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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 Sir Percy Hurd Sir Percy Hurd , Frome

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?