. We know that in the milk sold there is often, unfortunately, a great amount of dirt of various kinds. I am not going into details, the question is how it gets there. It gets there, to some extent, in the cowshed; not so much in the shop; but a good deal in the homes of the people. If we want to prevent this dirt getting into the milk, let us try to frame our policies and proceedings to help people to keep it out. Under the Act of 1915, there are, in this connection, some very valuable proposals, which would, at least, accomplish something. In this Bill, so far as I can
see, there is nothing whatever to improve the cleanliness of milk, except that a local authority, by whom a register of milk is kept, may do something or other to a man who is on the register. A man need not be on the register to sell milk, and it does not follow that a local authority need keep a register. All they may do is something to the man who is on the register if the public health "is likely to be endangered by any act or default of any person being a retailer of milk." That will mean that a certain number of men, whose milk is perhaps grossly dirty, will be proceeded against, but we are not going to remove the causes of the uncleanliness of the milk in that way. You will, to some extent, prevent its condition becoming worse, but there are provisions in the Act of 1915 which would have gone some distance in that way. Under various paragraphs in Clause I of that Act the Local Government Board is given power to issue instructions and directions
For securing the cleanliness of milk stores, milk shops and milk vessels used for containing milk for sale by such persons;
For prescribing the precautions to be taken for protecting milk against infection or contamination;
For preventing danger to health from the sale for human consumption, or from the use in the manufacture of products for human consumption, of infected, contaminated, or dirty milk.
In other words, we should have had, under that provision, a body of persons in the country whose duty it would have been to do their best—corporations, farmers, producers and the people who brought the milk round-by the dissemination of sensible, practical instruction, by demonstrations and the rest of it, to try and tune up the general standard of public opinion on this question. As soon as public opinion is instructed on this question it will begin to make its influence felt all along the line as far back as the cowshed. We shall not get clean milk in this country until we have so instructed public opinion. The Act of 1915 tried to approach the problem to some extent from that end. All this Bill does is to impose certain penalties on unfortunate persons who have shops, but they are not to be told, and the public are not to be told, where the dirt comes from, and what steps are to be taken to prevent it getting there in future. But that is the only thing that matters.
The Act of 1915 contains certain provisions, the place of which is now taken by Clause 5 of this Bill. I suppose that that is put in because we have got to say "tuberculosis" somewhere or other in a milk Bill, but it is absolutely inoperative. It says that no person shall "knowingly" sell milk from a cow with a tubercular adder. The man is not to be subject to a penalty unless it can be proved that he knows that the milk came from a cow with tuberculosis of the udder. Milk comes hundreds of miles to London through various channels, and the milk from one place is mixed up with the milk from other places. How can any man know that milk is infected with tuberculosis, or that it comes from any particular cow? The Clause will be inoperative. There were certain provisions of Section 5 of the Act of 1915 which I think might be modified with advantage. I remember being on a Committee which endeavoured to secure some modifications. I am certain that when this Bill gets into Committee the Committee will not allow it to stand as it is. The Act of 1915 enabled milk found to be infected to be traced from one area to another to its source. All this Bill will do will be to enable a man to be prosecuted for selling milk which he knows to be tubercular, but there is no provision for tracing milk which is found to be tubercular home to its source.
What is wanted is a sensible arrangement whereby the milk can be traced back to its source. There is no authority here to trace the milk to the source. I cannot understand what is the policy. Unless it happens to be the farmer who retails the milk, there is no possibility of getting at the source of supply, for the great bulk of the milk sold in the towns is sold from the shops of retailers who are not producers. There were practicable means of tracing milk to the source under the Act of 1915. The reason why that provision is not incorporated in this Bill is that it would involve the employment of a few people who are competent to do the tracing. That would be very unpopular. There would be the usual newspaper stunt served up about more salaried officials. It is playing the game of the ostrich to pretend that yon can do anything to reduce tubercle in milk unless you go the other way about it The truth is that we are afraid to incur the odium that would fall upon us, because the "Daily Mail" or some other paper would have, large head-lines about swarms or inspectors, and all that sort of thing. Therefore, we are to be content with hospitals swarming with children who have swollen glands in their necks, the convalescent homes at Margate and Rams-gate and all around the coast, with their shoals of inmates infected with bovine tuberculosis. We shall continue to spend money on these lovely homes, rather than incur the odium of employing a few people who can trace the source of the disease. This Clause is a futile expedient. As far as Clause 5 is concerned, it is contemptible window dressing, and I hope no member of the public will think that his child will be in the least safer because of Clause 5. We want to devise a scheme, if one can be devised, whereby the farmers will have their interests and the dairymen will have their interests in producing and selling clean milk. That can only be done by a thorough-going process of popular, commonsense, instruction and the spread of information. There is not an atom of that provided for in the whole of this Bill. There has been a great deal of talk about the provision of clean milk and undoubtedly clean milk can be produced as has been shown by certain pioneers, like Lord Bledisloe and the hon. Member for Southend-on-Sea (Viscount Elveden) who have done a great deal to educate the people. What is wanted is to spread information among the public. You want to get it into the mind of the mother of the child exactly what pure milk means and she will be willing to pay more for a better supply; indeed, she will demand it. But all we have got here is this Clause 3, which enables us to grade milk. As far as it goes, it is the only part of the Bill which is of any use. It enables us to do something about the grading and designations of milk and so on, and my right hon. Friend says that Regulations dealing with these matters will be laid. We shall see how the matter develops under these Regulations, and what it may be possible to do so that the public will know they are getting clean milk, and milk can be clean just like any other fluid. At any rate, by intelligent methods—and not costly methods—it can be prevented from being made very dirty, and these are the lines we should follow. I have relieved my mind as to the whole of the Bill, of which only Clause 3 is any good. I think that is going to help us along the road, but the rest of it, as far as I can see, achieves nothing, and may, indeed, prove a danger to the public by giving them a false sense of security. I hope this discuission will do good by directing attention to the subject. We have more to gain by commonsense discussion and by the spread of wholesome information than we have by all the Bills which this House can pass.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Colonel L. Wilson) if the next Order on the Paper, the Allotments (Scotland) Bill, will be taken to-night? It is not a controversial measure, but some hon. Members desire to speak upon it, and I do not say it would be unfair, but it would be against the wishes of many hon. Members that it should be taken at this late hour.
As the Leader of the House announced early this afternoon, it was hoped that we should be able to get the first four Bills on the Paper, but I agree with the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) that it would lead to considerable divergence of opinion if we were to take the Allotments (Scotland) Bill at this hour of the evening. Therefore, I would suggest, if it meet with the wishes of the House, that we should get the Second Beading of the Bill at present under discussion, and take the next three Orders on the Paper—Air Ministry (Kenley Common Acquisition) Bill, Isle of Man (Customs) Bill, and Universities (Scotland) Bill—which are really non-controversial, and then take the Second Reading of the Allotments (Scotland) Bill as second Order on Friday, and I trust it would not take very long before we should obtain that Second Beading.
As the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Shorediteh (Dr. Addison), has referred to me, I should say that I support this measure wholeheartedly, and I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in regard to Clause 5. If there be a few people who do take advantage of milking obviously tuberculous animals and selling that milk, I do not see why the farmers should not come under this Clause. If there be any who do sell milk from animals that are obviously tuberculous, they should be stopped and have heavy penalties put upon them, and I say that, not only from the public health point of view, but because I think it will help considerably to relieve the minds of those people who are thinking about tuberculous milk. You cannot expect people to buy large quantities of milk when that milk is dirty, and when they cannot tell which is clean and which is not; but to protect them from the worst stories that are now going about as to the methods of some farmers—I believe they are very few indeed—will do some good and something to produce more milk and get more people to drink it. On the other hand, I am glad it is not put on the whole community of farmers to find out whether or not the milk is tuberculous, and as to finding out whether or not your cows are tuberculous, it is almost hopeless. It is very likely that 50 per cent. of the cows would react to the test. They might not give tuberculous milk, but they do react to the test, and I think there is a point which hon. Members should have in their minds when considering this matter, that a cow that has got tuberculosis, and has not got it in the udder, very often gives tubercle in its excreta, and that that tubercle can be kept out of the milk if the milk be cleanly handled. Therefore a great deal of good can be done if you can get milk cleanly handled. You will reduce the number of tubercle in the milk enormously, in my opinion, but it must be a matter of opinion until we have tried it, and I believe this Bill will do a great deal in that direction. It will give time for the very education that the right hon. Member for Shoreditch wants. The public are already beginning to think already our numbers of Grade A certified producers- -I am the Chairman of their Council— are gradually increasing. The amount of milk that is being sold of those present qualities is increasing very fast, but of course it is a tiny drop in the ocean. Still, it is increasing, and every day we hear of supplies going to new towns, and it is very encouraging. The fact that the public are beginning to think of the necessity of this subject being taken up is better, I think, than the large number of inspectors that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreditch would have appointed. We may have to have them later, but we shall only get good work out of them when the public really want the article in large quantities, and I am convinced that the magnitude of this Bill is admirable for the circumstances of the moment.
The right hon. Gentleman who has spoken from the front Opposition Bench is greatly enamoured of the Act of 1915. I think I can assure my right hon. Friend, coming as I do from a milk country, that that Act would have knocked out of production two-thirds of the men who now send milk to this City. The points which the right hon. Gentleman took are just those points which, in my judgment, for what it is worth, would have made the Act absolutely unworkable so far as a large number of producers are concerned. I am sure the Minister is acting wisely in making an attempt at persuasion rather than taking futile action which would kill production. Under Clause 5, it will be possible to provide against the farmer who knowingly commits the offence with which Clause 5 deals. After all, we are all concerned in obtaining the best, purest and cleanest milk for the community at large, at the lowest possible price. My hon. Friend (Mr. Myers) is very alarmed because of what he called the production of blue milk, but he seems to forget that that milk, if it does not contain three per cent. of fat and eight and a half per cent. of other solids, is illegal, and the seller of it is severely dealt with.
I am glad to say in the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, who comes from my own county, that the farmer is getting at least some consideration. Clause 2, for instance, which deals with the notice of any alleged infringment, does give in its present form, as it did not, I believe, when first introduced in another place, fair notice, and treats the farmer with some consideration. Also in Clause 9, Sub-Section (3), a much fairer arrangement has been made, so that the responsibility of the farmer does not go beyond the farmer's control of his product. Clause 8, I take it, is from the 1915 Act. It deals with the question of the importation of milk intended for sale for human consumption. The right hon. Gentleman will say that this Bill does not concern itself with condensed milk imported from abroad, but I want to call attention to the fact that a great change has taken place since the Act of 1915. it is a question now not of imported fresh milk, which is very difficult of importation, but of this growing importation of milk in condensed form. In 1921 the imports of this machine-skimmed milk reached 870,000 cwts., or an increase of 130 per cent. over 1920, and in the first five months of the present year the importations of this condensed milk were almost double those of the corresponding period of 1921. That is a serious position if the milk be below standard. Looking at the analyses made of the importations of tinned milk from America, it will be seen how large a percentage is below the standard we impose for our own home product. In the case of our home milk you tell the public whether or not it is a good article; in the case of the imported milk you do not. When attempting by this Bill to educate the public as to what is a good article in the matter of fresh milk, we should also see that it is our business to educate them as to what is a good article in the milk imported in tins in greatly increased volume. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman when the Bill is in Committee to consider the introduction of a clause dealing with the matter. An important point was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland). If we want to improve the condition of our underdeveloped children we must pay far more attention to this milk question. To get more milk consumed we must improve the quality of the product. By this Bill we are taking a considerable step forward on the way to improvement, and I would seriously ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot take some action also in regard to the imported product?
There are one or two points in the Bill to which no previous speaker has referred, and which I am anxious to deal with. Let me, however, firstly refer to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) as to some sort of resolution that he regretted has been passed not only by the Co-operative Congress, but by the Trade Union Congress.
Since that statement was made, and having no knowledge of it myself, I have made inquiries, and up till now I have not been able to discover that that took place. If my right hon. Friend will give me some information about it we might be able to put something effectively relevant in one of the Clauses of the Bill. The Minister of Health said the Bill was a very modest one. That is part of our complaint: it is too modest. The Minister should have been a little bolder. Naturally we should have liked the Bill to go on somewhat different lines —on the lines of the Bill of 1915. This Bill seems to throw the onus of responsibility entirely upon the retailer or vendor of milk. We feel that the onus should be placed, not only on the retailer, but should be shared by the producer, and that the middleman should also carry his share of it. The point I am particularly anxious to raise is in Clause 2 —registration. Some of us feel that all purveyors of milk should be compulsorily registered, and not only the business premises but the firm as well. In this connection we have to link Clause 5, and we welcome that Clause. It provides for the prosecution of persons who knowingly offer for sale milk from cows suffering from tuberculosis. The omission of producers from registration is a very great blot on the Bill because it will make it passible for people who in the past have been convicted for an offence more than once, or have even suffered imprisonment, to enter into business as producers, whereas the retailer would be under the power of the local authority and his licence could be revoked. That point ought to be considered in Committee, when I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay a little attention to it in order to see if the powers can be strengthened so as to place those convicted for selling affected milk on the same basis as the retailer.
As regards Clause 2 we feel that the onus as regards the distribution of milk falls solely upon the retailer, and it should not. Clause 3 affects the question of pasteurisation, and it means the production of milk of varying grades. I want to elicit some information on this point. Many of us fear that if this particular Order is issued under this Clause very grave consequences, and on this point I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman a very plain and straight question, and it is well the Government or the Ministry who has to apply this Bill take advantage of the word "pasteurisation" so as to prohibit the sale of sterilised milk. This is a vital question which affects thousands of concerns and they are anxious to know as vendors of sterilised milk their exact position.
There is another point with regard to pasteurisation and that is the process. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) gave us very briefly his opinion as to that process. I understand that 90 per cent. of the plant for pasteurising milk already exists in this country upon the flash or continuous process and I want to ask the Government not. to exclude that apparatus or method which produces the safe milk, whether it is produced by the flash process or the holding process. As far as the flash process is concerned there has been an objection and it is said that unless it is efficiently handled the desired results are not attainable. When I turn up the Report of the Committee on the Production and Distribution of Milk I find there that the same objection is put forward as far as the holding process is concerned. May I trouble the House with a brief quotation from what it says on that point? It says the holding plan requires careful cleaning and also skilled supervision. A further point is the question of cost. The plant is more costly to erect and more expensive to maintain as compared with pasteurisation. By the latter process, including the necessary handling and transport, it works out at rather less than 1d. per gallon, as against the holding cost, which is 50 per cent. more, or l½d. per gallon. It is agreed that as far as direct results are concerned there is little difference between the two. The Minister should examine the matter carefully and remember that people who have established plant costing a huge amount of money may be put to enormous expense if they are to replace it by the process of holding. There should not be any differ- ence made—if the idea is to enable the Minister to declare that milk is safe or unsafe—as between the holding plant and any other plant.
One word as to the transport question, which is very much linked up with the question of a good milk supply. When the Orders of the Ministry are being considered I want it to be borne in mind that the producers of milk are to be subjected to certain conditions as far as the milk is concerned, and they are also subjected to certain conditions imposed by the railway companies and extremely Hard of fulfilment. For instance, they are required to make a declaration of net weight. It is a most difficult thing for any farm in the country to do in the busy season, especially when harvesting is on. A better arrangement ought to be made between the farming fraternity and the railway companies, and the latter should be made to understand that they must give greater facilities for transport of milk as far as the consumer is concerned. I should like to ask in regard to pasteurisation, whether it is proposed to allow the holding or the continuous flash process.
I should like to ask a question with regard to Clause 4. Clause 4 says:
No person shall add any colouring matter or water or any dried or condensed milk…
and then it goes on to say that
No person shall cither by himself or by any servant or agent sell or offer or expose for sale any milk to which any such addition has been made.
The next Clause, however, says that no individual shall "knowingly" do any of the things there referred to. I want to know why the word "knowingly" is omitted from the second part of Clause 4. The first part of the Clause is quite clear, but it goes on to make it an offence to sell something, and in my judgment it is essential that the word "knowingly" should be inserted. Otherwise an innocent person might be subject to a prosecution that was vindictive or the result of over-zeal on the part of an inspector.
it is quite clear as regards the first part, but the person who sells or offers or exposes for sale may be quite a different person, and if the person who makes the addition sells the altered article to a second party, why should this second party be the criminal unless he does it knowingly? I do not want an agent or retailer who buys the milk to be made a criminal unless he acts with full knowledge, and I should like it to be made quite clear that it is not intended that an innocent party shall be punished.
The point that the hon Member has raised is rather a Committee point. I should have thought it would have been quite clear that an innocent party will not suffer, but if that is not clear I will certainly consider the matter between now and the Committee stage. If the House will allow me I should now like to reply to some of the points which have been raised in the discussion. The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Waterson) referred at some length to the question of pasteurisation, but I do not propose to deal with that question this evening. It will come up when the Orders have to be made, and the various point3 that the hon. Member has raised will receive the fullest consideration. I cannot admit that the only question in regard to pasteurisation is that of the bacteria in the milk. The main question is whether any damage is done to the milk. One process may retain the vitamines and those bacteria which protect us, while another process may destroy them. I am not giving any opinion on the subject, which is a highly technical one, but I must safeguard myself by saying that I must look at it from that point of view. If an Order is made under which milk can be described as pasteurised, the process described as pasteurisation must be a definite process, and one which we must be assured, on expert authority, does not in any way damage the milk. It docs not follow that persons adopting other processes of sterilization, some of which I think are harmful, will not be able to sell their product as sterilized milk, but it certainly should not be sold as pasteurised in our sense.
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like the point to be cleared up. In the event of an Order being issued, would the people who already have the plant for the flash process be given an opportunity of meeting the right hon. Gentleman and discussing the matter with him—because they are experts— before he condemns that plant, which at present comprises 90 per cent. of the plant in operation?
I do not know what the flash process is. I have not gone into the details, but I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall very carefully consult all the people who are interested in the matter, and obtain the best advice that I can, before making any Order. Undoubtedly all these various questions will be carefully considered, and judged on the best advice possible. I am only safeguarding myself against making any kind of decision on the subject this evening.
The discussion has ranged over a large field and the Bill has been received as favourably as one could expect a milk Bill to be received. Every milk Bill is certain to be the subject of much discussion by the people who are affected, some in one way and some in another. I should like to thank the House generally for the way in which they have received it. We are postponing the Act of 1915 for two years; that is all. Certain Clauses of the Bill are taken from that Act, including Clause 5, which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Shoreditch (Dr. Addison), spent such a long time in denouncing, and which he called "window dressing." As a matter of fact it is not window dressing at all. I took great interest in putting that Clause in, and I attach very great importance to it. The object is to make it practically impossible for a farmer who knows he has a cow with a tubercular udder to go on using the milk from it without exposing himself to penalties more severe than any of the penalties under the Act of 1915. An hon. Member, who has now left the House, said it was practically impossible to diagnose tuberculosis of the udder. I have discussed this question with veterinary experts and practical farmers, and I am told the diagnosis is by no means so difficult as it is made out. At any rate, the farmer is put on his guard and can take steps to prevent himself from committing the offence. That in itself is a very valuable step forward. The idea of the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Shoreditch, of a kind of Sherlock Holmes dodging about to some remote cow in a cowshed and back again is very good on paper, but in practice would involve the appointment of a large number of inspectors if it is satisfactorily done. Of course, we are not carrying out all the recommendations of the Astor Committee. As far as I can make out, one recommendation practically contradicts the next. I see proposals to obtain a high class of milk, to reduce the price, to prevent anyone making a profit, and to secure an increased quantity. It would take a much abler man than I am to reconcile all these conflicting claims.
I certainly will not undertake the task with regard to grading, but the right hon. Gentleman asked me to say something about it. I can only now give a rough outline of the grading which we intend. Certified milk will be graded very much on the present lines. Every animal will be subjected to the tuberculin test before being admitted to the herd and certified as a non-re-actor. Every three months the herd will be examined by a veterinary surgeon and the milk examined for tubercle bacillus. If there is evidence of tuberculosis the animal will be withdrawn from the herd. If milk from the group shows evidence of tuberculosis the whole group will be withdrawn until the affected animal is identified. Milk is to be bottled on the farm immediately after production and delivered to the consumer within two days of production. Bottles are to be completely sealed before delivery and must not contain more than 30,000 bacteria per cubic centimetre or any bacillus coli in a tenth of a cubic centimetre. In the case of Grade A milk the health of the herds is to be the same as with certified milk, except that there will be no tuberculin tests. The milk may be pasteurised, but if so it must be so designated. It must not contain more than 200,000 bacteria per cubic centimetre. These limitations involve the use of sterilized vessels, with careful regard to cleanliness, especially to ensure freedom from manurial contamination. Delivery from producer to retailer in sealed churns or bottles; from retailer to consumer in same vessels, or in sterilised bottles or containers filled and scaled on the premises. That, if carried out, would greatly improve the quality of the milk. The examination would be a test of tuberculous milk. People who ask for Grade "A" milk will get Grade "A" milk, and milk which they can trust. If they continue to call for Grade "A" milk other grades of milk will not be sold. That is a reply to the right hon. Member for Shoreditch who really agrees with the policy we are pursuing, although he used some rather violent language. We must get the consumer interested. Other points that have been raised I will consider between now and the Committee stage, and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.