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Tinned Milk (Sale)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 1957.

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Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford 12:00 am, 11th April 1957

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the total number of tins of milk disposed of by his Department in clearing stocks; the names of the main brands involved; what were the conditions under which the milk was sold; and what was the average price per tin realised in disposing of Co-operative Wholesale Society "Wheatsheaf" and Libby's tinned milk.

Mr. Amory:

Since 1954 my Department has disposed of 167 million tins of milk which included most home produced and imported brands. The greater part was sold back to the manufacturers of the milk without any conditions. Where stocks were sold for export, for use in manufactured food or for animal feeding stuffs, buyers were required to undertake that the milk would be used solely for that specific purpose. It is not the practice to disclose prices realised in these commercial transactions.

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford

In view of what the Minister said about the conditions applying to the sale, is he not going to do something about this very discreditable affair, which reveals that his Department has not taken reasonable precautions to protect the manufacturer who has pride in his products, the decent shopkeeper against the cut-price merchant, or the housewife, who would not buy some of this milk which was produced during the war if she knew the ancient history of these tins of milk?

Mr. Amory:

I did tell the hon. Gentleman on 4th April that I am having inquiries made, and shall consider what action, if any, I shall take—

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford

The right hon. Gentleman said that thirteen months ago.

Mr. Amory:

No.

Mr. Amory:

If so, it must have been true, because I repeated it on 4th April this year.

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what investigations have taken place and are contemplated following complaints of the selling in retail shops at cut prices of tinned milk of considerable age after being disposed of by his Department; when the last lot was sold by his Department; and how many more still remain in stock.

Mr. Amory:

In reply to the first part of the Question, until my inquiries have been completed I cannot add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member on 4th April.

The last sale of condensed milk, other than a small lot for stock feeding sold in March, 1957, was in August, 1956. My Department holds no further commercial stocks.

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford

Will the Minister now say what happened after he gave an undertaking on 6th March, 1956, in this House that he was to have inquiries made with a view, if possible, to instituting a prosecution, and what has happened to cause this delay?

Mr. Amory:

The inquiries that I am now undertaking are into recent sales which have been brought to my attention. If the hon. Gentleman would like me to look back and see what happened in the case of earlier sales, I shall be glad to do so.

Mrs. Slater:

Could the Minister tell us what precautions are taken to see that this kind of milk, which apparently should be sold for stock feeding, is not being sold to the large extent to which, apparently, it is for human consumption?

Mr. Amory:

At the time when this milk was sold by my Department, we had reason to believe after inquiry that it was not fit for human consumption, and we sold it on a specific undertaking that it would be used for stock feeding only. As I indicated to the House a few days ago, it is the responsibility of the local authorities to take action in the case of any food product which is being sold and which is found to be not fit for human consumption.

Mr. T. Williams:

May I ask the Minister whether, in instances where tins of milk of this kind were sold exclusively for stock fattening, the local authorities where these sales took place were informed what the conditions of sale were?

Mr. Amory:

I do not think that would be possible, because the sales might take place centrally, say, in London, and one of the difficulties is that the tins might pass through a number of different hands before subsequently being offered for retail sale.

Mr. Williams:

So that, actually, nobody knows whether the conditions were carried out or not?

Mr. Amory:

That is the basic difficulty, of course.