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

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

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Thomas Myers Mr Thomas Myers , Spen Valley

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.