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Orders of the Day — MILK AND DAIRIES (AMENDMENT) BILL [Lords.]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 19th July 1922.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Myers Mr Thomas Myers , Spen Valley

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.