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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 Alfred Waterson Mr Alfred Waterson , Kettering

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.