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I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Milk (Control and Maximum Prices) (Great Britain) (Amendment No. 2) Order, 1952 (S.I., 1952, No. 1239), dated 25th June, 1952, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th June, be annulled.
This Order increases the price of milk by ½d. per pint, but, in fact, that means that the present Government have increased the price of milk by a penny, because there was an increase of ½d. earlier in the year. Once again, I must complain that the Members of the Treasury Bench have all scuttled, because they are responsible for this.
At any rate, we shall have a reply again from the Parliamentary Secretary. Earlier in the week I noticed he reassured us two or three times that the Minister is still alive. I wondered why he was saying that, but then I realised that recently at the Caterers' Association Conference at Scarborough the Vice-Chairman said, "It appears that the Minister of Food is dead—certainly from the neck upwards."
It was a great pleasure to us on these occasions in the last Parliament constantly to see the hon. Gentleman himself, instead of his Minister.
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his intervention. Now I will proceed with the matter we are discussing.
The Treasury Ministers certainly ought to be here, because it was the Chancellor who in his Budget speech announced that the reduction of 1d. a quart in the price of milk, which was due to be made seasonally at the end of March, would not then be made, but that there would be a seasonal increase of 1d. a quart later in the year. On 2nd July the Parliamentary Secretary estimated that there would be a corresponding reduction in food subsidies of £20 million.
But the housewife will have to pay much more than £20 million as the result of this increase, because whenever the Ministry of Food increase the retail price of milk they increase the price of milk under the National Milk schemes and the milk-in-schools scheme, which means that the Treasury themselves have to pay more for the milk. It is for that 'reason that, from a purely Treasury point of view, milk is not considered a good foodstuff to suffer a price increase.
It is quite clear that the reason for the increase is in order to reduce consumption. That is the main objective of this price increase. When we debated the earlier price increase imposed on 1st December, I pointed out that when we had a price increase in the time of the last Government we carefully calculated what the effect on consumption would be, and the Parliamentary Secretary himself explained to the House that we had been quite right in anticipating that there would be no reduction in consumption; in fact, there was an increase.
However, when the Minister of Food imposed the increase on 1st December we then argued—and I maintain that we were backed by the experts—that there would be a decrease in consumption as a result of the increase in the price of milk. I pointed out that there had been a fall in consumption in December and January, and the Parliamentary Secretary said that all he could say was that he conceded there had been a decrease in December and in January, but regarding February, of which we had not then the figures, he said there would be "a substantial increase." In fact, he quantified that increase later on by saying that it would be an increase of 2·7 per cent. He was so certain he was right that he said he would be "very unhappy about it if it had resulted in a reduction in the consumption of milk."
To round off the argument, later in April when he was asked a Question by his hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) about the consumption of milk he gave these figures in a written reply. In the first three months of this year the consumption was 389¾ million gallons compared with 386½ million gallons for the same period of last year, so seeming to clinch the argument. But I am afraid I must point out that these figures have grossly misled the House.
This year is a leap-year and February has 29 days, but that is not allowed for in the Parliamentary Secretary's argument; the Ministry make no allowance for 29 days. In fact, when an adjustment is made for the 29 days there was a decrease in consumption in February. Then again, the figures the Minister gave for the first three months of that year were not the figures we were arguing about. They were the total consumption, including school milk. When was Good Friday this year? On 11th April. When was Good Friday last year? On 23rd March. In other words, March last year included the Easter holidays whereas March this year did not.
What was the result? In March this year the schools consumed 1,100,000 gallons of milk less than last year. It is clear that those figures misled the House. It is clear that there was a reduction in the consumption of milk, and this can only be attributable to the increase of ½d. per pint in December.
The Parliamentary Secretary, surprised that we should continue our inquiry, in June completely changed his ground. He did not then argue that there was not a decrease in consumption. He said that there was no significant fall in consumption. When I pressed the Minister later in June, when he gave, in reply to my Question, the May figures, he said that there was a fall in consumption of less than 2 per cent. compared with the corresponding period the year before and that the change was too insignificant to be attributable to any particular factors. But when we come to the figures published in the Digest we find that the reduction was 4.5 per cent.
Since the House has been misled, I will give the figures resulting from the first increase in the price of milk in December. According to the published figures, the fall in the consumption of full-priced milk since the price increase in December was: in December, 1,200,000 gallons; January, 500,000 gallons; February, if we allow for the fact that it is a leap-year, 1,400,000 gallons; in March, 700,000 gallons; in April, 4,200,000 gallons; and in May, 5,400,000 gallons. That is a very substantial decrease in consumption. The decrease in May of 5,400,000 gallons took place in a month in which production increased by 14,400,000 gallons compared with May last year.
We were right in complaining that the price increase had led to a decrease in consumption. Our view is shared by the trade. The official journal of the National Dairymen's Association says:
There is no doubt that another increase in price will have a profound effect upon the sales of milk in the liquid market. Figures issued by the Milk Marketing Board for April, 1952, show that the liquid sales were 3,500,000 gallons down on April of the previous year, although the production was up. A 3 per cent. decrease in sales before even another rise has started shows that the turn has been reached, and thus the July increase must have still more damaging consequences both to distributors and to the Milk Marketing Board alike.
It will have damaging consequences not only to the distributors and the Milk Marketing Board but also to the people of the country.
I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) calling the attention of the Minister to the difficulties which there will be in the autumn of this year. What does the official journal of the National Dairyman's Association say about that? The "Milk Industry" says:
This year the Minister may have the added reason to wish to increase the retail price of milk under the cloak of seasonal variations for shortfall is to be expected in the late summer, and his problem of equitable distribution can be eased by the curtailment of demand which will follow the price increase.
Of course that will happen in the autumn.
What did the "Financial Times" say when it commented on our debate on the cost of living? It said:
in the food subsidies—
… will be reflected in the June figure. But the Government has decided that the remainder, which will be the largest portion of the total, shall wait until late autumn.
That is the time when this further price increase will mean that the Minister need have no difficulties about distributing milk because there will not be the demand.
This is not an insignificant fall in consumption; it is a most significant fall. It is a very serious fall indeed in the consumption of milk. I am told that the retailers' figures show that since 1st July their sales have in my part of the world decreased by between 10 and 6 per cent. The Minister is doing this at a time when dairy production has been increasing.
It is not fair to the people of this country. The Government have cut their cheese and butter rations. The Parliamentary Secretary used to talk a lot about animal protein. He is now seeing that the burden falls most heavily on those who can least afford to bear it. I remember telling the House in our last debate that we were very proud about the increase in the consumption of milk, that it had increased as much again compared with pre-war, that in the case of working-class people consumption had doubled and in the case of the poorest people it had trebled.
What is happening now? The people who have benefited most by the deliberate policy to promote the consumption of milk will not now be able to buy it. I asked the Minister of Food recently what the latest results of his food surveys were. He said that those for the period ended 31st March showed that the average milk consumption varied between the lower and the higher social group by between just over 4½ pints to six pints. I also asked him what the variation was for those with no families and those with large families, and the variation was about the same—1½ pints. What will now happen is that the poorest people and the people with children will be even more unable to afford the milk they ought to have.
The Minister will have an easy time this autumn in distributing milk, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be ashamed of himself. He has sung the praises of milk more than anyone else in this House. He has said that he would be unhappy if the last price increase should lead to a fall in consumption. What will he say about this new price increase? He should consider his own position in the Government, and he would regain some of his lost esteem if he resigned and had nothing further to do with them.
I beg to second the Motion.
We discussed this matter last on 24th February, when we discussed the first increase of 4d. a gallon in the price of milk, and the Parliamentary Secretary jauntily said that as we had increased the price by 4d. a gallon in the preceding May why should they not do so. But this tu quoque argument does not apply to wages, but only to prices. The fourpence we imposed went entirely to the dairy farming industry, but of the four-pence that the Conservative Government imposed 3½d. was filched by the Treasury for the reduction of taxation—in the form of smaller food subsidies. The Parliamentary Secretary went a little further than saying he would be unhappy if the price increase then resulted in a reduction of consumption. He said that if it did there would be a lot in the argument for not increasing the price at all.
What has happened? In the last two months the overall consumption of liquid milk has dropped by five million gallons a month, and if the Parliamentary Secretary wants to apply that to Oldham I will give him some figures. One of the best retail dairies in the North of England is that of the Oldham Industrial Co-operative Society, and their statistics show that since the price increase the reduction in milk consumption in Oldham is 8.4 per cent. compared with the same period 12 months ago. That means an equivalent of milk for 10,000 people. What is the justification for it? The Parliamentary Secretary will say that it is part of the increased prices negotiated with the farming industry. But what about the 3½d. he pinched six months ago? Can he not use that? Why is the price to be increased twice?
I went to the library to refer to that valuable guide to food and dietetics the "Radio Doctor's Guide to Health," in which he advocated a large increase in the consumption of milk, one of the fundamental bases of health. I was told that both copies had disappeared. I do not know whether this means that in the absence of food people are digesting his facts, or whether it means that he has taken surreptitious steps to suppress his youthful indiscretions, or what may appear to be indiscretions.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) when he suggests that the Parliamentary Secretary should resign. I think that my hon. Friend should start at the top and advise the noble Lord the Minister for Co-ordination for food and agriculture to re-present his resignation, which on this occasion would be unanimously accepted. The Minister might then have time to come to the House and tell us whether he has any ideas about food at all.
We have had two days discussing economic planning, without knowing anything about what the plans are going to be. Now we are discussing the results of the sort of economic chaotic semi-planning we have had from this Government. The results are vital and serious. [Laughter.] The hon. and gallant Member for the Black Watch laughs when I am talking about an 8.4 per cent. reduction in the consumption of milk in one of the greatest industrial towns in the north of England, but it is not a laughing matter. Apart from that, nearly every other ration has gone down.
I am very sorry if the hon. and gallant Member thinks that I am working up "phoney" indignation about the semi-starvation which is beginning to spread among my constituents. A reduction of 8.4 per cent. in the consumption of milk is getting near starvation and one ounce of cheese is getting very near. These people are having to live on unemployment pay. I ask hon. Members opposite to try to draw up a scale of calories and tell us how my constituents are to get those calories with prices as they are.
The Parliamentary Secretary has already made his first defence. I do not know whether he proposes to repeat it today, and say, "This is only a second offence and the facts pleaded in mitigation of the first can be advanced in mitigation of the second." We shall await his reply with interest. He must remember that, in spite of the hilarity of his friends, it is a matter of very great gravity, affecting the health of the population. There was a previous Conservative Government whose career was perhaps shortened by their failure over milk.
Everybody would agree that the more and cheaper milk we can get, especially in the industrial towns, the better. On that there is no difference between us, though any talk about semi-starvation from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) almost touches the ludicrous. He does not show much sign of it.
In a welfare State, where there are absolutely equal shares, the hon. Member ought not to look any better than they.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) said that many people would not now be able to afford to buy milk. The price is going up from 6d. to 6½d. Its real cost is 7½d., so the subsidy is being reduced from 1½d. to 1d. a pint. Apart from the narrow issues raised by the hon. Member for Oldham, I want to ask if it is true that the nation cannot afford to buy milk. The price of milk is about one-third the price of the cheapest and commonest of beer. The right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) used to have a lot to say about nutrition values. Would she say that beer is worth three times as much as wholesome milk from that point of view?
The right hon. Lady is anticipating what I am going to say. A nation that can afford to spend the amount that we do today—and I am not a teetotaller—can pay that extra ½d. a pint on milk. To say that they cannot is complete nonsense. To say that the nation cannot afford it is just nonsense, and is against the facts as disclosed in the statistical abstracts. May I remind hon. Members that in 1935 the average beer consumption per month was 1.9 million barrels and today it is well over two million. A nation that can afford to pay three times as much for its beer as it does for its milk can afford this extra ½d. per pint on milk, and to say that it cannot is sheer nonsense.
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that the Government's policy is that to increase consumption of milk they should decrease the price of beer? Is it their theory that to increase the price of milk the price of beer should be reduced?
That is the sort of argument one would expect from the hon. Member.
I am trying to refute what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North said in his speech, that the people of this country could not now afford to buy milk because the price had advanced from 6d. to 6½d. a pint, that that ½d. would destroy their ability to get this milk not only for themselves but for their children. Is the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West saying that the workmen in her constituency are going to stick to their beer at a high price and deny to their children the milk they need because of this increase of ½d.?
The hon. Gentleman has addressed a question to me and I should like to answer it. His argument is only valid if he can prove that the beer drinker is satisfied that his child has had adequate milk before he spends his money on beer drinking.
I am merely trying to disprove a statement made by the right hon. Lady's hon Friend, the Member for Sunderland, North, that the nation could not afford to pay this extra ½d., and I am saying if the nation can afford to pay for drink three times more than for milk and also to stand in a queue when it was scarce and wait long hours for it, then it is utter nonsense to say that we cannot afford to purchase this milk.
Is it part of the social policy that the hon. Gentleman advocates that because of this heavy expenditure upon beer there should be a reduction in the consumption of beer, which is to be fostered in some way by the Government, so that there may be an increase in the consumption of milk?
If I attempted to answer that question I should be out of order. I want to get back to the main point of my argument, and I am not going to let hon. Members get away from it. It is absurd—and the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who, I know, takes a great interest in these temperance and social problems, will agree with the point that I am making.
I am saying that it is absurd for the hon. Member for Sunderland, North to support his Motion by saying that the nation cannot afford to buy milk because of this ½d. increase and all the time we are spending on a much inferior drink hundreds of millions of pounds every year.
If it will help the hon. Member and prevent him from wandering, I should say that he will remember that I pointed out that it was the poorest people, for whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer did nothing in his Budget, who will not be able to buy the milk which obviously they could buy before this increase.
He can get more if the parents are prepared to pay for it. I am going to stick to my point; I know that hon. Members opposite do not like it, but the fact is that the nation can afford to pay if it puts its social values right. The hon. Member for Oldham, West has no right to come here with his synthetic indignation when it has no foundation at all.
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument very carefully, but has he forgotten that before this increase in the price of milk, the prices of 27 food commodities were increased, and after that the prices of another 17 were increased, making 44 in all? All these prices have increased, thus increasing the difficulties of those people living on limited incomes. How will the old age pensioners with their 32s. 6d. pay the increased price? How will the other pensioners on limited incomes be able to pay the increased price not only of milk but other food commodities which have increased in the last few months?
I do not think anyone in this House would say that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) is wicked. I think he is really good-hearted and good-natured, but he is sadly misguided, and it would be much better if he would stick to problems of stock-broking instead of dealing with milk purchased by poor people. If he is really sincere I will arrange for him to go round with a milk roundsman so that he can find out the homes which during the past two weeks have had to reduce their milk consumption because they cannot afford it. If he is really sincere he will accept this challenge, and he will then come here with an entirely different story.
I think that sneer was worthy of the man it came from. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is a challenge."] Challenge be blowed. I have many other things to do, including trying to get some samples ready to take to Canada and America where I am hoping to get some orders to help our export drive.
All I can say is that the hon. Gentleman would be much better employed looking after those samples than suggesting that people prefer beer to giving milk to their children. The fact that he has not accepted the challenge indicates to us how synthetic his anger is.
I have an advantage that the hon. Member does not possess, and he would be a little better informed if he would only listen for a while, as I have listened to him. For two days we have had a debate on the economic situation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer objected on several occasions to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) said. My right hon. Friend said that as a result of the action of the Chancellor people were not able to buy textiles and other articles because they had to pay more for their food. I know that during the last two weeks at least, since the last price increase, they have had to go without not only clothes but food also.
It has been our policy since 1945, until the advent of the Tory Government, even during the dark days, that people should drink more and better milk. The hon. and gallant Member representing the Black Watch has treated this matter with flippancy, which, of course, I excuse because he is like many more of the Tory Members who do not know how the bulk of the people in this country are living. I sincerely hope that during the Recess they will bestir themselves and get out into the back streets, and talk to the housewives about the effect of the policy which this Government has introduced.
One of the features of the increased production of milk is that up to the advent of the Tory Government there was an increase in the percentages of pasteurised and T.T. milk. But, during the last fortnight, since the increase in the price of milk, there has been a marked decrease in the sale of pasteurised and T.T. milk because people have to economise in the milk they buy.
I happen to have an advantage in that I am speaking from information which has been garnered from all parts of Britain by the Co-operative movement who have given me the facts. It is not that the Government have not been warned; I have been raising questions about the shortage of milk every September and they have been confident that they had a plan which would mean that there would be no shortage this September. The National Executive of the Co-operative Milk Trade Association, on 7th May, submitted a resolution from its North Regional Committee objecting strongly against a further rise in the retail price of milk as envisaged by the Budget. It was recognised that the present Government were inclined to release control so that price might become the basis of rationing. It had been suggested that the increase might result in reduction in consumer demand and thus minimise the risk of shortage.
On 22nd May the Parliamentary Committee clearly indicated that in all parts of Britain the lower wage earning section of the community would feel the effect of the increases in milk prices. On 19th June, arising from minute No. 9 of the last meeting, a letter was received from the Deputy Secretary to the Ministry of Food stating that there had been no significant fall in the consumption of milk following on the two price increases in the last 12 months. The Co-operative movement have made several representations to the Government to indicate that the policy they are following would mean that the lower income groups would not be able to afford milk. It was the method they were deliberately employing to deal with another difficult problem.
I ask the hon. Member not to generalise, but to give us the precise figure and to tell us exactly what percentage of the total milk consumption of the United Kingdom is represented by these Co-operative sales.
The answer is that it is just below 25 per cent. and there is no other organisation which has anything like it in the country. Let us take the London Co-operative Society. The last increase in the price of milk was on 1st July, in the middle of a week so that the last week in which the old price was operating was 28th June when the sales of milk were 688,000 gallons. But two weeks later, when the price really operated, in the week ending 12th July, the sale was 673,000, a reduction in a fortnight of 15,000 gallons.
In the South Suburban Society on 28th June, the sales were 160,000 gallons and on 12th July they were 154,000 gallons. What was more important was that three-quarters of the reduction of the 4,000 gallons in less than a fortnight was in TT and pasteurised milk. It is the children who are suffering through the policy of the Government which has done so much for the brewers but is penalising the children.
The Brighton Society has reported over a fortnight an average purchase reduction of half a pint per household. The worst effect has been in Lancashire and the North-West, and the effect there can be typical for the rest of the country if this Government continues in office. I have figures from 13 towns in the north-west of England. The reduction in a fortnight is just over 5 per cent., and in Bolton, where there is real unemployment, the reduction is 8.4 per cent. I feel that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) was fair when he said that after all the utterances of the Parliamentary Secretary he must have a hide like a rhinoceros to stay in a Government job and try to justify something which, in three months, will be worse than it is now.
The sooner the people realise the sort of policies which this Government is applying the sooner will justice be done. This Government, in nine months, has put the clock back for 10 or 20 years.
After all, it is the people of this country, that term including the poorest, who elect me and my hon. Friends on this side of the House. We do not get here by false pretences. [An HON. MEMBER: "The brewers."] I have heard of the brewers. I do not drink beer or whisky; but both of those great trades have great effect on the welfare of this country, and we would find things much more difficult in the Welfare State if we could not tap these two sources. But I would be out of order were I to speak at length on beer and whisky in a debate on milk prices.
It is unfortunate that this matter of milk production should be made a party matter, particularly for the children. The fact is that expenditure on things other than milk is colossal—£2,300,000,000 on drink, smoking and gambling—yet ½d. on the price of milk is apparently out of the question. But I do not think we need to rub that in. I think we ought to have a fair recognition of the difficulties at the present moment, and the reason, which the Parliamentary Secretary will no doubt give, why this increase is necessary. No one wishes to have an increase in the price of milk, and everyone wishes to do the best he or she can for the children. After all, milk for schools was introduced by a Tory Government—a fact that is often forgotten—just as trade unions and Co-operative societies were first put on their feet by Tory Governments. There things are forgotten.
I do not doubt the sincerity of the hon. Member for Dartford, but we ought to be fair. It is no good saying Tory Governments deliberately try to starve the children. They have done more for the children than any other party. That is a fact which cannot be denied; even Keir Hardie said so. He is forgotten in these days, but he was a Socialist, and he must be turning in his grave at what his followers have done in recent years.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, will make clear why this increase is necessary. It is, we all hope, a temporary measure, because no one wishes to put up the price of milk to any section of society. The children of this country are on the same level to all of us, and all of us who are parents would not wish to see our children have more milk or amenities than the children of other people. That is how the House should look at this problem. We should cut out the exaggerations of the hon. Member for Dartford.
The price of T.T. farm bottled milk is now 8d. a pint. For a family of five that is 23s. 4d. a week for milk alone. I am amazed to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite talking about beer and gambling. I am interested in the ordinary people in my constituency who spend very little on beer or gambling. A very few may spend an excessive amount on them, but they are a very small proportion, and it ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk of those subjects in the same breath as milk for mothers and children.
The Parliamentary Secretary who time and again imposes these Orders knows full well the value of milk. It is in medical terms the perfect food. He knows also the great importance of having T.T. milk as compared with ordinary milk. He knows the risks that children and adolescents run in contracting bovine tuberculosis and gastro-enteritis unless they are assured of a thoroughly safe supply of milk. The Parliamentary Secretary, the father of a family and a doctor, will, I am sure, have nothing else than T.T. milk for his children.
If there are three children and two parents, and a pint a day is allowed for each for the occasional drink, milk puddings and the beverages used in the normal home, then the milk bill will be 23s. 4d. a week. I say that that places it entirely above the capacity of the family man earning £6, £7 or £8 a week, and it may drive them to other milk, which is not so safe, at 5½d. a pint, where the weekly budget for milk would be 16s. I am certain that a couple would weigh it up that one type of milk will cost them 16s. and the other 23s., and we shall get back to the good old Tory days where there were two nations. We are back to shoddy clothes already with the scrapping of the Utility Scheme—we are back now to shoddy milk instead of going forward to a pure and cheap milk supply for the nation.
I would like to ask a very important question. Is there co-ordination between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Food? Tonight the Chancellor seemed aghast at being told he was responsible for the position in the textile industry. Upon that industry depends 75 per cent. of the purchasing power of the people of these islands. Does the Chancellor assume that the only increases in the cost of living were those he imposed in his Budget? Is he unaware that the hon. Gentleman opposite is responsible for 41 additional increases—27 of which he admitted in his reply to me on 11th June. Since then there have been a further six Orders increasing a further six commodities of food. Consequential upon these 33, there have been another eight increases; altogether 41, excluding vegetables and fruit. Tomatoes went up 8d. a 1b.—
I will certainly deny it. He must be talking on behalf of those who are getting reductions in the price of food that we housewives should be getting. In other words, the crops are going to the wholesalers at a reduced price, but the prices in the shops are going up. I think the hon. Gentleman forgot to thank me for giving way to him.
I would like the hon. Member to give us the alternative to milk. At the clinics I have seen a notice: "Mothers—nurse your babies; if you can use National Dried Milk." Is the Tory slogan, "Mothers nurse your babies; if you can give them beer"? From what the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) said it is beer, and from what the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said it is raspberries. It is a good slogan for the next General Election.
Seriously, I again ask if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is aware that in addition to the food increases he imposed there have been 41 further increases on 41 items in daily use on the tables of our homes?
The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) made a statement about the desirability of T.T. milk which I feel I should correct without going into any of the party differences that may come later.
Only about 2 per cent. of the milk consumed in this country is farm bottled tuberculin tested. The essence of what should be said about the safety of milk is that all milk should be either pasteurised or boiled. Whatever the merits of tuberculin tested milk, it is still true, in my view, that all milk, whatever its quality, should be pasteurised or boiled before human consumption.
The hon. Lady referred, in that context, to mothers and children. I think she might have said that the increase involved by the Orders does not apply to the milk for mothers and children under the National Milk scheme.
I think that, when we are discussing the effect of price on the consumption of milk, it is a relevant fact that the milk which is consumed within these welfare schemes has not, in fact, increased in price. Indeed, whereas when the welfare milk was introduced it cost 2d. per pint when ordinary milk cost 4d. per pint, welfare milk today is 1½d. per pint when ordinary milk is 6½d. per pint. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) was fair enough to point out earlier that there has had to be an increase in the subsidy on welfare milk in order to maintain its price at 1½d. per pint, and the school milk free.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North began by a reference to the subsidy situation. He might have said that, even with this rise in price, the subsidy on milk will stand at the level of £90 million this year; that in 1944–45 it was £36 million; in 1947–48, it was £63 million; in 1949–50, it was £93 million; in 1950–51, it was £105 million in 1951–52, it was £94 million. In short, allowing for this price increase, the subsidy is approximately at the same level as in 1949–50 and substantially in excess of the subsidy in 1947–48 and 1944–45. The current subsidy is £90 million.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who denied any personal experience of this liquid in an earlier debate, referred to increased cost. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, the hon. Gentleman said not for the last 48 of his 49 years. We have to look at the cost factor, for the increased production costs, covering the period of this increase, are £28 million. The increased cost under the heading of attested herds was £7 million, and, when we allow for the distribution factor, the increased costs amount to £41 million. In other words, if the three increases in price which have taken place in the past 13 months had not been imposed the subsidy on milk would stand at this moment at £146 million. The increase in retail price has, in fact, sustained the subsidy at the level of £90 million, which, as I have pointed out, is higher than the subsidy in some post-war years and approximately the same as in two other years. It is interesting to observe that the percentage of total subsidies now going to milk, if we look at it within the framework of the present policy, is higher than when the subsidy ceiling was £410 million.
I am seeking to be relevant and to deal only with milk, which is the subject of the Orders, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, there is a very substantial further subsidy on that part of the surplus milk which goes to cheese and butter.
To come to the consumption picture for the first three months of this year: I agree that in making these comparisons one has to take into account school holidays and the 29 days in February. This year in the first three months there was a very small increase, amounting to 0.77 per cent., over consumption in the first three months of last year.
The figures I am giving to those who wish to attend are: 1950 first three months—383; 1951, 387; 1952, 390, stating it in million gallons. That is a very slight increase. I am not attaching importance to it, but the question of figures has been raised.
But for the first six months of this year there is a small drop in consumption. So that there shall be no misunderstanding about it I will give the figures for the three years and they may then be compared: 1950, 773; 1951, 785—(excluding the six million gallons odd for cream); 1952, 779. There is a drop of 0.76 per cent. in the consumption of milk in the first six months, or about one pint in 130 pints.
The hon. Members for Oldham, West, and Dartford told a dreadful story of what has happened since 1st July. I can tell them both that every July consumption falls by up to 10 per cent. as compared with June because people go on holiday—
I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would restrain his natural courtesy for a moment. The only genuine comparison is between one July and the next July. If hon. Gentlemen have figures which have not yet been collected officially comparing July, 1951, with July, 1952, that is a valid comparison, but figures comparing July with June or previous months are not valid.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree with the figures published in the Monthly Digest of Statistics issued by the Government which give consumption of full price milk for June and July last as 114,700,000 gallons in June and 114,500,000 gallons in July, or a mere fall of 200,000 gallons?
The week in July, 1951, which I was comparing with this year ended on the 14th of that month, and this year it ended on the 12th. I had these figures. In the London co-operative societies there is no difference between the second week in June and the school holidays, and the people who have dealt with this for years say that there is a balance until the first week of the school holidays.
The hissing hatred of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North, which I have experienced so often on these Prayers, leaves me unaffected. Because these price increases were imposed on 1st July, and because there can, as yet, be no official figures—[Interruption]—I am dealing with the effect of this particular increase—for the month of July, I can only give, with every reservation, the Ministry's provisional estimate. They are admittedly provisional figures, based on limited evidence, but according to them there has been a fall in consumption in England and Wales of 0.3 per cent. I want to add, and it is conceding a point to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that such has been the heat of the weather in the early part of the month that these figures may be vitiated because the danger of milk going sour may have increased purchases. The fact remains that the best estimate that can be made shows a reduction of 0.3 per cent. in the first three weeks.
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us what the figures are for milk excluding the milk under full price schemes? Let us have the figures for full price milk, because I think it will make nonsense of the argument that the consumption of milk goes down in July by 10 per cent.
At the end of three weeks from the beginning of the period no important deduction can be made. But I have frankly admitted the limitation of these figures covering so short a time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) referred to the consumption of beer. The only point I would like to make in this connection is that the amount being spent on beer is more than twice the amount being spent on milk. In the first quarter of this year £113 million was spent on beer, but in the case of milk, excluding welfare milk, the amount spent was £54 million. I am not going to enlarge on that subject, but it is a useful point to make.
The hon. Gentleman has had such a limited result for his attempts at conversion on both sides of the House that I hope he will welcome this additional help, however much he may dislike the source.
I am pointing out that those who say that this increase of ½d. a pint is more than the people generally can bear must examine their argument in the light of other forms of expenditure, so that we may introduce some note of reality into what has been an almost bogus debate on these price increases.
Finally, it is necessary to recall that consumption of liquid milk today is 80 per cent. above what it was before the war. Let us rejoice in that fact, however we may argue about prices, and let us console ourselves with the thought that to the extent that there is any reduction in liquid consumption, the milk does not go down the drain. It goes to manufacture in such forms as cheese, butter, chocolate, and National Dried Milk; it goes in one form or another to the people who would have been the destination of the liquid milk itself. Whether it is chewed as chocolate, consumed as cheese, or taken in the liquid form, the total milk production of this country is making its full contribution to the nutrition of the people.
Not at all. Only a lawyer could make such a deduction. I say nothing of the sort. Indeed, if the hon. and learned Gentleman knew more about the subsidy situation he would soon realise that an excessive diversion of milk to manufacture can itself require more subsidy, because of the additional subsidy on cheese and butter—a point the hon. Member for Sunderland, North will appreciate.
The milk in schools scheme, which protects one vulnerable class, was put forward by my right hon. Friends before the war. The National Milk scheme was introduced in 1940 by Lord Woolton—a magnificent contribution to the nutrition of the vulnerable groups in this country. In the light of the facts that the consumption of milk has barely changed, that milk which is surplus finds its way into much-needed food, and that we are still consuming 80 per cent. above the pre-war figure, I suggest that the House would do well to reject this Prayer.
The House has had a very interesting discussion on this Prayer, and we have had some astonishing revisions of history and some astounding juggling with mathematics. One unchallengeable figure that remains is that compared with a similar week in July last year the consumption of milk in Oldham has fallen by one-twelfth owing to the twin causes of unemployment and the rise in the price of milk.
Assuming that Co-op milk is in a separate category, we must also remember that it is also the milk that finds its way into the highest proportion of homes in which the poor dwell.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman's contention is not that the main milk supply of this country is done by the Co-ops. It is possible that this surprising fall in milk consumption in Oldham and Dartford is due to the fact that the Co-ops are losing business.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) is not helping his case by these continued interruptions. It might surprise the hon. Member to know that before the war the average consumption of milk in my constituency and Jarrow, which were severely distressed areas, was one-eighth of a pint per head per day, a figure which shows what the effect of poverty on milk consumption really is.
The figures we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary have in no way disproved the figures that were advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), and because of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply I recommend my hon. Friends to press this Motion to a Division.
|Division No 228.]||AYES||[11.37 p.m.]|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Burke, W. A.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Burton, Miss F. E.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Callaghan, L. J.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Balfour, A.||Champion, A. J.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Beattie, J.||Chapman, W. D.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)|
|Bence, C. R.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Benson, G.||Collick, P. H.||Field, W. J.|
|Beswick, F.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Finch, H. J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Crosland, C. A. R.||Foot, M. M.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Forman, J. G.|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Freeman, John (Watford)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Glanville, James|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Delargy, H. J.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dodds, N. N.||Grey, C. F.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Donnelly, D. L.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mayhew, C. P.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Mikardo, Ian||Slater, J.|
|Hannan, W.||Mitchison, G. R.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hargreaves, A.||Monslow, W.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moody, A. S.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Morley, R.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Mort, D. L.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Moyle, A.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Nally, W.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Timmons, J.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||O'Brien, T.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Orbach, M.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oswald, T.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Padley, W. E.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Janner, B.||Paget, R. T.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Parker, J.||West, D. G.|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Pearson, A.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Peart, T. F.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Keenan, W.||Poole, C. C.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Kenyon, C.||Popplewell, E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Porter, G.||Wigg, George|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Proctor, W. T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Logan, D. G.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Rhodes, H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|McInnes, J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Yates, V. F.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Ross, William|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Mr. Bowden and|
|Manuel, A. C.||Short, E. W.||Mr. Kenneth Robinson.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Gage, C. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Gammans, L. D.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Gower, H. R.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Maude, Angus|
|Barber, Anthony||Grimond, J.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mellor, Sir John|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Heath, Edward||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Black, C. W.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Hope, Lord John||Osborne, C.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Partridge, E.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Horobin, I. M.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Channon, H.||Hurd, A. R.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Cole, Norman||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Redmayne, M.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Kaberry, D.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Keeling, Sir Edward||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Lambton, Viscount||Scott, R. Donald|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Shepherd, William|
|Deedes, W. F.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Linstead, H. N.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Donner, P. W.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Low, A. R. W.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Studholme, H. G.|
|Erroll, F. J.||McCallum, Major D.||Summers, G. S.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Teeling, W.|
|Fort, R.||McKibbin, A. J.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Wellwood, W.|
|Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)||Vosper, D. F.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)||Wills, G.|
|Tilney, John||Walker-Smith, D. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Touche, Sir Gordon||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Turner, H. F. L.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.||Mr. Drewe and Mr. Oakshott.|
Question put, and agreed to.