I am not clear what my hon. and gallant Friend means by the Distributive Board, but the new Milk Scheme is being operated by the Milk Division of the Ministry of Food. This is not a representative body. It is staffed by expert officials selected for their wide knowledge of the industry. If my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the local rationalisation schemes, these are prepared and operated by War-time Associations comprising all distributors in the area.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in view of the recent tendency of his Department to hand over most of the distribution of milk to the combines and co-operative societies, he will assure the House that he will safe guard the position of small and non- combine dealers?
My noble Friend cannot accept the view that there is any tendency in his Department to hand over the distribution of milk to the combines and cooperative societies. The interests of the small traders are being fully safeguarded under the rationalisation schemes in accordance with the principles laid down in the Command Paper No. 6362.
Yes, Sir. If any milk distributor, small or large, refuses to join his local war-time Dairymen's Association or refuses to operate within the provisions of an approved rationalisation scheme, his existing licence is withdrawn and he is given a temporary conditional licence which requires him to comply with the scheme. If he still refuses, the conditional licence is withdrawn and he is no longer permitted to distribute milk.
Will the hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that distributors who are granted a licence for the distribution of milk do distribute it and do not ask people to call for it?
The pool prices to be paid by the Milk Marketing Board to producers in England and Wales during the period October, 1942, to March, 1943, will vary from 2s. 1¾d. to 2s. 7¾d. per gallon according to the area and the month in which the milk is produced. During the same period the price paid by consumers will be 3s. a gallon.
In reply to the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's Question, I would refer to the answer I gave him on 10th November. The remuneration allowed for the performance of the depot and wholesale functions is paid by the Ministry of Food out of the funds provided by the difference between the price at which the Ministry purchases milk from the Milk Marketing Board and sells it to the distributive trade. In so far as the total remuneration paid to producers and distributors exceeds the total sum obtained from the sale of milk, the difference is provided from the milk subsidy which is granted to prevent an increase in the price of milk beyond its present figure.
How can the hon. Gentleman deny that there is a subsidy if the wholesale allowance paid by the Ministry is on top of the retail margin which the ordinary wholesale retailer is paid?