§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Clause 4 provides for a guaranteed payment of 5d. per gallon in the summer months and 6d. per gallon in the winter months on all manufacturing milk, but, in addition to that, there is a provision by which the price of milk may be assessed from time to time. I desire to ask the Minister whether my interpretation of these provisions is the right one, because the very involved terminology of Clause 4 is difficult for the ordinary Member to understand. I should say that the object of the Clause is to fix a price for milk for cheese-making which is to be equal to the average price of New Zealand White or Canadian White cheese over the preceding month, plus a sum of 1¾. If the figures can be presented in this way, I gather than the intention of the Clause is that, where the average price of cheese over the preceding month is 4d. per lb., the average cheese-milk price per gallon will be 4d., plus l¾d. We 1855 suggest that, if it be the intention, when the price of cheese is 4d. per lb., always to add at least l¾d. to the current price of cheese, we shall find that in the summer, when the guaranteed price is 5d., we shall be paying ¾d. per gallon in excess of the guaranteed price, but that in the winter the price will be 5¾d. per gallon, or ¼d. per gallon less than the guaranteed price in winter. We suggest that the l¾d. is too much, and is not necessary, because it is unlikely that the price of cheese will fall to a figure which will require such an amount to make up the price to the guaranteed figure of 5d. or 6d.
§ We should like to hear from the Minister what is the basis of this figure of 1¾d. We are told that a gallon of milk is almost exactly equivalent to 1 lb. of cheese, and that l¾d. is to be added to the price of cheese to make up the price of a gallon of milk, because on an average it costs 1¾d. to make a pound of cheese. We do not know whether the Minister has given his authority for that figure, but we say that the Minister and the House would be well advised not to raise the price so much, and that the addition of 1¾d. is too much, because in most cases it will give an advance on the guaranteed price of 5d. or 6d., as the case may be. We ask the Minister to say whether he will not be content with a cheese-milk price of a penny in excess of the price of imported cheese, leaving the deficiency between that cheese-milk price and the standard price to be made up by the contribution provided in the Bill. Am I right in assuming that the assessment will occasionally carry the price far ahead of the guaranteed price, and in that way call for contributions from the moneys provided by Parliament, not only to make up the guaranteed price, but to give the producers a price of ½d. or ¾d. ahead of the guaranteed price?
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
This is a somewhat complicated Clause, but I will do my best to make it clear. It has been the common practice in the milk trade for years past to value manufacturing milk on the imported cheese price basis. It is true that the price of surplus milk in this country is actually fixed on the price of an imported article. The price of l¾d. 1856 is the trade figure that is usually given. As a matter of fact, it is slightly lower than the trade figure which has been accepted for some years past. That was 2d. The figure was given as l¾d. by the appointed persons in the first contracts under the Milk Marketing Board, and it has been continued at that rate in the second contracts. The definition of cheese milk in this Clause represents what the board actually receives for milk used for cheese making. I do not think there is any danger of what the hon. Gentleman seems to fear, if I grasp his contention aright, that the formula in the Clause would drive the price of milk used in cheese making far beyond the level at which it ought to stand. This is a formula, which has been used for cheese making for a long time, and it has not had that effect in the past and it will not have it in the future. The effect of the Amendment would simply be to reduce by one half at the present cheese price the assistance that is offered by the Bill in respect of the lowest priced category of milk, that is milk used for factory cheese making and, as the Committee has argued out that contention and decided not to accept it, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press the Amendment.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ Mr. GODFREY WILSON
I am at variance with the hon. Gentleman opposite. The Clause says that the cheese price for any month shall be the excess over l¾d. of the average price of certain imported cheeses. If I take the figure of 4d. as the average price of New Zealand cheese, then the cheese price is not 5¾d. but the difference between 4d. and l¾d.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendments made: In page 4, line 20, leave out "any month" and insert "each of the six consecutive months."
§ In line 23, leave out "any month" and insert "each of the six consecutive months."
In line 31, leave out from "for" to "and," in line 35, and insert:
the month of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, and for each subsequent month down to and including the month of August, nineteen hundred and thirty-four.
In line 36, leave out from "of," to "and," in line 38, and insert:
of the month of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-four."—[Mr. Elliot.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I only want to mention to the right hon. Gentleman that there may be a misunderstanding about the meaning of these words. If one reads them again, they look as if they have two interpretations. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to look into the matter before the Report stage.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I shall do my utmost to spend some time on the Clause to see whether I can make it plainer. I admit that I had to hold vigorously to my reading of it right through in case I made a hash of it myself, and, if I can make it clearer, I will do so.