§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Last July, the Government issued a White Paper outlining the various measures we propose to try to improve the quality of the milk produced in this country. In Paragraphs 14 and 15 of that Paper we stated that it was our intention to present, for the approval of Parliament, a Measure to transfer to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, as soon as conditions permitted, certain functions of local authorities relating to the supervision of conditions under which milk is produced in this country. This Bill is designed to implement-that promise. One of the few good things that has emerged from this war, is the widespread and much greater recognition by the public of the value of milk as a human food. The consumption of milk in its liquid state, by human beings, has gone up from 860,000,000 gallons a year in the pre-war period, to 1,185,000,000 gallons to-day. Yet we find ourselves with insufficient supplies. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food is working on the assumption that existing priority consumption, that is consumption by schoolchildren, nursing and expectant mothers and the like, will continue after the war as part of our permanent social services.
To-day, non-priority consumers are drastically rationed, and I think that we must all hope the day will come when that rationing can be brought to an end. The Ministry of Food consider that we shall 446 require, as a minimum, an additional 350,000,000 gallons of fresh milk per annum before we can abolish milk rationing. That is a rather formidable task to set before the British farmer. It will take time to accomplish. My own hope is that it will be accomplished largely by an increased output per cow, rather than by concentrating on increasing the number of cows that produce milk. But I have no doubt at all, that the livestock schemes that I, and my local war agricultural committees, with the help of the farmers' representatives, have in mind, will, in time, achieve the target I have set. My ambition—and I am sure it is the ambition of every decent dairy farmer—goes a good way beyond providing this additional 350,000,000 gallons of milk. What we must aim at is, not only milk in greater quantities, but milk of a very much better quality, milk in which the public and the medical profession will have complete faith. That, and nothing less, is my aim, and that is the fundamental reason why I present this Bill to the House. It is, I believe, an absolutely necessary step in the achievement of that aim.
The House will be aware that we have already started taking a number of steps towards this end. One of the main planks in my four-year plan, is the improvement of our dairy stock. We have to try to upgrade the whole of our dairy stock, and do everything in our power to encourage the ordinary dairy farmer to go in for a sound breeding policy. Lately, we have taken steps to extend milk recording, so that the farmer shall know the capacity of his individual cows, and shall be able to form some judgment as to the probability of their progeny being better. We also hope that, by this means, we shall be able to distinguish cows which are earning their keep, from those which are not, so that the latter can, in due course, be culled. As the House knows, I. have been doing my best to stress the importance of a sound breeding policy. In addition, my committees, now that the immediate task of increasing the supply of cereals and crops for human consumption has been accomplished, have been instructed to devote all their attention to livestock improvement. They are engaged in a survey of every dairy herd in the country with a view, first, to assessing their worth, and then to helping owners of poor quality stock, either to supplant them with better stock, or up-grade them. All this takes 447 time; it cannot be done in a day, but we are getting on with the task of trying to provide an increased number of suitable dairy bulls, and also by this means to improve the general level of our commercial herds.
It is an essential part of my policy to try to raise the quality of our milk supply. Hand in hand with that, goes the question of the improvement of the health of cattle, and the elimination and control of disease. Under the arrangements outlined in the White Paper, we have now instituted what I think is a much more logical system of inspection of dairy herds. Every dairy herd, will, in future, be inspected by a qualified "vet" at least once a year. I have nothing like enough "vets" at present but, as and when the supply increases—as I hope it will—I shall be able to increase the number of inspections of herds each year. The House will remember that only recently there has been issued as a White Paper a Report of a Committee on Veterinary Education, under Professor Loveday, whom I asked to review their earlier recommendations, and the question of the necessary provision for the training of more "vets" is at present under active consideration.
§ Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)
Are steps being taken to inform headmasters of schools that there are many vacancies in this interesting profession, so that boys who desire to do so, may prepare to come into it?
§ Mr. Hudson
I think that is a very important subject but, of course, we must not encourage undue hopes until we have the necessary measures for the increased provision of teaching. The university in the hon. Member's town has been suggested by Professor Loveday's Committee as one of the universities for the training of "vets." I assure the House that I am very much impressed with the need for getting on with this matter. Inspection of the dairy herd itself is valuable, but the visit of a "vet" to a farm has a further advantage in that it gives him the opportunity of discussing with the farmer problems of animal health, and enables him to suggest means not so much of curing disease, but what is more important, of preventing disease. At the same time, we have extended greatly our steps for the control of disease. Under the 448 scheme produced a short while ago four dairy cattle diseases—mastitis, abortion, sterility, and Johne's disease—are now being dealt with by a scheme jointly run by the N.F.U. and the N.V.M.A. with the approval of, and some help from, my Department. There has been a marked increase in the last few months in the number of calves vaccinated against contagious abortion, but there is room for very considerable progress in this direction and I hope to introduce, in the very near future, a voluntary scheme which will take advantage of the visits of the "vet" to the farm, to enable him, at the same time, to carry out vaccination of the calves while he is at the farm. We will give financial assistance to this scheme, so that it will be possible for the farmer for a very small fee to see that his calves are vaccinated, a most important matter.
This does not cover the cases of tuberculosis; that is covered by the Attested Herds Scheme. This was in operation before the war, and was then making rapid progress, but, unfortunately, it had to be suspended on the outbreak of war. Now I have considered several times in the last four years if we could not start off this scheme again. I have not hitherto felt justified in doing so, because of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary supervision, but the time is now ripe for further consideration. Therefore, I propose, very shortly, to re-open admission to the Attested Herds Scheme. It will be without financial assistance towards the cost of the qualifying test, and without a bonus payment, but that provision will not affect the people who are already within the scheme, that is owners who have completed the tests but not yet received bonus for the full three years period, or owners whose herds have come into the supervisory stage. This re-opening will not only apply to farmers who are improving and selling their milk, but also to farmers who are only engaged in rearing stock. I hope that the result of this will be a gradual building up, starting in a small way, of whole areas free of tuberculosis; starting first with individual farms or even parishes, we may then improve whole areas, where cattle will be free from tuberculosis, and these will act as a reservoir, from which we can replenish dairy herds with cattle free from this disease. In addition to the two schemes I have just outlined we are pressing on with a further 449 scheme, that is the national milk-testing and advisory service. I am very glad in this connection, since I know many hon. Members think that I am engaged in taking powers from the local authorities—
§ Mr. Hudson
There is some difference in that the schemes so far put forward by some local authorities would actually take away power from other local authorities. But I am glad to be able to take this opportunity of saying a word of thanks for the assistance we have had from the local authorities in this milk-testing scheme. The scheme provides for the regular testing of milk to detect milk of poor keeping quality, and is an essential part of the whole scheme for improving the quality of our milk. Of the supplies to the large depots, over 92 per cent. to-day is being regularly tested, and of the producer wholesalers' milk over 88 per cent., and 22 per cent. of producer retailers' milk is now being regularly tested. Some hon. Members may ask why the proportion for producer retailers is so much lower than for the others; the answer is that in their case it is a very much more difficult task, and this scheme is only in its infancy. We are short of staff, which we have concentrated on the easier task of the biggest bulk first, and, as we can get the staff, we will extend, and bring producer retailers up to the level of the others. On the results of these tests, experts are sent out by the war agricultural committees to help farmers whose milk falls below standard. The advisory service is given not only to farmers; members of the Provincial Dairy Bacteriological Service also give advice to dairies, depots and creameries. The result is that, despite all the difficulties of war, the keeping quality of the nation's milk in the past two years has been not only maintained but improved. All these various measures which I have mentioned, all the measures that we are carrying out, are within the control of my Department.
Most hon. Members will, no doubt, be aware of the functions which it is now proposed to transfer from local authorities to me, and which even the local authorities themselves admit, have not always been carried out. They comprise the inspection of premises to see that 450 they comply with the requirements; the inspection of equipment to see that it is up to the necessary standard and sanitary conditions, and, most important of all from my point of view, the inspection of methods of milk production. This is far more important than anything else, for ensuring that methods of production are consistent with the prevention of disease, and the maintenance of a clean milk production. It may be suggested, and I have no doubt hon. Members will suggest, that we could have achieved our objects by bringing the backward local authorities up to the level of the best. I do not know if that would have made me any more popular with the local authorities. It may also be suggested that we should make available a great deal more additional finance to the poorer areas. I am going to suggest that the whole problem has radically changed since 1926, when these powers were first entrusted to the local authorities.
These are the facts of the situation. These powers were entrusted to the local authorities in 1926, in circumstances completely different from those we face to-day. In 1926, there was no State veterinary service, and there was not the same idea of improving the quality of milk as a national policy. Then, we were not engaged, as we are now, in trying to grade up the whole machine, nor did we have the same powers nor, of course,. the experience we have to-day. There is a further very great difference. Then, supplies for the large towns of this country were, for the most part, drawn from the surrounding country. That position, however, was changing in the years before the war. In 1926 there was no Milk Marketing Board, But since then a very great step forward has been taken; the Milk Marketing Board has come into being and is anxious to see the quality of milk improved as rapidly as possible. The areas from which supplies for the great towns are drawn was changing before the war, and they have changed very quickly indeed since the war, being affected by the changes made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, by the shift of population and so forth. Supplies for the great cities now come, for the most part, from distant regions. So, the milk consumer in London or Birmingham is largely dependent for the condition and supply of his milk upon farms 60 or 70 or even 100 miles away. 451 The local authorities in the great consuming areas have no control over the conditions of their milk supplies. Indeed, for the most part the local authorities and medical officers of health of the great consuming areas may not even know the areas, let alone the individual farms, from which their milk comes.
I would suggest that these local authorities, therefor, have nothing to fear from these proposals. Indeed, on balance, they ought to welcome them, because, instead of shooting at some unknown persons, they will have a single known person to shoot at and that will be me. Many people up and down the country, when they heard of my proposal, told me they thought I was very foolish, in my own interests and in those of my unfortunate successors, because at present we have a complete alibi. If some-one says he is getting bad milk, my answer is that it is the local authorities' fault. Hon. Members here have no redress at all. In future, I am setting myself up to be shot at, and no doubt I shall be shot at. I am doing this because I believe this is the proper way.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Is not the Ministry of Health responsible for seeing that the law is enforced?
§ Mr. Hudson
There may be a theoretical responsibility but hon. Members have no direct redress. They may be able to ask my right hon. Friend to see whether, in a particular area, some local authority ought not to be remonstrated with, but there is no power to deal with the matter; whereas under my proposals if hon. Members do not like what is happening they can put down for discussion the Estimate of my Department and move a Vote of Censure on me.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
Even if there is sound evidence that a prosecution ought to take place, does it not rest with the local authority to determine whether actions are to be taken or not; and does not much of our danger come from that source?
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member is quite right. The responsibility rests at present on the local authority. I see it is suggested in the Amendment on the Paper that my proposal is unsound because I have not the staff with which to carry it 452 out. That is true to-day, but the provisions of the Bill will not come into force as soon as it passes. They are to come into force on the appointed day, and it is clear that my right hon. Friend and I will not appoint the day, until we are both satisfied that I am in a position to carry it out. Under the arrangements that I contemplate, I shall have to increase the number of my veterinary staff. I shall also have to recruit a number of non-veterinary staff, and I hope I shall be able to attract into my service adequate numbers of men and women who have the qualifications of sanitary inspectors, milk inspectors and so forth. The veterinary staff of the Department will, in any case, be inspecting the herds and visiting farms regularly and under the new arrangements they and the new staff which I shall recruit will be responsible for the supervision of the conditions under which the milk is produced.
§ Mr. E. Walkden
Are there any indications that veterinary surgeons will object to giving service to the State?
§ Mr. Hudson
None at all. Under the new proposal, instead of two different authorities being responsible for supervision and inspection of different parts of the same process—the production of milk —the whole will be concentrated in the hands of one authority, which will lead to greater uniformity and the raising of the general standard, and therefore to steady improvement as the years go on.
Let me now turn to the Bill and draw attention to one or two points which, I feel, it would be desirable to emphasise. Both I and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health, will be jointly responsible for the making of the Hulk and dairies Regulations. The reason is that the same requirements for securing cleanliness and preventing contamination are necessary, both on and off the farm. The association of the two Ministers emphasises our common interest in the matter. I believe there is no foundation for the criticism that I have heard, that it is a wrong and retrograde step, to transfer these responsibilities from the Ministry of Health to the Department responsible for the welfare and efficiency of the agricultural industry. I submit that I, as Minister of Agriculture, have just as great an interest in the cleanliness of milk, from the point of view of the good name and efficiency of agriculture, as has the 453 Minister of Health from the point of view of public health. There need be no conflict between the real interests of agriculture and the real interests of public health. The second point to which I should like to draw attention is that the present proposals leave to local authorities their special interest at the consumer stage. They do not touch, even on the farm, the local authority's responsibility for the health of the people concerned in producing milk, and the local authority will continue to be responsible for keeping a check on the cleanliness and purity of the milk sold in their area. We are satisfied that this division of functions is logical and proper. There is one minor exception to the rule in the case of the producer retailer. We intended, at first, to leave local authorities in control of the inspection of retailing on the farm, but we came to the conclusion that it was illogical and impracticable to arrange for two different authorities to have responsibility and jurisdiction on the same premises, and we decided that the whole show should be handed over to me.
It is suggested in the Amendment on the Paper that the Bill should not be read a Second time because it takes away from local authorities many of their present functions. On this I will only say that, in coming to the conclusion embodied in the Bill we have had due regard to the statement made by the Prime Minister in 1943:The Government are very much alive to the need for avoiding any weakening of the structure of local government and I can give the assurance that, in framing any proposals in relation to particular services for submission to this House, the Government will pay the most careful regard to this factor."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd September, 1943; Vol. 392, c. 196.]We are putting these proposals before the House because we consider that the re-arrangement of functions proposed is in the best interests of what we have at heart—the provision of clean milk and the raising of the standard of production. I ask hon. Members to consider these proposals strictly on their merits, and not allow themselves to be swayed by any suggestion that this is an insidious attack on the functions and authority of local authorities. There is a case, I think an overwhelming case, for the co-ordination in the hands of one Department of all the powers and duties relating to the production of milk, and clean and whole- 454 some milk at that. This Bill finally closes the circle. It provides an essential part of the whole co-ordinated plan, which have tried to show the House, and because it forms an essential link in the whole process, which I hope to see carried through in course of time to a successful conclusion, I ask the House to give it a Second reading.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and, to add:this House, whilst welcoming measures designed to improve the quality of the nation's milk, declines to give a Second Reading to a measure that deprives local authorities of their existing responsibilities and centralises these responsibilities in the Minister of Agriculture, who has not the staff with which to discharge them, and urges that legislation on these matters shall be deferred until a Royal Commission has been appointed and reported on the measures necessary to secure efficient administration.My right hon. Friend the Minister has had a busy week. On Tuesday he won unanimous approval from the House for the Bill which, among other things, took away from local authorities the power to give advice on agricultural matters, and handed it over to himself. I supported him because I believe it right that the Minister, who is responsible for the agricultural industry, should have, with his staff, the task of advising agriculture on expert agricultural questions. Flushed with his success on Tuesday, the right hon. Gentleman yesterday supported the Minister of Health in the Rural Water Supplies Bill. Now in this Bill he is attacking the central bastion of local government, public health.
I must pay tribute to the skill with which my right hon. friend has conducted his attack. The local authorities have always believed that the Ministry of Health protected their position. They have looked to it as the outpost of their defences. Yet, to-day I find that the Minister of Agriculture has enveloped the position of the Minister of Health, and has concluded a secret armistice with him; indeed, from the back of the Bill it appears that the Minister of Health is a co-belligerent with the Minister of Agriculture. I shall have, further remarks to address to the Minister of Health, and I hope he will give a reply to my points. Those who defend the, local authorities in this matter are facing some little difficulty. They have not only the ordinary difficulty that back benchers 455 always have when arguing against the great skill of a member of the Front Bench; and I think I deserve the sympathy of the House even more than usual, because I believe that my right hon. friend has more vigour, boldness and skill in debate than any other member of the Front bench. We also have this difficulty. While we would expect the Minister of Health to be defending our position, he is attacking with the Ministry of Agriculture.
I do not think the Minister of Agriculture has made quite clear the issue in this Debate between those who are in favour of the Bill and those who are against it. Let it first be made clear that those who oppose and those who are in favour are like-minded in their desire to improve the quality and increase the quantity of milk. Any Measure that can do that will have the unanimous support of the House. There is also, I think, unanimity of view that the present standard of cleanliness on the farms is not satisfactory. This Bill touches only the standard of cleanliness on the farms. There is, too, unanimity that the standard of cleanliness on the whole journey, from the milk-pail in the cow byre to the bottle on the cottage doorstep, is unsatisfactory. Not all the uncleanliness in the milk comes from the farm, and I regret that my right hon. Friend did not make that clear. I have had case after case in which T.T. milk left the farm absolutely clean, and when it was sold in the streets of the neighbouring town it was dirty. There is nothing in this Bill that touches that question. The third point of unanimity is that there are too many authorities dealing with this question of milk. There is too wide a diversity of standards of cleanliness and of the structure of cow byres in the provisions of the milk and dairy Orders.
The question on which we disagree, and which forms the issue of this Bill, is whether the functions relating to milk should be carried out by the Minister of Agriculture and his officials from Whitehall, or by the local authorities, who are charged with the health of the people in their areas. That is the only issue which is clearly before the House to-day. There are three possible solutions to this problem. The first is that the present powers should remain with the existing local authorities, but that those powers 456 should be strengthened, and that a uniformity of standards should be laid down by the Department concerned. The second alternative is that all the powers should be handed over to one major health authority in each area. That is the Scottish example. The last alternative is that all these powers should be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Minister and the Government have chosen the last alternative.
Let me examine the other two alternatives. The first is to keep the present authorities, but to strengthen their powers. On page 3 of the White Paper, paragraph 13, we find the statement:The standard of administration varies widely throughout the country.Whose fault is that? The Minister talked of 1926 and of the changes since then. Not very much has changed since 1935, when the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations appealed to the Minister of Health to lay down a legal standard for the cleanliness of milk, and said that under the regulations which the Minister of Health had laid down it was impossible to obtain a conviction, because no court would call milk dirty unless there was a legal standard of cleanliness. What action did the Ministry of Health, the great protectors of public health, take on that? They refused the application. From that date, local authorities have been pressing the Minister of Health to define the standard of cleanliness of milk.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
My hon. Friend has not told the other part of the story. When they made that application they never said anything about what is the greatest scandal, namely, the standard of cowsheds. They never suggested that there should be a uniform standard there.
§ Mr. Turton
My right hon. Friend has not made a very apposite interjection, because he will recollect that the standard of cowsheds is not a matter for the county councils or the municipal corporations. It is a matter for the rural district councils. Therefore, it would not be germane for them to ask the Ministry of Health to issue regulations, which could only be done by Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Turton
My right hon. Friend prides himself on the standard of courtesy in this House. I have answered his interjection, and no doubt he will make a speech later. In the meantime, perhaps he will allow me to make my speech.
§ Mr. Turton
The Minister of Agriculture, in introducing this Bill, said that the Minister of Health had no power to force local authorities to carry out their functions. I challenge the Minister of Health on this. I refer him to the Public Health Act, Section 93, which gives him power to supersede any authority which is not carrying out its functions under milk legislation. I should like to know if there is any recorded case where the Minister of Health has taken action under that Section. It is no good coming to the House and saying that local authorities have failed if the responsible Minister who is charged by this House to see that they do not fail has himself failed to take any action in this matter. The difficulty is that if the Minister of Health had taken action he would have done so against the bad, the defaulting, authorities. Under the Bill, the Minister of Agriculture is wiping out the responsibilities not only of those who have failed, but of those who have been careful to discharge their duties ever since these were placed on them by Parliament. Many authorities have done so. I suggest that if a legal standard of cleanliness was laid down and model by-laws brought in for the structure of buildings, the existing local authorities could carry out that work. If, further, local authorities who are failing were given the wherewithal to discharge their responsibilities, it would result in an improvement. The Bill is to cost the country £175,000 a year. If £100,000 were handed over to the existing local authorities, we would get clean milk and higher standards. [Laughter.] I notice that the Minister of Agriculture laughs, but the Minister of Health, who has had the function of looking after these authorities, is not so ribald in his comments.
Let us consider the second alternative which I put before the House. In 1929, in Scotland, all the powers of the existing local authorities regarding milk legislation were handed over to the major local authorities. What has been the 458 result? I ask the House to turn again to the White Paper on milk where, they will find, the Government say:In Scotland a reasonably good standard of administration is maintained.On Tuesday last, I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he was satisfied with the administration of the Milk and Dairies Acts in Scotland and whether he intended to amend them. He said he was satisfied with their administration and that he did not intend to amend them.
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend but as he has mentioned Scotland, and as I am the only Scottish Member present, I would not like him to run away with the idea that we, in Scotland, are satisfied with the present position. In point of fact, Scottish dairy farmers largely hold that the right hon. Gentleman has kidnapped their child.
§ Mr. Turton
As a loyal supporter of the Government I must look at what was said by the Secretary of State for Scotland on this matter rather than to my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden). All I am saying is that England should now have the chance that Scotland got in 1929; yet, in all the eight pages of this White Paper, there is no mention of the possibility of treating England as Scotland has been treated.
§ Mr. Hudson
I did not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I am sure he will not overlook the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland is also Minister of Agriculture for Scotland, and exercises these powers by virtue of being Minister of Agriculture.
§ Mr. Turton
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. If the Bill were amended so that the administration of milk legislation were carried out, as in Scotland, by local authorities, and if the Minister will give that pledge now, I, personally, will withdraw my opposition to the Bill immediately.
§ Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
Does my hon Friend suggest that the matter should be handed over to the county councils and that they should be the major authorities and not the rural district councils?
§ Mr. Turton
My hon. and gallant Friend asks me whether, if this were handed over 459 to the county councils, I and those who support me would be satisfied. I speak for myself. I do not speak as a delegate for any association but for my constituency. I would agree to the county councils administering the Bill jointly, for the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture for having given me the opportunity of making that point perfectly clear. The major local authorities have the staff. They are already looking after T.T. and accredited milk. It is wrong that one body should look after T.T, and accredited milk, and another body should look after other kinds of milk from undesignated herds. There is everything to be said for centralising the administration of the local authorities, under one authority.
Let me now turn to the alternative that the Government have chosen, of handing over this responsibity to the Minister of Agriculture. The White Paper, in making out the case for this change, sets out in paragraph 7 (c) these words:Owing to the shortage of veterinary staff, a very considerable number of herds whose milk does not qualify for any special designation, are not inspected at all.Again, may I ask, whose fault is that? The Minister has said that he intends to work this Bill by his veterinary staff, but already, since 1938, his veterinary staff have had the duty of inspecting herds. They are trying to carry out this duty, but there are not enough of them. The Bill will throw more duties on them and I am afraid the failure will be even greater. Let me give the House an illustration from my own county. I have hitherto avoided trying to compare one area in opposition to another. Before the 1937 Act was introduced, we, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, inspected every herd twice a year. Since the Ministry have taken over our veterinary staff, herds are not being inspected once a year uniformly. We have found in the North Riding that whereas before 1938 we had a veterinary staff that could cope with the diseases of animals, whether of sheep or cattle, since the Ministry have taken over the veterinary staff we have not had that immunity from disease that we had before. I think it very wrong to put before the House, as is done in paragraph 15 of this White Paper, that inspection of milk should be carried out solely by the 460 veterinary staff. Let the cobbler stick to his last. The man who has to inspect the structure of the cow byre, and to count the number of bacilli coli in every cubic centimetre of milk, should not be a veterinary officer. In the eight pages of this document there is no suggestion that anybody else but the Ministry's veterinary officers are to carry out this function. The story of public health in England has hitherto been—and so far as I know there are only six exceptions—that the man who is sanitary inspector is a qualified man at sanitary inspection. The Minister is going to remove the whole of that, and hand over all these tasks to his overburdened veterinary staffs.
§ Mr. Hudson
Hon. Members are, of course, entitled to criticise, but I do not think that my hon. Friend is being altogether fair. I took particular pains to explain that the statement he has just made is not in accordance with my intention. I said that I was going to recruit a large number of non-veterinary staff, qualified as milk inspectors and sanitary inspectors. The hon. Member ought not to misrepresent what I said.
§ Mr. Turton
I am not misrepresenting my right hon. Friend. If I had done so I would withdraw at once. But if he reads HANSARD to-morrow he will see that I was dealing with "Measures to Improve the Quality of the Nation's Milk Supply," Command Paper 6454, which outlines the policy of the Government. It is quite true that to-day the Minister has disowned that White Paper, and has said that he will recruit sanitary inspectors. But that really means that this Bill will come into operation at the Greek Kalends. Where is he to get the sanitary inspectors to discharge these duties? This Bill makes provision for transferring officers from local authorities. What rural district council will be able to spare a single sanitary inspector if this Bill comes into law? These men are overworked already. They have to look after the drains and sewerage and countless other tasks. What county council or municipal corporation will be able to spare to the Minister one single sanitary inspector? We have in our county a county health inspector who looks over the work of the local authorities and sees that sanitary inspections are carried out. Are he and his staff to be transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture? If so, let us be quite clear and have it in some speech 461 or Act of Parliament, so that we can take appropriate action to defend our county staff, on whose shoulders rests the care of health in the Riding.
The Minister, when making a claim for this Bill, said that the great blessing would be one of uniformity. I hope that whoever is to reply on his behalf, whether it be the Parliamentary Secretary or one of his co-belligerents, will answer this question: Do I understand that if this Bill becomes law, the enforcement against adulterated milk will no longer be the function of the local authorities, or will the county council in the county areas still inspect to see whether milk is adulterated and make tests to see whether there is water in milk? Secondly, if there is an outbreak of disease in an area, will the present local authorities be prevented from inspecting the milk at the farm to trace the source of infection? I am instructed that if this Bill is operated, milk will still be inspected by three different authorities, the county authority to see whether the water content is too high or is correct; the local rural or urban district council for matters of disease, and by the Ministry of Agriculture officials under the Bill. When we come to the structure of buildings, the cow byres when erected will, I presume, still have to pass the Minister of Agriculture, to satisfy his structural requirements, and by local authorities, to conform with their by-laws and planning schemes. I hope whoever replies will deal with that. If we are not to get one body dealing with this matter, there will be continuous inspections, some from Whitehall, some from the local authority.
Where is the urgency for this Bill? The Minister very wisely said that this Bill could not be introduced until he had the staff to carry it out. I appreciate that neither the Minister of Health nor the Minister of Agriculture would dream of making an appointed day before the staff was there, but when will the staff be there? Can we hope to have a great army of sanitary inspectors available before Germany is defeated? Indeed, before Japan is defeated? Can we get such a great army before demobilisation is in full flow? Really, the greatest optimist in the House could not regard this Bill as likely to operate until some date many years ahead. What is to happen now if the House gives a Second Reading to this 462 Bill? Where will be the enthusiasm in the local authorities to secure that milk is clean? You will destroy it by this Bill.
I believe that there is a good deal of doubt as to the correct local authority to deal with this matter. I believe there is a tremendous amount of tidying up needed, which this Bill does not do, in regard to milk legislation. For that reason I and my friends are suggesting that this is a matter which should be submitted to an independent body, such as a Royal Commission. This matter does not stand alone. I understand that the Japanese have a torture called, "Death by the thousand cuts." [An HON. MENBER: "The Chinese"] I thought they were our Allies. Whatever Eastern race, friendly or unfriendly, it is which has that torture, I often wonder whether local authorities do not think that that treatment is being tried out on them. This matter of local government should really be settled by an independent body, so that we shall not have Bills continually coming forward, cutting off a finger here, a toe there. That is the English way of making reforms and getting improvements in our structure of administration. No one will say that local authorities never make mistakes. Nor will the country say that Parliament never makes mistakes. But the fact that there are good and bad local authorities, the fact that there are good and bad Bills, does not justify replacing Parliament by a dictatorship, or local authorities by an army of officials from Whitehall.
We are living in the days when party issues are put on one side, and the Government are trying to avoid any differences of political belief and political programmes being fought in Parliament. We want to concentrate on the urgent task of defeating the enemy. Since I came back, I have been at great pains not to come out in hostility to the Government, because I believe this Government is charged with the task of winning the war, and it is no easy thing for me to attack, as I have to-day attacked slightly, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, for both of whom I have tremendous admiration. But this Bill is a contentious Measure that should not be introduced into a Parliament like this, and at this time when the soldiers are ready for sterner stuff than the question 463 of who is to deal with your milk or your dairy.
We are told that we are fighting for democracy. I often wonder what hon. Members contemplate when they make that statement. I rather feel that when they talk of democracy they think merely of Parliament and the hurly-burly of a General Election. I believe the fighting man thinks of democracy as something different, as government by elected representatives, not the Members of Parliament but elected representatives on the parish councils, the urban and rural district councils and the county councils. It is that for which he is fighting.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member for the South-Eastern Division of Essex (Mr. Raikes) forgets that many of the men fighting have not had votes in local government elections.
§ Mr. Turton
That is what we are fighting for, democracy based on representative government of elected local authorities, and I am surprised to find cheers and laughter and jeers from Members of the Conservative Party, excepting, of course, the Tory Reformers, because surely the majority of this House are against rule by Fascism, rule by an army of officials from Whitehall. I hope that if there is doubt in this matter an opportunity will be given for those who are fighting for England to decide whether they want local government or this rule by officials from Government Departments.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Does my hon. Friend really suggest that war agricultural committees —
§ Mr. Turton
I had, in fact come to the end, and was going to add only that I commend the Amendment to the House.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am sure the House will not expect me to speak long in seconding this Amendment, nor is that necessary, because my hon. Friend the Member for 464 Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has given a very closely reasoned argument in favour of the postponement of this Measure. The question raised here is one of great principle, and I must confess that I was very much disappointed with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. I have great admiration for him, for he has done some wonderful work, but the relatively insignificant reasons which he gave in putting forward this Measure, which makes so serious an attack upon the functions of local government, really surprised me very much. This question of local government is extremely important and is arousing very great feeling throughout the country, particularly among that very large body of devoted men and women who give a large amount of unpaid service upon local authorities year after year. I challenge anyone to deny that we are unquestionably producing in the minds of those men and women a feeling that their work is not appreciated, that their importance is about to be diminished. In Bill after Bill we see their functions frittered away. That is a very serious state of affairs. In this country we have not only built up the art of Parliamentary government but, just as much, the art of local government—all that great structure of health and other local government services which were built up from the labours of Chadwick and other forerunners in this field; and I feel that the House should take very seriously the suggestion of my hon. Friend that this matter calls for serious inquiry before we proceed very much further along our present lines.
I know there is a great division of opinion in the country. To be candid with the House, I have received a letter from the Shropshire branch of the National Farmers' Union asking me to support the Bill. They are a progressive body, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture knows, but they are not quite so progressive as the most progressive authority in my area, which got in two days before with a request that I should oppose the Bill. They are a very progressive local authority, recognised as such by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and I am glad that the clerk of that authority was included in the last Honours List for magnificent work done during the war. That body feel that they ought not to 465 have these functions taken from them, and I do not think the House ought lightly to disregard the practically unanimous feeling among local government authorities that these functions should remain with them. What were the reasons given by the Minister? We were told there had been changes since 1926. Of course there have been changes; there have been changes in every part of our public life. There has been a great deal of change in some of the opinions of Members of this House since 1926, but that is no reason for abolishing Parliament.
The Minister also mentioned the importance of improving the quality of our milk, with which we all agree, and then went on to say that responsibility for the health of the people engaged in milking was still to remain with the Minister of Health. It comes down to a demarcation dispute, a question of where one is to draw the line. The milk-pail is to be under the Ministry of Agriculture, but the persons who do the milking, who are just as if not more important, are to remain under the Ministry of Health through the local authorities. For that reason, because he wants to draw the line here and not there, he proposes to inflict a smashing blow on local government authorities. I must tell the Minister that that will not do. He dealt with a number of insignificant points, but never said one word about the root objection to the Bill, which is set out very clearly in this Amendment, and that is that it is a very serious attack upon local government. I ask the House seriously to consider how much further we are to go along this path.
It was also said that great consuming centres like the City of London had, under existing arrangements, no control over the actual places where the milk was produced. That is perfectly true, but it is true also of all foods. London is not going to control every area from which it draws its food or even its population. The people who work in the offices and the vegetables and other foods which they eat at the luncheon places to which they go, all are drawn from outside the London area—some from China, as an hon. Member remarks. That is no reason for this proposed transfer of functions. If it were we should have to hand over the inspection of food in far-distant parts of the world 466 to the City of London. Of course, that makes nonsense of the whole argument. The question of efficiency was also raised. There are good local authorities and there are bad local authorities, just as there are good Government Departments and also some very bad ones. It may easily happen that at a given time there may be a weak Minister of Agriculture and extremely progressive local authorities, and are we then to reverse this process which it is suggested we should introduce in the Bill? Of course not.
Either we want local government or we do not. If we want local government, which I regard as one of the most wonderful instruments we have built up in this country, we must not give way every time we notice a little inefficiency but, instead, take measures to find out what are the causes of that inefficiency and to remove them. When we find enthusiastic men and women in the country harnessing themselves to local governments we should encourage them and make them realise the importance of the functions they carry out. In that way we shall raise the whole standard of efficiency in local government and at the same time relieve the congestion at the centre of which we so often hear from the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) remarks we do not want to increase congestion in the bottle-neck at the centres. In many matters we ought to consider how we can devolve further functions upon local authorities, so allowing a freer hand at the centre. This really is a bad Bill. I am sorry to say it, because I have immense admiration for the Minister of Agriculture, but here he is taking a thoroughly reactionary step, a step which smacks a little, though I do not want to make too much of the point, of totalitarianism, of getting everything into Whitehall. That would be a pity; but far more serious is the effect that we are producing upon local authorities and the men and women who serve on them.
This House owes a very great deal to the local government services. Many of the most valuable Members of this House served their apprenticeship in local government and some of them are serving on local authorities to-day. In the proceedings on the Education Bill we found the value of having a Minister who had had a long apprenticeship and a long period of service with local authorities. Therefore. 467 I say that in view of the fact that there is no urgency in this matter, which is admitted by all the parties to the dispute, the House should adopt this Amendment and put the matter back for inquiry. Then we shall get something which may be far better, because we shall have a carefully thought-out line of demarcation between the proper functions of the central Government as compared with those of local government.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
I think the Minister has made a very clever and disarming speech in favour of his Bill. At the same time I think there is a great deal of confusion and, possibly, misunderstanding in regard to the Bill, and in this House, as many of us are representative of local authorities, we are, I feel, confronted with a very real dilemma. I doubt very much whether most of us can go all the way with the mover of the Amendment—certainly some of us would not agree that in this Parliament no contentious legislation should be introduced—but he has voiced many of the apprehensions and doubts which are felt over this Measure by local authorities and by administrators in public health. None of us doubts the interest and zeal of the Minister of Agriculture in respect to public health. He has shown considerable imagination in trying to improve agricultural methods, to raise the general standard of nutrition, and to improve the health of animal stock. Nevertheless, these misgivings as to the position of the Ministry of Agriculture in respect to public health are pretty widely expressed, although all of us, I think, agree that further attention should be given to the problem of purity of milk, and that there should be greater co-ordination at all stages of the process in milk production.
There is a feeling that the policy of the Minister is calculated to diminish the functions of local government, is transferring certain of those functions to a department in Whitehall which is not concerned primarily with public health, but whose essential concern is with agricultural development. Also, there are doubts as to whether the methods which are being employed are likely to achieve the desired results. The Minister of Agriculture has put a fine point upon his interest in public health. That interest no one would desire to deny, but, as the hon. Member for 468 Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) pointed out, this is the transfer of public health functions to a Ministry which is not primarily concerned with public health. It is felt, by the smaller local authorities in particular, that for some time the Government have been making an attack on the flanks of local government, although they have not yet engaged in a frontal attack for local government reform. It is felt that, sooner or later, the effect will be an enormous diminution of interest in local government. This will tend to discourage local administration, and, as generally happens, it will be the keenest authorities which will suffer most as a result of these attacks.
It may be said that we are living in a changing world, that local government organisation needs overhaul, that there are certain services which need to be organised on a much wider basis. But that cannot be contended in this case, even if it could be in the case of education and, possibly, of the fire service. For the purposes of this Bill could be attained within the framework of local government. The Minister has said that he puts himself at that Box to be shot at by Members in regard to the administration of the Milk and Dairies Orders. But that does not alter the fact, which was pointed out by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, that there are certain powers under public health legislation which have not been adequately exercised, and that if it were proved that the local authorities were inadequate to the task of maintaining purity of production, the Minister of Health could have obtained the necessary powers, and could be answerable at that Box for the administration of those powers. So I do not think that the point which the Minister attempted to make in regard to the transfer of powers is altogether valid.
Further apprehensions are expressed about the method which the Minister seeks to employ. I read his White Paper rather carefully, hoping that he would offer some explanation for the changes which he now proposes. Paragraph 13 gays:The standard of administration varies widely throughout the country, but while appreciating difficulties which some of them experience under present circumstances the Government, after very careful consideration, have reached the conclusion that no substantial general improvement can be anticipated so long as the existing system, with its multi- 469 plicity of responsible authorities, is maintained.It is proposed, therefore, to transfer the existing powers to a central authority, because thatoffers the only satisfactory solution to the problem.Then he goes on:It is therefore the intention …But there is no argument to support the statements in Paragraph 13. He begs the whole question, without giving any substantial supporting information. It is true that there have been very great changes since 1926, and, obviously, in this service, as in other services, there is need from time to time for an overhaul of methods, with a view to seeing whether the administration can he improved and more satisfactory arrangements made. But if such a survey were called for, and if it were desirable that the machinery should be improved, it has yet to be demonstrated that that improvement could not have been achieved within the framework of local government.
The Minister has told us that his veterinary staff are already very fully employed. He admits that he has an insufficient number of veterinary surgeons, and he has so far been unable to recruit the staff which would be necessary for the training of the veterinary personnel that he would require for the implementation of the Bill. He admits that the inspection at present is woefully inadequate, and that the many additional jobs which would become necessary cannot be adequately done for a long time. There is an enormous amount of work to be done under his existing powers, for which the staff is not yet recruited. Moreover, there is increasing concern about cattle disease and other things, and much further work is necessary to deal with that. There is no prospect, for quite a long time to come, of an adequate staff being available to cope with this deteriorating situation.
I am told by one authority that, before the 1937 Act came into operation, there were in some cases at least three inspections of dairy herds in a year, but that to-day there is no guarantee that even one inspection can be made a year. We are all conscious that both the existing veterinary staff of the Ministry and the sanitary inspectors of the local authorities are all pretty fully occupied. There are many jobs on the farms which call 470 for the attention of sanitary inspectors. There is the work of sanitation and sewage, water supply, the construction of buildings, general hygiene, and all the rest; and it would be deplorable if the qualifications for this necessary work should now be reduced to those of the veterinary staff, even if the Minister attempts to recruit additional lay staff for veterinary work. The fact is that the veterinary staff are not trained in the thousand and one things which the sanitary inspector is expected to know, and if the overworked veterinary inspectors had the assistance of certain lay people they could not cope with all the other necessary sanitary inspection on which the purity of milk depends. It may be that the Minister hopes to recruit his sanitary staff from the local authorities, but that seems to me an extraordinarily bad method, because the local authorities already find that their sanitary inspectorate is inadequate and that their servants are overworked. New demands are also likely to be made on the local authorities in regard to water extension and buildings, as a result of new reconstruction proposals. It seems therefore rather a wrong line of action that their sanitary staffs should be depleted in order to be lent to the Ministry of Agriculture. If, on the other hand, we are to wait for trained persons to do the work, then, as I have said, we shall have to wait a very long time.
It is for these reasons that there is a great deal of misgiving in regard to this Bill and, while it might be contended that many local authorities have failed in the discharge of their responsibilities, it should be remembered that many others have fulfilled their responsibilities with very great care and have reached a fairly high standard of efficiency. I think it could probably be said, without contention, that, if the financial arrangements with many of the local authorities had been more adequate, if there had been more decision on the part of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture in regard to the powers that were to be exercised, if orders had been a little clearer and more emphatic than they were, and if, during this war period, there had been more facilities for compelling farmers and producers to reach certain standards, then even many of those authorities which have fallen behind in the administration 471 of these responsibilities would have been in better case to-day.
But it should be remembered that not all the local authorities have failed. Large numbers of them have done extraordinarily well, and in the West Riding some of the standards of administration have been pretty high. Certainly it seems that the position of local authorities could have been met if greater consideration had been given to finance, and if the usual expedients in local government where powers are not being exercised had been applied. It is undoubtedly right that, within the framework of local government, the purposes of the Bill might have been achieved. What is causing further apprehension is that, under the proposed arrangements, many of the local authorities, who have paid a great deal of attention to the purity of milk, will now find the number of inspections of the herds in their neighbourhood decreased and the standards of their milk made worse. I have received a somewhat mournful letter from one of the authorities in my own constituency. The clerk wrote that many inspectors had paid keen attention to and taken pride in the purity of the milk supplied by farmers in their area. The men on the spot, he said, are often up during the small hours of the morning for the purpose of making surprise inspections; but as he goes on to point out it will be impossible for the few veterinary inspectors of the Ministry to comb the district under their control, and as a result milk producers who have a tendency to commit wrongful acts will have a better chance of scamping and will be in a position to smirk when the inspectors pass along, because they know that such inspectors will be powerless.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The sole purpose is guaranteeing the purity of the milk. If all producers were in the habit of producing pure milk, there would be no need for inspectors, but that is not the point of the letter. I am sorry to have to express 472 the fears which are entertained by many hon. Members and by many local authorities represented by hon. Members on this side of the House. I have stated them because, in considering a Measure like this, the Ministry should have the opportunity of meeting a little more adequately the case which the local authorities present. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will try to remove these fears and misgivings. Perhaps we had hoped for a better Bill, but I think all of us are agreed—there is certainly no division amongst us—that the most efficient means should be devised for securing and guaranteeing good dairy farms for supplying pure milk, and securing that quality of milk which is of the right standard so that, in every way, the public health may be guaranteed.
We shall not support the Amendment for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the whole of this matter. That seems to us to serve very little purpose, as all the facts are pretty well known, and there is merely a difference of opinion regarding the methods by which the purposes of the Bill can be achieved. While I do not think there is any lack of support in the House for the intentions of the Minister, there are some misgivings, and very genuine ones, as to whether he has chosen the right methods. While many of us feel that there are alternative ways of tackling this problem, it is not our intention to divide the House against the Government, or to press for a Commission, as all the facts are known. We ask the Minister to give definite assurances on some of the points raised, so that local authorities may feel greater confidence that the Government are not directing an attack to deprive them of many of the functions which they feel they ought to exercise, particularly in the field of public health.
§ Mr. Turton
Will the hon. Member make one point quite clear, as it may help my hon. Friends? I gather that he will not support the Amendment in favour of a Royal Commission. Do I understand that he will vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, which he so damned in his speech?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
No. It was right, I think, that the widespread apprehensions regarding this Bill should be expressed, and, while my hon. Friends are in general agreement that it should go forward and 473 be amended, if possible, in Committee, there is no intention that the Minister should be defeated in his effort to secure for the public the purity of the milk supply.
§ Mr. Hudson
Of course, I will give every consideration to the points which have been raised, and I hope, on the Committee stage, that I shall be able to relieve any anxieties. I deliberately refrained, I think rightly, from any attack on the administration of local authorities, but, if I wanted to produce chapter and verse—[Interruption.] I want to work in co-operation with these authorities and do everything to get as good a Bill as we possibly can.
§ Colonel Sir George Courthope (Rye)
When I first studied the White Paper, my inclination was to oppose the transfer which the Bill suggests, because I felt that, on principle, the removal of powers from local authorities and their concentration in Whitehall is a retrograde and undesirable step. Then I set to work to make some investigations and inquiries on my own account. I am fortunate in the fact that I live and farm and produce milk in a district where the administration, I think, is as good as is possible with the very depleted staffs available, and where the sanitary inspectors' work, as far as it has been possible at all, is excellent. I shall be very sorry to see the change proposed, but my inquiries satisfied me that, in a very large number of cases, inspection is inadequate, and that, in a great many cases, it can hardly be said to exist at all. There are undoubtedly many districts in which milk for human consumption is produced in buildings and under circumstances that make it impossible for that milk to be pure, and I further found the distressing fact—I am afraid it is a fact—that in many areas the rural district councils, who exercise authority in these matters, are disinclined to enforce the existing law in regard to cowsheds and so on and to prosecute local farmers, however bad the breach of the law. These facts, which I am afraid cannot be denied, convinced me, rather unwillingly, that the Minister's proposal is a sound one, which should be supported, and, for that reason, I hope 474 the matter will not go to a Division, but, if it does, I shall vote against the Amendment and in support of the Bill.
The only reference I want to make to the Amendment is to say that I cannot see the slightest need for a Royal Commission or any other body, when we know the facts all too well. I need not elaborate the desire which all share to see the production of milk increased and very greatly improved in quality. I am forced to the conclusion that this will best be achieved by the type of administration proposed by the Minister in this Bill. But I want to utter a word of warning about one or two points which I hope the Minister and his staff will bear in mind. This reform will take a long time. It cannot be done hurriedly; the personnel does not exist. The transfer of efficient personnel from local authorities to the Ministry of Agriculture will not increase the number of efficient people available.
There will have to be a good deal of training, and I want to say one word about training. A very large number of veterinary surgeons will be wanted. The Minister has referred to the second report of the Loveday Committee and has told us of the steps which will be taken to increase the educational facilities and the number of people going through educational courses. This work has been brought before the public by the Veterinary Education Trust, under the chairmanship of the Duke of Norfolk, who is the Minster's Parliamentary Secretary, and an appeal has been made, and is receiving a good response, from societies of breeders of all kinds of animals, other interested people, the bloodstock people and societies like the Royal Agricultural Society of England. But the sum required to get this thing started is very large, and I would urge the Minister and the Government to see that there is no undue delay in starting this education of veterinary surgeons through lack of Government financial support.
I ask the Minister to make a suitable financial offer in order to get the education going at once. It takes five years' training to produce an efficient veterinary surgeon. Several people have spoken as if it were impossible for a veterinary surgeon to express a competent opinion upon the suitability of cowsheds and dairies. There may be a substratum of truth in that, but any veterinary surgeon, 475 entering many of the cowsheds where milk is produced now, would be competent to express the opinion that no pure milk can possibly be produced from cows under such conditions. That should, in my opinion, be the first step towards the instruction of an efficient inspectorate.
The next point I want to put to the Minister, though I am certain it is very much in his mind, is that, where the authorities are efficient—and there are many of them—and where the inspection is sound, he should make the utmost efforts to secure the friendly co-operation these authorities and inspectors in making this transfer. He should not throw a good local authority into confusion by inducing an efficient inspector to leave its service and enter his own. I believe that with tact that friendly cooperation can be secured, and I hope every effort will be made in that direction. The co-operation must go further than that. It must not be forgotten that, after the transfer of powers to the Minister, the local authorities and their inspectors will still have duties to perform and authority to exercise over the remainder of the farm buildings, cottages, water supply, drainage and so on, and in a great many cases the same water supply and drainage system have to serve the farm buildings, the farmhouse, cottages and so on, and particularly what are commonly known as the tied cottages occupied by the stockman and the carter. As they have to serve the cowsheds and dairies, which will be under a different inspection, it is of the utmost importance that there should be no clashing or cross purposes between the inspectorate of the Ministry and the inspectorate of the local authority in these matters. It might lead to great confusion.
I also beg of my right hon. Friend not to add to the excessive number of forms and returns which already bewilder the unfortunate farmer, whether he is producing milk or any other product, and also to instruct his men to be as kind as possible to the small farmer. The small farmer is in a very difficult position to-day and we ought not to increase his difficulties. I would remind my right hon. Friend and the House that production of clean milk does not depend upon elaborate equipment. Given the cleanly intention and the adequate supervision of the farmer and his men, milk can be produced quite well with 476 very simple equipment, provided there is water. There must be pure water, but elaborate buildings are not needed in order to produce clean milk so long as those buildings are kept clean. I hope that the Minister will impress upon his staff to resist the very human and natural tendency of any new inspector to suggest some change. One sees it in every walk of life; the new broom wants to find something to sweep. It is very important that there should be no pinpricks if they can possibly be avoided in this change-over.
There is another matter to which I would ask for very urgent attention, not only when "the appointed day" arrives, but now, and that is, the cleanliness of churns on return from the wholesaler to the farm. I believe that much of the difficulty in securing really pure milk is due to the fact that, owing it may be to the shortage of transport or the shortage of churns, a lorry often brings back the churns as soon as the milk has been tipped out of them, and that often they are not completely empty. I have many times seen whole rows of churns with small quantities of milk at the bottom, stinking and quite unfit to be used again until they have been cleaned much more thoroughly than many farmers are capable of cleaning them. They may be well equipped to cleanse vessels which are kept in a proper condition, but they ought not to be made responsible for the cleanliness of churns which have been contaminated not by themselves, but by the neglect either of those responsible for the transport or the purchase of milk. Subject to these mild criticisms—I hope that they will be considered mild—I wish to support the Bill and I hope that my hon. Friends, many of whose feelings and doubts on the subject I share, will not press their Amendment to a Division.
§ Mr. T. J. Brooks (Rothwell)
I do not see how we shall be able very well to avoid the little pinpricks and clashes with local authorities which the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) has mentioned but I hope there will be good feeling, whatever the outcome of the discussions in this House. There is a very strong feeling throughout the country against the transfer of powers of local authorities to the State, and a feeling that their constitution, powers and duties should be dealt with in their entirety and not merely piecemeal, as is happening to-day. I do not see why we 477 could not achieve the objects of this Bill within the existing framework of local government. Is there need really for the present urgency? The general level of milk production is higher now than at any time previously in spite of war-time difficulties. The Minister himself has mentioned the great improvement. It is proposed that veterinary inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture should be responsible for the inspection of dairy farms. The duties are now carried out by the sanitary inspectors, who are specially qualified for the work, and I think it would have to be admitted that they work very well. In the White Paper it is admitted that owing to the shortage of veterinary surgeons it is not possible to carry out the desired clinical examinations of dairy cattle, and yet, notwithstanding these facts, it is proposed that a very overburdened profession should still further be taxed by having these extraneous duties placed upon them. I take it from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman today that he will have to call in a great number of sanitary inspectors who are already working for the local authorities, and, as has been rightly said, they will not be able to serve both departments efficiently.
In my opinion the first step in improving the milk supply is the elimination of disease in bovines. Let the veterinary surgeon, who is specially qualified in this field of service, concentrate his whole energies on this aspect of the problem. One cannot believe that the training of veterinary surgeons would enable them to deal effectively with such matters as building construction, drainage, sewage disposal and water supply, all of which are definitely within the province of the sanitary inspector, and for which he is specially trained. There is a further difficulty over the restricted powers of local authorities and the existing regulations regarding the registration of milk producers. A local authority cannot refuse or cancel the registration of a milk producer. The registration is automatic. Notwithstanding that a farm may be totally unsuitable for milk production, the local authorities have had no power to deal with it, whereas under the Bill the Minister has power to refuse registration. Why was not that power given to local authorities? Local authorities have power to refuse or cancel registration only in respect of retail purveyors of milk, and 478 then only where it can be shown that public health is likely to be endangered, and that is something extremely difficult to prove. If local authorities had had that power it would have contributed very greatly to the improvement of milk production, and they should have pressed for it. They may have been remiss in not pressing for powers they ought to have had. There is another point to which I want to call attention; it is in Clause 5, which requires the local authorities to compensate displaced officers. While having their powers taken from them against their wishes, it is hardly fair that they should have to pay the compensation and not the Government.
Does not the Bill strike at the very root of democratic local self-government and will not local people have little voice in the direction of local affairs? Every authority in my division, without exception—county boroughs, non-county boroughs, urban district councils and rural councils—have all written to me objecting very strongly to this Bill. They are of the opinion that the proposals are a retrograde step and will not be effective without the supervision and control of the district authorities, who are in direct contact with the sources of milk supply. I come from a district, the West Riding of Yorkshire, where they have done their job very well. I remember taking part in the discussions. I am here fresh from local government. I have had something like 28 years' experience in local government and know a little about it. The county council have carried out these inspections and the work was done very well indeed. There are farms in my district, which I have been to see personally, where milk is produced under ideal conditions, where machinery is used and where, every day, the beasts are washed and brushed. The bottles are all sterilised and the cooling off and the filling of the bottles is all done without any human hand touching them. Why should not that be so in the greater part of the country?
In the West Riding of Yorkshire we do not want to complain of the way in which county council and local authorities have carried out their jobs. I am of opinion that the most efficient result would be obtained by imposing a higher standard of milk for human consumption, to be fixed by the Government, including veter- 479 inary inspection of the cattle, additional powers for the improvement of premises, and increased powers for the analysis of milk. If the local authorities had been given that power, it is quite possible that we should not be talking about this today. It is my personal opinion that pasteurisation of milk is a very poor substitute for satisfactory supervision and the maintenance of good sanitary conditions. The right hon. Gentleman is bound to admit that there are excellent local authorities in the country. If there are backward authorities, as has been stated to-day, why has not the law made them do the job? That is what ought to have been done. One of my own authorities says this:There is a strong opinion that you are not in a position to carry out the duties effectively, as the local authorities are responsible for the various duties to-day.I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say to-day that he had the support of the local authorities. As I understand the position, there is very strong opposition from the municipal corporations, from the Urban District Councils Association, from the Non-county Boroughs Association, and from the rural districts. As a matter of fact, they have asked me if it is wise to carry this Bill, in face of the opposition of practically every local authority in the country. We all want to see a cleaner and more up-to-date supply of milk. None of us would argue against anything that would give us that, for milk is the staple food of our young people. We want it to be produced under the very best conditions for the cattle, free from disease. That calls for exacting diligence from the authority, whether it be the Ministry of Agriculture or the county council, or any other local authority. Shall we get better results from this Bill when there is such widespread opposition, both from local authorities and local administrators? The local administrators have said some very strong things about this, and I wonder whether we are doing the right thing. Surely the authority should remain with sanitary inspectors for the structural condition, at least, of buildings, including drainage and water supply?
It has been said that it will take at least five years to train a veterinary surgeon. If it is going to take all that time, 480 and the local authorities have it taken out of their hands, what result is to be expected? Is the inspection of dairy herds once a year really sufficient? We should have at least two or three clinical examinations every year, if we are to cope fully with this problem of disease, particularly in our dairy herds. The veterinary surgeons will be fully occupied without the extra duties put upon them by this Bill. If some of these backward authorities have failed in their duty, is that sufficient reason for penalising others who have carried out their duties faithfully? While none of us want to stand in the way of progress, I question very much whether we are going to get a better milk supply even with this Bill.
§ Major York (Ripon)
I rise to oppose the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). I was very perturbed to hear some of the statements which he made. As a matter of fact, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) has answered his case very well indeed, but in any case the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton himself answered his own case, because, while he admitted in the first ten minutes or so of his speech, that the Bill was a good one in principle, yet he decided to try to throw out the Bill on the Second Reading. Surely his point, if it is good, is merely a Committee point? Secondly, while the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton objects to the Minister of Agriculture taking over the powers of the local authorities, yet he himself, who bandies about the word "Fascism" against anybody who disagrees with him, would wring from the rural district councils who are really opposing this Bill, all the powers that they have and would give them to the county council. Surely the epithets which he used against those people who disagree with him, apply in a good measure to the hon. Member himself?
§ Mr. Turton
I am sure the hon. and gallant Member does not want to be unfair in his repetition of my argument. I gave two alternatives; one, that the existing local authorities should have their powers strengthened, and secondly, that the example of Scotland should be retained. I left that to a Royal Commission to decide. It is not quite proper to put half my argument without putting the other half.
§ Major York
Certainly that was not the impression I had. I understood the hon. Member to say that an alternative solution to that of the Ministry of Agriculture was that he would give these powers to the county councils. However, we can see in HANSARD to-morrow who is right.
I want to consider this problem from a slightly different point of view from that of the hon. Member. I live in an area where we have an efficient local authority. I have had many years' experience of the workings of the Milk and Dairies Orders of that local authority. One of the criticisms which I and my agricultural friends had of that authority before the war, was that the high standards of that authority put us in an unfortunate position in regard to milk producers in other parts of the country. Now, when we come to the increasing efficiency of the industry at the present time, we realise how right the West Riding was in those days, but it also shows how negligent other authorities in their counties were to allow that unfair competition from the milk producers in their area.
I do not consider that this Bill is, in any way, an attack upon local authorities. In the first instance, I consider it to be an agricultural problem and not a local authority problem. It is part of the scheme to improve the livestock and the milk industry of the country. In order to carry that out, what we require in the industry is not medical officers of health, but veterinary officers of health, and, following on from that, surely we should have animal sanitary inspectors working with the veterinary officers of health? There is also another strong argument why this is an agricultural problem—it is to prevent multitudinous authorities from coming on to the farms and bothering the farmers. I do not really disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton up to that point but, from there, I must disagree entirely because it is quite obvious that in the past the success or the failure of the agricultural industry—in particular the milk branch—to give to its customers the service and quality of goods that those customers require was not the responsibility of the industry at all but the responsibility of local authorities, many of whom were irresponsible. The purpose of this Bill is to put the responsibility where it belongs, on to the industry itself, working through my right hon. Friend, and this is the opinion 482 formed by the organised farmers of this country who are backing the Bill.
I have always regarded milk as a national, and not a local, service. Events in this war have shown quite conclusively that it is, in fact, a national service and that there is no reason to argue that a local authority for a particular area should decide what another local authority hundreds of miles away should drink in the way of milk. If we have this national service for milk, we should have the direction and inspection worked through my right hon. Friend.
§ Major York
I quite agree. I regard health as a national service, but in a far broader sense than I would regard the milk industry. Health has many aspects, milk only one, and that is the cleanliness of the milk. But the point is not whether the local authorities are going to lose powers or not; it is whether they are suitable authorities to deal with milk production. My approach is, whether the present administration, or the administration proposed under this Bill, is the most likely method of achieving our objective.
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, and his hon. Friends, have fought this Bill because it tends to a loss of selfgovernment—I think that is a fair idea of what he was saying—and I want to put this idea forward to the House. For the second time this week we have been shown signs of a new form of local self-government in the agricultural industry. The first time was on Tuesday, when we saw the building-up under the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill of an advisory service under the Ministry of Agriculture, and the staff which he will provide for that service becoming probably the nucleus of the permanent staff of the post-war agricultural committees. Now, under this Bill, we see in the milk service further signs that this particular formation is growing up. We see, perhaps, veterinary officers of health becoming part of the permanent staff of the county executive committee—whatever it may be called—and the animal sanitary officers becoming also part of that permanent staff. We hope, however, that the whole of this set-up will be under the control and guidance of local farmers and local men, part 483 of whom will be elected by the farmers of the district, and perhaps the other part nominated by my right hon. Friend. In this way we shall get all the powers we require and all the direction of policy that we require and at the same time retain full local self-government in the industry.
I am deeply perturbed to see the Amendment down in the name of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton. I believe that if it were carried and this Bill were shelved, the organisation of the milk industry would be put back very many years, and I say that, despite what the hon. Member says in regard to the shortage of staff at the present time, if the Bill is passed in its present form, the Minister of Agriculture will be able to start, in however small a way, with those plans and arrangements which are necessary in order to clean up the milk supply. I take objection to that Amendment because I believe it to be a political manoeuvre on a subject which has nothing whatever to do with this very practical reform, and it is antagonistic to the best interests of the agricultural industry and to the nation as a whole. Therefore, I and my hon. Friends who sit near me urge that the Minister of Agriculture should remain absolutely firm in his policy and that this playing of politics on a theme entirely outside the scope of the Bill should be rejected by the House.
§ Mr. Charles White (Derby, Western)
I did not anticipate having such strange bedfellows in this Debate to-day, because I definitely support the Amendment, and I do so for two reasons. First, the retention of the powers and facilities of our local authorities is a matter of vital importance. Their powers should not be whittled away at this time, when so many of the men and women of the country have not the opportunity of expressing an opinion on such a vital matter.
I happen to have spent 30 years in the public life of the county of Derbyshire, and that 30 years' experience has taught me one very essential fact; that you cannot make a success either of legislation or of administration without the local touch, and I dread to think what would happen if the milk production and distribution of this country were governed from Whitehall, and not through the local authorities 484 who have done so much work in the past. It has been said that it would be a retrograde step if these powers were left with the local authorities. I am worried about it from another standpoint. It is not only the Government's attitude with regard to milk, but also their attitude to almost every other phase of local administration. I was at a conference in Manchester the other day in connection with the Ministry of War Transport, as a representative of the Derbyshire County Council. We were told there by a Ministry of War Transport official that he could not disclose the intentions of the Government on the matter. We would like an expression of the Government's intentions on what has been happening in every Government Department where the views of county councils over many years have not been taken into account, often against the wishes even of many Members on the other side of the House.
If those powers were to be taken away at this moment and vested in a Government Department operating from here, it would, to my mind, be a step that would not appeal to the people of this country. Like many other hon. Members of this House I have had representations made to me by every local authority in my constituency and by some outside my constituency as to what I should say in this Debate. I am not going to be influenced too much by that but I am influenced by another matter where local government is concerned. I see many Members on these Benches who have spent their whole lives in local administration. We have now on these local authorities progressive-minded men and women, and I am here to submit to-day that the administration of such matters as that we are discussing would be safer in the hands of those people. These local authorities with their democratic majorities, I say, would be far safer as administrators of such matters as we have been discussing here to-day than anyone else I can visualise. Fortunately or unfortunately for me I had some employment in a Government Department. We had much to do with the administration of the very food about which we are speaking. If the Ministry of Agriculture is to administer this Bill in the same way as the Ministry of Food dealt with the distribution of milk, that is an additional reason for my hostility to the Bill.
485 There is a man in my constituency who has spent a large amount of money in getting together a herd of tuberculin-tested cattle. His production of milk in March and April was 3,844 gallons of tuberculin-tested milk. One would have thought if the Government were sincere in this matter and if their only object was getting pure milk to the people, then every Department concerned would have gone to the fullest extent possible in ensuring that that milk was produced under the best possible conditions, and was got through to the consumer without any pollution or infection. But what happens? Because of silly regulations, out of that 3,844 gallons of milk produced in those two months, only 830 went to schools. It only went to the schools because the education committee in that county realised probably more than any Government Department that school children must have the best possible milk available. But as regards the milk produced under these ideal circumstances being meant for children of school age, we get first of all this fossil Milk Marketing Board saying that they cannot imagine this being a production committee, and thus discouraging the distribution of this tuberculin-tested milk.
The man told the food control committee that he had a certain amount of tuberculin-tested milk for disposal, but he has to have a licence because he is already supplying the schools. But they say "No; rather than have this distribution of milk you must send the milk to the pool that we provide"—the milk that has been produced at such tremendous cost and under such tremendous difficulties. They say, "You must mix that milk in with milk sent by other farmers, and never mind the tuberculin-tested herd milk being there in any quantity." I say it is criminal of the Government to subsidise the farmer to produce this milk and then make him mix it in with milk of an inferior quality. It is because the Ministry of Agriculture might look at this matter in the same way as the Ministry of Food has done at other such matters, that I cannot support this Bill and must support the Amendment.
I do so from another standpoint. The part of the country from which I come has a population of 950 and when a rationalisation scheme for the delivery of 486 milk was introduced by myself in that district I said, "Here is a chance to clear up that muddle." In that small place there were 29 distributors for 950 people. Some retailers indeed had as few as one or two or three registrations. The food control committee agreed that there was a chance to clear up this position by a rationalisation scheme, providing for four people per retailer. But the milk distributed by a lot of these smaller retailers was produced from utensils which were used in milk distribution and these producers were mainly the wholesalers. They found that it paid them to deliver milk to their customers in any way. We built up this milk rationalisation scheme, but the Ministry of Food said "You must not go to these people, they must remain in the scheme." That is how a Government Department regarded the efficiency of the matter and that is why I would rather keep the whole matter in the hands of the local authorities.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
Both hon. Members will be getting out of Order if they have a debate on the small trader now.
§ Mr. White
I am not here to say what is often said about the small trader. That is another matter altogether. But in reply to what has been said in this Debate; just as I am referring to the difficulties of milk distribution, so I am trying to straighten up the position of the local committee which is often frustrated by a Government Department. I say that this is not encouraging to the people who are responsible for local administration.
§ Mr. White
I quite agree that it does not affect milk distribution, but milk distribution is, definitely, tied up with the question of how deliveries can be made, and the question of the milk being clean or not. The question of cleanliness has been referred to, and I claim the right to refer to it. In conclusion I want to say 487 that the Minister would not be wise to alienate the sympathy of the men and women who are serving on public authorities in the country. There is much more to be done in this matter than has been mentioned to-day. In my own county, in the 10 years prior to the war, through the energetic action of the public health committee, the figures of tuberculosis were reduced to a very great extent. It is only the war that has prevented us carrying on that magnificent work to the extent to which we carried it out in pre-war days. It is because I want to see that contact between local authorities and this House remain, that I do, in all sincerity, ask that a stop should be put to the Governernment's intrusion on the rights of local authorities so that they can be left to do the job which they have been doing up to now.
§ Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)
When I came into the House to-day I was rather astonished to find that there was hot the usual happy party around the Minister of Agriculture, and when I learned that he was not giving out subsidies, I could understand the violent reaction. To come into this House on Tuesday was rather like coming to a social gathering; there was no opposition, and everybody was delighted with what was happening. On previous Bills I have had to practice a great amount of self-control, not in opposition but in laughter, at the joy with which all gathered round the Minister when he was distributing public money among the farmers. To-day there is violent opposition because there is to be inspection.
Much has been said about the encroachment of the Government on local authorities' powers. In the Debate on Statutory Rules and Orders the other day I stated my views against any encroachment by the State and I would be equally jealous of anything that would undermine the administrative powers of local authorities. But let us be realists for a moment, and look at the facts. I represent an area of the Potteries, and anybody who goes through that area would admit that it is not altogether conducive to clean milk, to say the least. What is the situation with which I am faced to-day? We have people on local authorities, and officials, who are farming in my district and I am horrified to see milk being carried in rusty 488 tins, or canisters, and distributed from open carts. When I make inquiries about this, I am told that it is no good saying anything because the "vets," or inspectors, dare not complain or they might lose their jobs.
I want to preserve local authorities as the breeding ground of democratic experience. Far be it from me to say that there are not many people on local authorites who are not doing their best in the circumstances, but I must say, from my own local experience, that we shall require to have an over-ruling inspectorate from the Government to deal with this state of affairs. When I see some of the gentlemen who are interested in this foul and filthy milk, sitting on local authorities, I am not surprised that the veterinary inspector is afraid to open his mouth. That is the state of affairs as I know it in my area. I defend democratic development against autarchy, from whichever direction it may come, but that is the problem with which I am faced. Further, as I am not deaf I can hear what is happening in contiguous areas and the same thing is happening there.
Some of the farmers sending out this filthy stuff are members of local authorities, and although there may be another man sitting on the authority who demands that there shall be clean milk, it may be a reactionary local authority, with the result that the local "vet" is the last person to tackle the job. If the Minister will not interfere too much with the free action of local administration, I see no harm—indeed, I see a good deal of good—in having an overruling inspectorate, in the employ of the Ministry, which can go into these areas, without any fear of local approbation or otherwise, and do this job of inspection.
§ Mr. Colegate
Has not the Ministry of Health powers of inspection in these matters, with regard to which the hon. Member is making charges of corruption against local authorities?
§ Mr. MacLaren
Yes, let us be quite frank and blunt and fearless about this matter. It is time we got rid of this state of affairs. We are tolerating a good 489 deal of it in local government, and it is becoming the talk of the country just now. But let us not go into that point any further—
§ Mr. MacLaren
I approve of what the Minister is proposing to do, because I feel it important that something should be done. Especially do I feel that the "vets," who will be employed, must be efficient. I see gentlemen operating as "vets" who must have served their time making toys in Germany. I do not know who made them "vets." They are almost as efficient as some of the managers and officials I have had to contend with, in factories, since the war broke out. I appeal to the Minister to see that these "vets" will be efficient, so that there will not be a breakdown as there has been in regard to milk distribution. I appeal to him to see that he gets an inspectorate which is, in every sense, fit for the job.
§ Dr. Peters (Huntingdon)
I would, to a certain extent, follow the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) in his remarks, because I bear in mind that during my course of practice in the law, I have known members of various bodies convicted for trying to purify their milk by adding a considerable amount of water.
§ Dr. Peters
At any rate, that is what they thought they were doing. I am against this Bill for more than one reason. I have received letters from nearly every local authority in my county asking me to vote against it and I have received no communication from the Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire branch of the National Farmers' Union asking me to do the contrary. Apart from that, as a Liberal, I am against the taking away of democratic control and authority from our local bodies. We have built up in this country a system of government which is second to none, and apart from the feelings of these local authorities, I think it is up to Parliament to see that their powers and duties are not filched from them bit by bit. Some of us who attend various conferences—which are more or less confidential—know what has been going on behind the scenes for some months as regards attempts to feel our pulses on the question of 490 whether we would have regionalisation and control after the war. I think the majority of Members of the House would be against any such proposal. This Bill appears to me to acknowledge that the Government, not being able to get regionalisation, are now seeking to centralise authority in Whitehall. In principle, that would be a very bad thing. As one who has been a Parliamentary Private Secretary in connection with various Government Departments, I know the enormous strain upon officials and the problems which have to be dealt with, and I do not think we ought to increase that strain, especially in the light of the legislation on post-war affairs which will have to come before this House, and which will increase the work of Government Departments.
One very rarely hears any praise of the clerks of local authorities. They are the men upon whom has fallen an enormous strain through the various duties which have been imposed upon them, and it is hardly fair to them to take the opportunity of the war to say, "You are not properly doing what you ought to have done and, therefore, we will take away the powers of your local authority." The hon. Member for Burslem said that we must be realists, and I think we ought to be, but the whole of what is amiss can be amended by the existing law without any transfer of powers. I would like to quote from one of the many letters I have received on this matter. It contains two points which the Minister can put right by amending the law, and which will give rural authorities the powers which they ought to have. It says:I do not think it is generally realised that the reason why rural authorities have not been able to carry out the functions which the Ministry of Health expected of then was due to the fact that they were not given sufficient statutory powers to enable them to do so.The writer gives two instances which I think, as a lawyer, are perfectly true:For instance, a rural authority cannot serve notices on land owners forcing them to make good any deficiency in their buildings. They can only serve such notices on the tenant who, naturally, will not comply with the notice if, as has often been the case, the landlord is unwilling to co-operate with him. He would have to pay for improvements himself and might then almost imediately be given notice to quit, and be unable to recover a substantial portion of the money he has spent.491 That is one of the underlying facts—inability to do anything. The letter goes on:All rural councils must register milk producers, and have no power to refuse to do so, even although the premises are unsuitable and even if registration powers are so limited as to make them ineffective.Those are one or two of the objections that I would make to the Bill. There are many others. I hope the Minister will think twice before he presses this matter to a Division. I do not think it necessary to have a Royal Commission. We know all the facts. I shall be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman withdraws the Bill. If he does not, and if he presses it to a Division, I must vote against him.
§ Mr. Tree (Harborough)
I support the Second Reading of the Bill because I believe it provides the best means of achieving what Members on both sides of the House want, namely, an increase in the quantity and quality of the milk supply with the assurance to the consumer that milk sold for human consumption shall be clean and sweet. Like many other Members, I have been subjected to a considerable amount of pressure in the last few years and, being a producer retailer myself, I am, naturally, extremely interested in the best means of improving both the herds and the quality of the milk. It seems to me that the whole thing boils down to this. By what means are we most likely to achieve the goal that we all want, better milk and better herds? Will it be by leaving it as it now is, for the veterinary service to inspect the actual herds, while the local authorities—I believe there are between 150 and 200 of them—deal with the inspection of the barns and equipment, or has not the time come for a national scheme of amalgamation, such as is suggested by the Bill, with the purpose of setting up the same standard throughout England and Wales for the elimination of disease in cattle and for the improvement of the herds generally?
Having given the matter very considerable thought, and having listened to the arguments on both sides of the House to-day, I believe my right hon. Friend has made out an unanswerable case for amalgamation under the Ministry of Agriculture. In the first place, as he 492 mentioned, the centres of population are no longer served by the immediate countryside round about. No longer do the Home Counties provide London with its milk supply, any more than the dairy farmers of Cheshire supply Manchester and Liverpool. Cornwall and Devonshire are sending milk up to the North of England, and Wales is sending it to the London market. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that the local authority, in fixing standards of milk supply, does so with any exact knowledge of the authority for which it is making those standards, because very frequently the milk is shipped to places of which they have no knowledge. Nor can it be claimed that the sanitary inspectors in Wales and Cornwall should be entirely responsible for the condition of milk to be consumed in some big centre of population many hundreds of miles away. Surely, this should be a matter for the consumer to decide as well as the producer. Therefore, it should be fixed on a national basis.
Secondly, I should like to know what truth there is in the contention of local authorities who, while admitting that a great deal of improvement must be made, are saying that, provided they are given money in the poorer areas, they will be able to raise the general standard. If they feel that, why did they not do it in the past? Why have they had to wait for considerable pressure to be raised before they would consider raising the standard? My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) based the principal part of his argument on the fact that, if the Ministry of Health in 1935 had set down a standard, by this time many local authorities would have adopted it. I rather doubt whether that would, in fact, have occurred. In certain counties where there are good local authorities already a great deal has been done to raise the quality, but in many other parts of the country that has not occurred, and in certain places there is no inspection of barns or herds at all. I should like to give two illustrations. I know a town, of about 1,500 inhabitants, which was served by one milk supplier. There was a good deal of criticism of the milk and complaints were made and the matter was looked into. It was found that, not only were the cows in a very unhealthy state, but the barns were thoroughly insanitary. Worse than that, whenever 493 there was a shortage of milk the producer would hire the services of individually-owned cows, milk them out in the field, and pour the milk into the containers containing the milk from his own cows and sell it.
§ Mr. Tree
It was unhealthy and insanitary. The second case is of more recent date. A landowner was asked by a tenant if he would put up some sheds for wintering beasts. They were duly erected. About a year later the landowner was making an inspection of the farm and found that the sheds were being used, not for wintering beasts but for the production of milk under very insanitary conditions. When he asked if they had been inspected and approved he was told that no such inspection had taken place. Both those instances were not in particularly poor areas but in larger centres of population. It is clear that over a very large area of England inadequate inspection is going on.
In the course of his recent speeches my right hon. Friend has stressed the need for efficiency in post-war agriculture if we are to compete with our overseas competitors and at the same time maintain the sympathy of the urban population which agriculture undoubtedly possesses to-day. With that I heartily agree. The war has taught us many lessons, one of the most important of which is the nutritional value of fresh food. I think we can look forward to a great expansion of the home market after the war, provided always that we guarantee cleanliness and efficiency. It cannot be said that we can guarantee either in our milk production to-day. The health of our herds is extremely poor compared with many other countries, and the conditions under which milk is being produced are, in many cases, thoroughly unsatisfactory. Those conditions are certainly not conducive to the better health of the nation. Before the war, it was estimated that 30 per cent. of the dairy herds of the country were infected with bovine tuberculosis. On the average, cows give only three lactation periods due largely to the incidence of contagious abortion. Such conditions are not only unhealthy but they are also uneconomic. Scrub bulls in many parts of the country are the rule rather than the exception. 494 The quality of milk is extremely low. Such conditions are not going to increase consumption of milk. Therefore, I hope the Minister will as soon as possible get this scheme into operation. I quite realise that it will take a long time before he will be able to get the veterinary service working, but I hope that, as soon as possible, he will lay down standards which will eliminate the state of affairs that I have tried to describe. I hope that healthy herds and an increase in the quality as well as the quantity of milk will be the basis of the national scheme.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
I do not think in the 10 years that I have been in the House I have seen such keen controversy. There are those on this side who are for the Bill, and others opposite who are against it. When the Bill was first printed I thought that the majority in the Conservative and National Liberal Parties would support the Minister wholeheartedly. I have been sitting on the Urban District Councils Association executive and we have had a special emergency committee on this Bill. They have gone carefully through it and they are alarmed. The rural councils are also alarmed at the powers that are being filched from them in this Bill. It is no good some of my colleagues saying that this is parish pump stuff. Where do they come from? The rural districts and the urban districts who send us to this House ought to know what they require. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) says in an undertone "No." I say "Yes." I was sent here by some parish councillors, some urban councillors, some rural councillors and some county councillors. [An HON. MEMBER: "Any constituents?"] They were constituents. If the hon. Member does not understand electioneering, I do. The Urban Districts Councils Association have had sent in to their control office 260 resolutions from local authorities who feel that their powers are being filched from them, not only by the Minister of Agriculture but by practically all the Ministers of the Crown. Look at the Home Secretary, who has powers over the police, the fire service and many other things. I do not blame the Home Secretary because he is part of the Government. I do not blame the Minister of Agriculture for saying, "Surely the War Cabinet can let me do 495 what the Home Secretary can do." The Minister of Health is in the same position. Without a doubt, if you look at the legislation that is being passed, you can see that these three Ministers desire to filch the powers of local authorities. Democracy lies far more in our local authorities than it does in this House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
In all areas. I represent one of the most progressive rural authorities in the British Isles. It is an up-to-date authority, and the Minister of Agriculture cannot say that it is not.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I would not be here if it was not a decent council. The majority are Labour members. They are carrying out the law as far as they can and are spending money in dealing with the question of clean milk. Nobody knows it better than the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. They ask, "Because other people are not carrying out what they ought to do, why should we be victimised?" and they say to me, "George, you must oppose this thing because it is taking away the powers of the local authorities." I would like to turn to Clause 5, and I am surprised that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) did not touch on it. It says that if any officer belonging to a local authority has his job taken away by the Minister of Agriculture, the local authority has to compensate the man. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture to look at this provision. I think it is wrong, and I believe that he thinks that it is wrong. When the Bill is in Committee I shall move an Amendment that if an officer belonging to a local authority is no longer required because the Minister has taken powers from the authority, the Minister himself should compensate the officer.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, North)
I am glad that the local authorities are so jealous of their powers. As long ago as last summer the county council in my area summoned all the Members of Parliament to give their views on this and other matters. That is a good sign that local authorities are watching the development of post-war reconstruction 496 Measures to see that they do not lose all their powers piecemeal to one Government Department or another. The people who have been most quiet in these discussions and who seem unusually ready to accept inspections are the patient farmers, who do not seem to have any objection to being inspected by the Government or the local authorities. On the whole, however, I think the organised farmers prefer the proposals of the Minister. The farmer has my sympathy under the present arrangements. I do not think that Members who are not closely connected with this industry realise the multiplicity of authorities who, theoretically, may all arrive in a farmyard together and give directions about different aspects of milk production.
Although I am connected with it fairly closely, I am not sure that I know precisely who directs each particular aspect of milk production. There are at least half-a-dozen authorities, and the case is fully made out for the arrangements being simplified. Whether this Bill is the best way or not is another matter. We have, first, the war agricultural executive committee which may direct that a farmer should keep cows. I do not think they can direct him to sell milk. Once he has been directed to keep cows, he must go to the local authority to see whether his buildings are suitable. If he is going to produce ordinary milk, it is the rural district council; if he is going to produce a higher grade, he goes to the county council. Having done this, he proceeds to get some cows. He is then subject to the control of the veterinary surgeon, who is now appointed by the Ministry but still has some connection with the county council. Then the farmer has to deal with the Milk Marketing Board, who may sample his milk in the same way as the local authority can, and send him reports on it. If he has any difficulties, he can call in the county advisory service, which may or may not be taken over by the war agricultural executive committee. Whether my account is precisely right or not I am not sure, but it is evident that the producer of milk is surrounded with a labryinth of authorities exercising different powers. I feel, therefore, that there is an overwhelming case for simplifying the system.
I agree with those Members who have pointed out that the milk and dairy industry is a big thing and that it will be 497 very important after the war. The organisation to deal with the inevitable inspections ought at this stage to be put on a better foundation. I was not quite sure what the hon. Member who moved the Amendment really wanted to do. He himself did not seem quite satisfied with the present arrangements. So far as I have been able to find out, the local authorities themselves do not entirely agree about what ought to be done. I have received representations from my rural district council, which does not like this Bill. There are also proposals by the County Councils Association, who want the initiative taken from the rural district councils and vested in the county councils, who could then possibly delegate them back to the rural district councils. It is a little difficult for someone who may be a rural district councillor and a county councillor to know whether it is undemocratic to take a responsibility from the rural district council and give it to the county council. There is a lot of rather vague talk about democracy. I am all in favour of local authorities having important work to do, but it should not overlap. What will get democracy into more disrepute than anything else is our failure to alter organisation to meet growing needs and to simplify the procedure so that the harassed inspector knows where he is and he can get on with his important job. I do not attach a great deal of importance to the general argument about democracy. I want to see local authorities retaining important powers and responsibilities, and I believe that in the reconstruction of the countryside rural authorities will have an important part to play.
We have a specific object to-day in this Bill. It is to raise the standards of the milk, of the buildings in which it is produced, of the cows from which it is produced, of its cleanliness and of its quality, and to increase the amount available. I do not think that that duty should be in the hands of different authorities, but there should be some local interest in what is being done. So far as I can see from the Bill, it is not suggested that there should be any local control at all. There exist at present two bodies which might at least have some advisory capacity—the war agricultural executive committee and the county council agricultural committee. I would have thought that the Minister might be able to meet the very general 498 feeling that as the inspectorate is now to be divorced from local control and to be centralised and become too much representative merely of Whitehall, there should at any rate be an advisory body to whom appeal could be made.
Take the case of the tenant farmer. The right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) pointed out that rural district councils have been rather tender in dealing with farmers. A tenant farmer may be directed by one of the Minister's new sanitary inspectors to do something to bring his cowshed up to standard, under penalty that he will lose his right to sell milk, which has been his livelihood. What redress will that tenant farmer have, under the system which seems to be suggested in the Bill? It seems that the only redress he will have is, not to make representations to the county council or the district council, as at present, but to his Member of Parliament. That will be a thoroughly unsatisfactory arrangement. I do not know whether all Members of Parliament are overworked, but some are. It is not sufficient that the only redress against centralised direction should be an appeal to a Member of Parliament. At present it is to the local council. Cannot the Minister make an arrangement that the man who is being inspected, and has to carry out work which may be difficult for him to do, should have an appeal to some local body? I would take up a point which has been raised in that connection. Somebody should have authority to appeal to the owner to make these improvements. If we are to have a prosperous dairy industry there must be that power. That is an unfortunate omission from the Bill.
I will now return to the question of having some local body which can advise the inspector and to which persons can appeal. It seems to me that the difficulty about the Bill is that, so far as I know, no decision has been taken that war agricultural executive committees or county council agricultural committees are to continue after the war. I believe that bodies far more representative than the present war agricultural executive committees must be continued after the war. The inspectors might be attached to those bodies, but because there is no decision about that, or about whether county agricultural committees are to be provided 499 with authority, the scheme outlined in the Bill seems entirely centralised and to be without any local control. I would ask the Minister, or whoever is to reply to the Debate, whether he can meet the point of view of those of us who, while recognising his case for the Bill, still have a strong feeling that a multiplicity of small producers, such as milk producers and farmers, ought to be under some local control. I ask whether he would be willing to attach these inspectors to the future agricultural organisation or to some other local body, and thereby get a local safeguard of interests, as well as securing the conditions of uniformity which this scheme suggests.
§ Sir William Wayland (Canterbury)
I speak as a producer-retailer of T.T. milk. I am afraid I cannot associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree) when he compared the milk of this country with the milk of the Continent. Perhaps his experience of farmhouses is not as great as my own.
§ Sir W. Wayland
This is not a large country like the Continent. All I can say is that, taking out Norway, Sweden and Denmark, a comparison between our milk and the milk of the rest of Europe is very favourable to ourselves. I oppose the whittling away of the powers of local bodies. They are the backbone of our Constitution and they carry out their duties in the great majority of cases, to the great satisfaction of everyone. I cannot see for the life of me why the inspectors who are to carry out the Government's instructions should be any more successful than the present sanitary inspectors. I have had experience of inspection by Government inspectors. One, two or perhaps a number are quite keen, but there will be a certain number who are not keen, and who will not carry out their duties in connection with the examination of cowhouses and milk.
Some speakers have asked why, for the sake of the few, the many should be condemned. I agree with what the Minister has said in the White Paper, up to a point. He says that some cowhouses have not been examined for 20 years. In those cases, the sanitary inspectors and the local 500 authorities have not carried out their duties properly, but that applies only to a portion, and not to the majority. I believe that better inspection could be carried out in a much simpler way. Under Clause 1, every producer of milk and every farmhouse has to be registered. That means that a farmer will have to keep his place open for examination. So long as every farmhouse is registered, the sanitary inspector could be told that he will have to visit the cowhouses three or four times a year. The farmer would know that his licence would be taken away from him, so he would see that his cow-house would not be condemned. Let me read a passage from the Bill. Regulations are to be made, to providefor the registration by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of dairy farms, and of persons carrying on, or proposing to carry on, the trade of a dairy farmer;andfor the refusal or cancellation of any such registration by that Minister if, in his opinion, the regulations will not be or are not being complied with.The Minister has said that he is going to recruit a number of his inspectors from the sanitary inspectors. If he does that, he will rob the local bodies of some of their best men. There is no doubt about it. The sanitary inspector has many duties to do. Under the Bill he will still have to examine, survey and inquire into matters in the towns, including the condition of the milk as it is purveyed. The sanitary inspector is usually a very valuable man with long experience, and if the Minister is to recruit, he must be able to recruit any other men who can see the dirty corners in a cow byre. I have always considered that the proper man to examine the condition of a cowhouse is a sanitary inspector. I know that if he goes into my cowhouse, he is not satisfied with giving a cursory look, but goes right through and looks into the corners, into the churns and pails, and criticises anything which is not 100 per cent. up to requirements. Can we imagine a veterinary surgeon doing that? He will come to the cow-house to examine the health of our cattle.
§ Sir W. Wayland
Because he is like you and me. It is not his trade. It is the 501 trade of the sanitary inspector to look into the dirty corners in the towns, as well as in the cowhouse. It is just like paying a tailor to do a joiner's job. I support the Amendment. I think that the Bill should be opposed, in the best interests of our farmers, the local authorities and the production of clean milk.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I think there is general agreement that we have had an old-fashioned Friday Debate. I am delighted to see that Tories are divided against Tories, and Socialists against Socialists, and I hope, in the course of my speech, not to make the division any less. I commence by paying a tribute to the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health for the courage which they have shown in bringing forward the Bill. I think I speak on behalf of all sides of the House when I assure them that, although for different reasons and on different occasions, some of us frequently criticise their administration or legislation, none of us doubt their great sense of public duty and the great courage they show in tackling questions which ought to be tackled. I would refer to an observation which was made by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) when he suggested that one ought not to bring forward controversial legislation in war time. At this stage of the war, that contention cannot be sustained. What the public demand is not less controversial legislation, but that questions which ought to be dealt with, should be dealt with. I do not think that my hon. Friend was on strong ground there. I want also to defend my right hon. Friend the Minister against another attack which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton made against him. He tried to suggest that there was something incompatible between what the Minister said to-day and what is stated in the White Paper. He said that the White Paper mentioned only veterinary surgeons and never referred to sanitary inspectors. I would draw his attention—I do not want to bore the House by quoting it—to paragraph 16 of the White Paper on page 4. This follows a reference to veterinary matters, and says:The Milk Testing and Advisory Scheme … is being extended. …Further, it says:Where there is reason to suppose that the methods of production are at fault, the 502 advisory services of the County War Agricultural Executive Committee are available to remedy matters. This work can be closely coordinated with that of the veterinary staff.There is nothing incompatible in what was said in the White Paper with what my right hon. Friend said in his speech.
What is really, in my judgment, the principal reason why this Bill ought to be brought in, and why I think the arguments of the opponents of it are so weak, is that I find there are in the country—I am not sure if this figure was quoted by my right hon. Friend—some 1,469 sanitary authorities and 173 councils of counties and county boroughs. It really is a ridiculous situation that all these different authorities should be dealing with what is, in fact, a national service. I propose to elaborate this point later, but I would like to say here and now that in this or any other matter no question of the amour propre of local authorities ought to interfere with the national interest. Local authorities do not exist in order that they may say "We are patriotic people"—which indeed they are—"we do a deal of work, for which we are not paid, in representing the public." That is all true. The whole point is whether or not they are the most capable bodies to deal with a particular aspect of administration.
All the talk we have had to-day about the amour propre of local authorities seems to me beside the point. I hope that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton will not resent my saying that think that if the late Mr. Bumble had heard some of the observations he made in his speech to-day, he would have said, "Let us go along together to the parish pump, get a glass of water from it, with something strong in it, and have a drink together." I have never heard any speech which seemed to be more ridden with the politics of the parish pump than that of my hon. and gallant Friend. It is not a question of the amour propre of local authorities; it is a question of how the interests of the country can best be served. On this question of local responsibility I do not understand the attitude of some local authorities. I will elaborate this point later. We are constantly being told that they are having put on their shoulders far more than they can carry. Yet when we propose to take over a service, which it is more convenient and strongly in the national 503 interest should be taken over, we get hon. Members saying, "This is an abominable thing. You are filching the powers of local authorities." They cannot have it both ways.
I would like to give a personal instance of the utter confusion and utter inefficiency of the present system. When I was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, I took more interest in some of the farms and properties owned by the Duchy than is common with Chancellors. The Duchy is, in fact, one of the largest landowners in the country. I went to inspect a farm in a certain area in the North of England. I will not give the name of the county for obvious reasons. It was a large estate producing solely milk. There were 10 farmhouses on it, and not an arable field on it. I was horrified at the condition of the cowsheds. I said to our agent, "I cannot advise the Duchy to purchase this farm, because the cost of putting these cowsheds into a condition fit to pass any reasonable test would be enormous. It looks to me as though it would run into thousands of pounds." He replied: "You need not worry—the county council have regulations under which these sheds are not nearly as bad as some in the county." I have no hesitation in saying—and I ask any subsequent speaker who supports the Amendment to find an answer to this if they can—that as a result of the laxity of this particular authority, my constituency in Sussex and my neighbours in Surrey—I live near the Surrey border—who are large milk producers, are handicapped by 50 per cent. as to capital expenditure on cowsheds. As a result of local regulations, which are quite right, they have to spend 50 per cent, more money than the county to which I have referred. What have supporters of the autonomy of local authorities to say to a condition of affairs like that?
I will add to the story by saying I went to a prominent county councillor in this particular place and told him what I had said. He became extremely truculent and said, "If you, as a Member of the Government, go to your colleagues and try to force us to have the same regulations as you have in the South, there will be trouble. We are not going to have regulations like that. There are a great many reasons why we do not 504 want them." Though I was a Minister, and though I am, naturally, a contentious person, I replied, "You would look very foolish if that remark were published."
That is the state of affairs with which we are faced, and there was not the slightest attempt by my hon. Friend, or the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, to get over that difficulty. How do my hon. Friends try to get over it? It is quite true that they admit that, under the present system, there are wide variations in the standards of administration throughout the country. They say that this could be improved if the poorer authorities were given more money from the Exchequer, and they object to what they regard as a sinister step on the part of the Government, to whittle away the powers and functions of local authorities, and transfer them to the central Executive. On that point there is an answer. The Minister said in the course of his speech that local authorities in great consuming areas had no responsibility for the manner in which milk was produced because it came from other areas. The mover of the Amendment did not refer to this point. He made no effort to answer the point which the Minister made, namely, that milk to-day, and indeed for the last 15 years, has been brought from all over the country to the big consuming areas; in other words the present system has absolutely and completely broken down.
The next point which was made by the hon. Gentleman opposite was that the Minister of Agriculture had not the staff properly to discharge the responsibility. He said that because the Minister has not the staff to do that, it is the wrong time to bring in the Bill. That goes contrary to the attitude of the House in recent legislation. Everyone admits there is not the staff at present to implement the Education Bill, but was that given as a reason for not passing it? Surely the Bill should be passed now in order that we should have a chance whereby the staff may be built up. I thought that was a very weak argument.
Lastly, the hon. Gentleman asked for a Royal Commission. Owing to the wide terms of the Amendment, it has been possible in the course of the Debate to discuss the question of local administration in general. Let me say that I am at one with the supporters of the Amend- 505 ment in thinking that on the main question of the rights of local authorities there will have to be a Royal Commission at some date or other, but I would point out to the Association of Municipal Corporations and the other bodies that before there is that Royal Commission they had better make up their own minds as to what they want. What is going on at the present time in connection with this question? On the one hand, we are being petitioned, on this matter and other matters, by the county councils and larger authorities, to give the widest powers to them, and we are being petitioned by the rural district councils and other smaller bodies, saying that the bigger authorities want to absorb them. I notice with great amusement the lack of uniformity as to the meaning of the word they each use, the word "bureaucracy." It is the bureaucracy of Parliament in one case, it is the bureaucracy of the county council in another, the bureaucracy of the rural council in another case. The only people who are not bureaucratic, apparently, are the parish councils. I think we have got rather past the stage—if I may say so to my most Tory friends on the opposite side—when we want this country to be governed on entirely parish council lines. I think the thing has become slightly more elaborate than that. I beg my hon. Friends who have referred to a Royal Commission in this connection to have regard to the fact that many of us share their views, but we want, before putting it to the Government—and this applies to those who are attempting to instruct us on what our duties should be—to be clear as to what is desired.
I have only one or two other points to make. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I am delighted to hear the hon. Member opposite say "Hear, hear." He is one of those people who very much dislikes an argument pertinently put which demolishes the case of his friends.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)
I would like to ask the Noble Lord, as he is discussing bureaucracy, whether he does not think the people of this country are very alarmed at the growth of bureaucratic powers?
§ Earl Winterton
I am prepared on another occasion to discuss that. If the hon. and gallant Member is prepared then to describe what he means by bureaucracy I will tell him whether I agree with him or 506 not. I am not sure that he or I are capable entirely of deciding the point, because like "zero hour" and "invasion imminent" it has become a meaningless term. I think we had better leave discussion of this matter to a more appropriate occasion.
In the course of his speech my right hon. Friend described the smallness of some of these local authorities, which is another point to be taken into consideration. I am convinced that none of the big local authorities would, for one moment, support the idea that some of these smaller local authorities are capable of undertaking the duties which are imposed. I say to all my hon. Friends, including my very dear and gallant Friend who represents a constituency in Sussex, as I do, that nothing can be doing more mischief to the interests of the farmer, especially of the producer, than to continue the present anomalous state of affairs for the reason I have mentioned. What is the answer to the point I put earlier in regard to the variation which imposes this handicap on my constituency compared with the county to which I referred? We want uniformity of standard of milk, and the gradual raising of that standard; economy of administration is perfectly obvious.
My last point is this: The Minister in the very admirable White Paper he has issued, clear, succinct, and fully explanatory of the points, has pointed out that this is not a thing by itself. It is intended to be part of the great health system which is to be built up in this country, and to which, if I may say so without being unduly effusive, I hope and believe the Minister of Health is going to make as big a contribution as his colleague the President of the Board of Education has made to the cause of education. I say that the quality of the milk supply is a national responsibility and much too important a matter to be left to a multitude of local authorities, varying widely in administrative capacity and resources. I say that the voice of agriculture, as represented by the National Farmers' Union, is in favour of this Bill.
I think that a word of praise should be given to these bodies, because it may well mean that many of their members, in their individual capacity, will have to bear a heavy loss. I think they have shown a patriotism which is by no means rare in their public acts. I hope that the 507 supporters of the Amendment, if they wish to do so, will go to a Division. If that Division should result in their favour, they will be in the delightful position, which some of us were in a short time ago, of having to eat their words, because the Prime Minister will come down to the House on Tuesday and say that, in the most critical period of the war, the Government cannot afford to have a defeat; and the hon. Gentleman, with a serious look on his face, will get up and say that he very much regrets it, but, in the circumstances, he proposes to reverse his vote.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frame)
I cannot compete with the eloquence of the Noble Lord, but, for once, I wholeheartedly support the Minister of Agriculture. It is more than high time that we had greater centralisation of authority which deals with clean milk production. When the Noble Lord said something about the number of authorities, the differing standards, I heard Members on this side say, "Why not raise the standards?" You may raise the standards as much as you like, but, while you have the regulations administered by a multitude of authorities, they will never maintain similar standards. Like other Members, I have had letters and telegrams from local authorities imploring me to vote against the Bill; but I think that some local authorities are misinformed as to what this Bill is going to do. It takes away certain powers, it is true, but it leaves a great deal of power. It is, in fact, more a division of authority than a taking away of authority. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Wayland) said that veterinary surgeons were incapable of inspecting cowsheds, and he brought in the question of milk pails and churns. The inspection of churns will still be the duty of the local authority.
§ Mr. Hudson
The only difference will be that the Minister of Health and I will make Regulations in order that the churns shall be properly inspected, which they are not at present.
§ Mrs. Tate
Yes. Anyone would think, from what the hon. Member. for Canterbury said, that the inspection of churns had been wholly efficient in the past. That is very far from being the case. Now a great deal has been said to-day about the low quality of our milk and about the condition of our cowsheds and our stock. I hope that the blame for that will not be laid at the door of the farmer. It is perfectly true that our cowsheds have been in bad condition and that our milk has been dirty. That is not because the farmers have been inefficient, but because we have neglected the industry and the farmers have not had the capital at their backs with which to keep the cowsheds in the condition they would wish. I regard it as a very patriotic act for the National Farmers' Union, as the Noble Lord has said, to come out wholeheartedly in favour of this Measure, which will involve considerable expense and increased inspection for farmers. That tribute is their due and it should be paid. I regard this Bill as a constructive attempt to clean milk at the source. I have, for years, carried on a fight—I know it is a losing fight, but I shall go on fighting—against the pasteurisation of milk. One hon. Member said something about the importance of having good fresh food, and suggested that this Measure would give it. This Measure will do nothing to give us good fresh milk if, when you have good fresh milk, you ruin it by heating it in order to pander to vested interests, who find it easy and convenient to ruin milk by pasteurisation. I trust that when this Bill becomes effective we shall do away with that.
We ought also to be doing something to ensure a far better veterinary service. I hope that we shall have better-trained veterinary surgeons, and that the whole status of the service will be raised. I hope very much that in their training they will have stressed not only the cure of disease, but the prevention of disease and the importance of prophylactic measures to prevent the spread of infection from one farm to another. Nothing like sufficient attention is given to that question in the training of veterinary surgeons in this respect nor, indeed, in the training of the medical profession is the prevention of disease sufficiently stressed—not that it is the slightest use a layman saying a word against the medical profession; they are the strongest trade union in the country 509 and the most complacent. I very much welcome this Bill, and I hope that we shall expedite it as much as is humanly possible. We all realise that it will be a long time before it can become operative, but I hope that it will be pressed forward with all the rapidity that the circumstances make possible.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
We were told by the Minister of Agriculture that the production of healthy milk was the main purpose of the Bill. Any Measure that will produce healthy milk ought to be welcomed. We were also told that the inspection of dairy herds would be done by qualified veterinary surgeons. That is all to the good. Then we were told that local authorities would be responsible, to some extent, for dealing with the milk supply. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten the House as to the extent to which local authorities will be responsible. This Bill has certainly created widespread opposition from the local authorities. They are naturally jealous of their powers, and they view with concern any Measure which is likely to curtail their responsibilities. Some local authorities may have been lax in the exercise of their duty, but surely the Government ought to deal with those authorities, and come to some arrangement whereby they could carry out their duties properly. The great majority of local authorities carry out their obligations in the spirit and the letter of the law. Local authorities are naturally concerned about public health. They realise the danger of disease and the expense it causes to the community. They understand that prevention is better than cure. Acts are constantly being passed which have to be administered by local authorities. The war has increased their difficulties, especially where staffs have been depleted.
It would be a good thing if every Member of Parliament had served his or her apprenticeship on a local authority before entering this House. Then they would realise the difficulties with which local authorities have to contend, and they would appreciate the good work and the marvellous achievements of local authorities in public health and housing and in other matters affecting the health and well-being of the community. Before Measures are placed upon the Statute Book, I think some care and considera- 510 tion should be given to what they mean to the local authorities, and, in view of the opposition to the Bill, may I ask if the Government have consulted local authorities on the subject? If not, would it not be wiser to do this in order to try to reach agreement before conning to the House with a Bill which will be resented by local authorities all over the country? The White Paper—and I have gone through it very carefully—pays tribute to the way bulk supply is being dealt with in Scotland, and this is what it says:Milk inspection in Scotland is effectively carried out by the Department of Health for Scotland and the local authorities.It further states:Since 1938, the Department of Health for Scotland has maintained a staff of milk inspectors for the purpose of stimulating and advising local authorities in the exercise of their functions under the Milk Acts and Orders, and achieving the greatest possible degree of uniformity of standards. Therefore, so far as Scotland is concerned, it is proposed that the present legislative arrangements should remain undisturbed.If this is possible across the Border, why should it not be possible in England and Wales?
§ Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) has, I understood him to say, a desire to amend the Bill to make it agree with what is done in Scotland; in other words, under the county councils.
§ Sir D. Gunston
During the very entertaining speech which the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) made, I interrupted to ask him if he would be content to put the powers on to the county councils, and he assented to that view. That is a very interesting admission, because many of those who have been attacking this Bill to-day have done so on the ground that if takes away powers from local authorities. If hon. Members will consult their correspondence and the telegrams they have received, they will find that the telegrams and the correspondence come, not from the county councils, but from the rural district councils and the urban district councils. That is the case in my experience, and, I think, in that of most hon. Members.
§ Sir D. Gunston
And the borough councils. What will these people think tomorrow, when they find that the great champion of democracy has thrown them over and is willing to hand over their powers to the county councils? I do not know whether the hon. Member was in the House when the proposal to abolish boards of guardians was before it, but I assure him that every board of guardians fought very hard, because they disliked the county councils much more than they disliked the central authority. I do not know what they will think when they find that their champion has thrown them over and proposed that their powers should be handed over to the county councils. In another part of his speech, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton suggested that the Minister of Health had plenty of powers under Section 93 of the 1938 Act. He was asked if there was a single case where the Ministry of Health had intervened and suspended, or done something, because these local authorities had not carried out their duties. Of course there are no such cases. How can the Ministry of Health find out if local authorities have inspected these places or not? But it is no answer to say that things should remain as they are. Once you get a national service, it will be the duty of the Minister of Agriculture to see that these duties are carried out.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) will forgive me for saying that he made a speech of even higher rank than his usual high contribution. I entirely agree with what he said about local authorities, but I would like to emphasise what he said in regard to the cost this Bill will put on the producers. We really ought to pay tribute to the National Farmers' Union for the spendid way in which they have backed this Bill. Everybody knows that, under the present system, there is often very little inspection at all, and, if you are to have a national service, there will be much more inspection, and it will mean that premises which, to-day, are disgraceful will have to be improved. The National Farmers' Union are backing this Bill, knowing that it will mean an increased cost to the producer, because they realise, as the Minister of Agriculture has pointed out, the great advantage to agriculture in this country of a clean milk supply. The war agricultural committees have really done magnificent work in in- 512 creasing the quantity, but I think that a certain amount of laxity has existed regarding the quality, which will have to be improved. I think the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Dr. Peters) also made a plea on behalf of the local authorities and democracy and so on. The hon. Member is a medical gentleman, but he never mentioned milk.
§ Dr. Peters
I am not a medical man; I have studied medicine, music and the law, but I am a doctor of law, not of medicine.
§ Sir D. Gunston
I apologise to my hon. and learned, but not medical, Friend. The great value of this Bill is going to be to the consumers in the great cities, and I am surprised that more hon. Members who represent town constituencies have not spoken. The Noble Lord says that, at the present moment, no large consuming area has any control of the inspection of milk if its milk comes from a great distance away. I should like to have an answer, and no doubt the Noble Lord would like it, from the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton, the great leader of democracy in this House, to this question. Will the hon. Member tell us how it can be democratic for a little rural authority in Wales to decide the conditions in which milk is produced for consumers in London? That is what happens at the present time.
§ Mr. Turton
I understand that the present system, under the Food and Drugs Act, is that the Minister lays down Regulations, which are to apply to the whole country, whether a local authority in Wales or a large urban community in a large town. The administration of these regulations, in my view, should be carried out by publicly elected local authorities.
§ Sir D. Gunston
I thank the hon. Member for that answer. The duty of seeing whether the premises are clean should be carried out by publicly elected local authorities, but, in fact, at present, the inspection of premises where milk is produced for places like London is carried out not by the authority of the consumers in London, but by the small sanitary authority of an area in Wales. I see that the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) is in his place. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that a lot of the milk consumed in Bristol is produced in my constituency, and he will 513 also agree that the Bristol Corporation has no control as to how that milk is produced in my constituency. I would like to congratulate the Minister. I used a simile the other day. I said that I thought he was a good bat. To-day he is leading a side in the field and is closing up the gaps in the slips—gaps left by the last Act, which gave him control over the herds but which did not give him control over the premises. We have to unite to build up the national herds of this country, which are nothing like what we would like them to be. We can never have the good animals unless there are the proper premises. I hope that my hon. Friends will not go to a Division, but will help the Government to improve the premises, so that we really can get the quantity and quality of milk that we want for our people.
§ Captain Sir George Elliston (Blackburn)
There is no Member of this House who is more jealous than I am of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of local authorities, but I believe that this Bill raises much greater issues. I propose to take rather a different line from that which has been taken by previous speakers. It is one's experience that the problem of our milk supplies is approached in this country from two points of view. First there is the point of view that it is purely a commercial proposition. Many of us have always felt handicapped by the fact that our milk troubles have been approached by the Ministry of Agriculture in that spirit. But I am very anxious not to say anything unkind about the present Minister to-day, because I have a great admiration for him and I have great sympathy for any man who has to carry with him the farmers of this country at this time. But there are thousands of people who regard milk on an entirely different footing—as a staple food of the people which is a prime factor in the national health and nutrition.
In the Debate to-day that aspect has taken a wholly secondary place. Even the Minister, in discussing the terms of the Bill, emphasised what is to be done for the health of the cattle, for the eradication of cattle diseases, and for the economic production and distribution of milk. I cannot help thinking, Mr. Speaker, of the occasion when your predecessor was last re-elected to that Chair 514 and when the hon. Member who proposed the Motion, after reciting the qualifications of Mr. Speaker, referred to him as "above all the finest judge of shorthorns in this country." I felt to-day that the Minister was talking about cattle and about the producer of milk, and we heard very little about the unhappy consumer, who has to submit to the dangers which are represented by our milk supplies today.
Those who take that point of view will very much regret the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health is now to take a secondary place in the control of this product. There are important factors which it would be unwise to mention at this moment, because one knows the torrent of debate that would result, but there are established facts which any normal person cannot refute in view of the scientific and medical evidence. It was confirmed by the Cattle Diseases Commission in 1934 that there were in England and Scotland each year 2,500 deaths or thereabouts directly due to bovine tuberculosis contracted by the consumption of milk. The Commission also confirmed the fact, known to most of us, that a number of diseases are directly conveyed to consumers through milk, including typhoid, diphtheria, dysentery, undulant fever, scarlet fever and several other infections. That conveyance of disease by milk goes on year by year, and we hear nothing about it except when there is some considerable outbreak as at Bournemouth a few years ago, when the country got greatly alarmed for a few weeks. Against such danger it has long been the almost unanimous view of medical men, supported by a number of lay scientists, that the only real protection, for many years to come, must be the heat treatment of milk supplies. That view has been adopted and applied in the United States of America, in Canada, and in other parts of the world and yet we are content to discuss this Bill without mention of the available safeguard against the continuance of diseases of the people caused by milk in this country. The mentality of our people in this matter is amazing. A few years ago there was an outbreak of arsenical poisoning in Manchester arising out of beer. It became the topic of national discussion. The papers were full of it, it was frontpage news: "Beer poisoning at Manchester." Imme- 515 diate steps were taken and the brewers were prompt to take every necessary action.
§ Sir G. Elliston
Anyway the brewers make no attempt to justify the poisoning. But we go on year after year with our death roil from milk-borne infections, and to-day we are discussing a Bill which makes no reference whatever to the safeguards that we could adopt. The public is entitled to protection. During these war years there has been the greatest possible risk of the pollution of water supplies, and we have placed chlorine in the water and no one has complained. They accept it as a necessary safeguard. Pasteurisation or heat treatment is necessary if we are to make our milk supplies safe, and yet we continue to ignore it. We are told to-day by the Minister that he is taking steps to abate diseases of cattle. I believe he is. He is doing a great work, but it is well known that, with the present number of veterinary inspectors who are available, augmented by trained sanitary inspectors, it must be a matter of 40 or 50 years before the dairy herds of this country can be regarded as safe.
It is gratifying to those of us who have given this matter consideration that at last we have a Government which recognises that the continuance of these milk conditions is a scandal. Unfortunately, this Bill puts the cart before the horse. It adopts a long-term policy dealing with disease amongst cattle and, meanwhile, we are to go on losing or crippling our infants. It has been shown by Sir William Savage, Professor T. S. Wilson, and other outstanding authorities, that so long as milk is consumed raw, its production must remain a public health problem. It should not be handed over to the Minister of Agriculture; it is definitely desirable that the Minister of Health should continue to take that responsibility. It is most regrettable that our Minister of Health should abdicate his responsibilities in this matter.
If this Bill imposed heat treatment as a first requirement, the Ministry of Agriculture might have established a reasonably good case for this transfer. Medical men agree that the eradication 516 of bovine disease is a veterinary problem of great magnitude which has already been gallantly tackled by the small veterinary staff of the Ministry of Agriculture. It must be realised, however, that until a sufficient number of veterinary inspectors is available, to ensure the production of safe milk for the Ministry of Agriculture, without simultaneous enforcement of heat treatment, the removal of responsibility from the Ministry of Health cannot be justified.
There is, however, a compromise which the Minister might consider, based on Defence Regulation 55 (g). Under that Regulation, the retail sale of milk is prohibited in any area specified by the Minister of Food when that milk is tuberculin-tested, accredited, or heat-treated. If the Ministry of Agriculture would agree that the transfer of powers under Section 1 of this Bill should only take effect in those areas where Regulation 55 (g) is in operation, then it could he automatically extended to each new area for which such a regulation is made. That would allow time for the training of additional veterinary inspectors and the provision of efficient heat-treatment apparatus as men and materials become available after the war. Meanwhile, the public would be protected by the increasing enforcement of heat-treatment.
There is one other change which I hope the Minister will consider. That is, that the power to make the regulations should be retained by the Ministry of Health and not jointly as specified by Clause 2 of the Bill, so long as any designated milk is allowed to be consumed unpasteurised. Accredited milk, although attaining a fairly high standard of cleanliness, has often been found to contain a higher percentage of tuberculin infection than raw unaccredited milk. That has been the experience of the London County Council over a period of five or six years. While that is so, surely the Minister of Health should remain responsible for supervision. Most of us, I think, will support the Second Reading of the Bill to-day in spite of some misgivings. But it may be hoped that during the Committee stage the Minister will make very considerable concessions to ensure the greater safety of the milk supplies and to give local authorities greater encouragement to cooperate in his campaign for the eradication of cattle diseases.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I assure the House and the Minister that I will not delay the passage of this Bill for more than a few minutes. Like other hon. Members, I have received letters, communications, copies of resolutions and, I believe, one telegram from local authorities advising me what I should do. Now I suppose we may regard that method of communicating with Members of Parliament as a sounding-board for public opinion, but I venture to say that Parliament itself is to-day, as I have always understood it to be, disposed to judge dispassionately on the merits of a Bill and the needs of the situation that have to be faced. When we go into the Division Lobby, it will not be on a political issue, but rather the needs of the people, the health and the well-being of the people. May I say, too, that I believe if most of these local authorities, who have passed these resolutions or caused them to be sent to us, had been here to hear this Debate, to hear the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary too, I believe they would agree that there is a really urgent need for this Measure.
I want to survey the reasons why I feel it should pass to the Statute Book. I have always thought that local authorities try to do their work in an earnest fashion, and that sanitary inspectors endeavour to interpret the law as they see it. But sanitary inspectors do not always get their own way, because they are subjected to certain influences. I have sat on a local authority for many years and my wife is supposed to be one of my bosses, because she is on the county council and I am only on the borough council. I have seen cases concerning people's food, milk and various other foodstuffs, where the sanitary inspector has felt disposed to report and recommend a prosecution, but, because it interferes with the friends of some of the folk on the council, or some particular interest would be affected if such a prosecution were to take place, then those prosecutions have either been set aside, or no action has been taken. The London County Council, despite its enormous powers, has not much control over London's milk supply at the source. My hon. Friend the Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) told the hon. and gallant Member for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston) that people in his area received 518 milk from Thornbury. Well, Londoners receive milk from the Bristol area, from Somerset, Devon and Dorset, and if they were to see some of the cowsheds and the general conditions under which their milk was produced I think that even total abstainers would be inclined to become beer drinkers.
§ Mr. E. Walkden
There may be, but I believe they would take the, risk. I have been able to get more manure out of some of the milk in London than I could gather from sweeping up manure in the roads. The milk combines, trusts and co-operative societies have rendered a far better service in trying to ensure clean milk than many of the sanitary inspectors in their areas have rendered. They have seen that so far as possible we do get clean and wholesome milk. How many industrial areas receive milk that is produced in their own area? Not many. How many urban councils are really responsible for their milk from the source to the consumer? Not many. Where I was born, Ashton-in-Makerfield, in Lancashire, up to a few years ago practically all the milk consumed was produced in that area. The sanitary inspector was known to everybody, and if farmers did not know the actual time at which he would visit them they at any rate knew the day. There was harmonious relationship, and I do not remember the prosecution of anybody, despite the filthy shippons there were in the parish. I do not want to say anything unkind about the sanitary inspector: he did his job as far as he could, but if he ever reported any farming friends of those on the council there was no prosecution.
This Bill sets out to co-ordinate the efforts to give the nation clean and wholesome milk. I hope the Minister will keep in mind what happens under the Mines Act. Nobody would argue that the surveyor of a local authority should say what is to happen in regard to the production of coal. That is a matter for the Ministry of Fuel and Power. The nation has been agitating for clean milk and the Minister has said, "We have improved certain standards in the war and we want not only to maintain those standards but further to improve our efficiency. We want the farmers to be efficient. We are not anxious to whittle down the power of 519 local authorities but we are concerned to protect the health of the people." That includes American soldiers, who seem to be passionately fond of milk, and whom we do not want to poison. If there is anything wrong with this Bill at all it is that it is a puny Measure. It is, however, a sincere effort on the part of the Minister to make a generous contribution towards giving us that efficient service we shall, no doubt, ultimately get.
The local authorities have been badly advised in this matter. The Association of Municipal Corporations has appointed, or will shortly appoint, a secretary, who is to receive £2,500 a year for his services. He has to do some good propaganda for that money, if the corporations want good value for it. But whoever has advised the corporations, or the urban district councils, has not given them good advice on this occasion. If they are choosing this wicket on which to fight the issue of the whittling away of power of local authorities by the State then they are choosing a bad wicket. They should be concerned more with the health of the people than with jealousy against the earnestness of the desire of the Minister of Agriculture to protect the health of the people and give them a good and wholesome supply of milk.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)
I do not intend to take long because, at this stage of the Debate, I cannot pretend that I can produce any fresh arguments to add to those which have already been given in the support of, and in opposition to, this Bill. I propose to support the Bill, and to do so on two main grounds. When I first considered this Bill, I was, like many other hon. Members, in two minds about it. I have the honour of representing the part of Lancashire where not only are all local authority functions carried out most efficiently but where a great deal of local pride is taken in the democratic control of all matters which fall within the purview of a local authority. Despite that fact, I am certain that the case which my right hon. Friend the Minister has made out to-day in support of this Bill is unanswerable. With much of what has just been said by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) I agree, and I also feel indebted to the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) for his exposition of the duties of local authorities. In making out his case he also 520 made out a case for this Bill. Undoubtedly, the present situation is both untidy and impracticable and the great argument in favour of this Bill is that we are to substitute something which will bring about not only a greater state of efficiency but which will enable us to deal with this question in a completely democratic manner by allowing the consumer to have an ultimate say as to the condition in which he receives his milk.
The hon. Member who spoke last adduced the analogy of the coal mine. I think he might have gone a stage further and reasoned that particular health matters arising out of coalmining were dealt with by the mines inspectorate. No one suggests that local health authorities should concern themselves with miners' nystagmus or silicosis. It is obviously a specialised matter. It is just so with the conditions under which milk is produced. The conditions of the farm and farm buildings, the health and the various considerations affecting the animals, are all matters that require specialised knowledge and undoubtedly to expect local authorities to have under their charge men capable of dealing with this very specialised aspect of the problem is asking too much. I feel that that is a matter which will be much more competently dealt with by the sanitary authorities that are to be set up under the Bill and that what has been propounded to-day has produced a case which satisfies me and, I feel, the majority of Members that the Bill should have the support of the House and I hope the Amendment will not be pressed to a Division.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I think the speeches of some of the advocates of the Bill may create an impression in the country which will do a great deal of harm. That is that the condition of our milk is worse than it actually is. Not one of them seems to have appreciated that the quality of milk has steadily improved in recent years and, at a time when the Government are urging everybody to drink more of it, and are succeeding in their policy, when in particular they have inaugurated and are extending the milk in schools scheme, it is very unfortunate that some of the expressions with regard to the present quality of milk should have been made, because it is bound to undermine public confidence and, in particular, to disturb the parents of the country and will 521 interfere with the policy the Government are pursuing. There is no justification for these alarming statements, because all the facts show that the children who have been taking advantage of the milk in schools scheme are better in health as a consequence and, if the milk was the poisonous substance which some would have us believe owing to the inefficiency of local authorities, that would not be the case. But that does not mean that we have reached anything like perfection in the quality of our milk. We are all anxious to see that realised as soon as possible. Therefore, we welcome the intention of the Minister in trying to improve the quality.
But, while we applaud his heart and his good intentions, we are somewhat concerned about the state of his head. In view of our general admiration for him we believe it is only a temporary aberration but, as the result of his speech and of the Debate, I could not help feeling that he had determined in advance that he was going to take the administration of this matter into his own Department and was not prepared to follow what I believe is the typical British method and see if he could not adapt the existing machinery of local authorities to bring about what is required.
I think that at this stage some answer ought to be made to the charge of my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), who suggested—he was not as fair as he usually is, if he will allow me to say so—that local authorities in opposing the Bill were actuated by amour propre. It is not fair and it is not true. The democratic system as it has existed in this country, and as we believe it ought to continue to exist, works as follows: The central Government lay down the policy and local government administers it. Our quarrel with the Bill is that the Minister proposes to enter the domain of the local authority and to take over the administration under the Bill. That, we believe, is wrong, and it is taking us still further on the road to bureaucracy. If we are asked what we mean by bureaucracy, we reply—undue control and interference by the State in matters which we believe are not strictly within its concern. Therefore we view with considerable alarm what is being done by the Bill. It cannot be considered in isolation. We were told by 522 the Prime Minister—and we are expected to take comfort from it—that it is not the intention of the Government to do anything to interfere with the general structure of local government, but we find that Minister after Minister is taking away their powers, and local government, if not being frontally attacked, is being destroyed inch by inch. This is the third nail this week which has been driven into the coffin of local government. The Minister of Agriculture is responsible for two and the Minister of Health for one, and the latter contemplates knocking further nails in. The Home Secretary has been busy in this connection, as also have the Minister of War Transport and the President of the Board of Education.
What is going to be left of local government if this process continues? The arguments which have been used to-day to justify taking away from local authorities this service which they have administered in the past could be applied to practically every service that local authorities administer, except perhaps that of keeping the roads clean. If this goes on, where is it going to end? We feel, too, that it is most unfair for the Government not to distinguish between efficient and inefficient local authorities. The Minister should rather try to examine the reasons why some local authorities have been able to carry out their work and others not. We believe it is partly a question of money and partly one of powers. By spending less money than is proposed under the Bill through the local authorities, and giving them the powers that he is proposing to take to himself, the service could be put on a proper basis. It would be with very considerable reluctance if I had to go into the Lobby against the Bill, because I am so very anxious to achieve the end that the Minister has in view, but if he is determined to rush it through in spite of opposition from a large section of the House, in spite of the fact that every body of organised local authorities is against the Bill—the county councils, the Association of Municipal Corporations and the rural and district councils—it is a very serious matter and I do not think he is very likely to achieve the end that he has in view.
The right hon. Gentleman threw out a hint that he would be prepared to make concessions in Committee. I want to suggest one form in which it may be possible for him to do so. The county councils 523 act as agents for the Ministry of Transport for trunk roads. The Minister lays down what he wants done and the county councils carry it out. I wonder whether a similar system could be adopted for this service. If the Minister would indicate that on the Committee stage he would be prepared to give consideration to such a proposal, I believe it would do something to satisfy the opposition. If the Minister were to do that instead of digging his toes in and saying, "I want the Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill," he would go a long way to satisfy the critics. I hope he will follow the example of the President of the Board of Education who faced many of the difficulties felt by interests in the country when his Bill was introduced by finding compromise solutions.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
The local authorities could easily have avoided this situation arising. They could have done their job. They could have kept the milk of the country clean. Anybody who knows anything about the conditions under which milk is produced in certain parts of the country knows that it is extremely dirty, and it is no use the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) saying that these facts should be concealed from the public. The public ought to be told about the facts in order that we may get the situation changed. These conditions have been going on for a very long time. I remember parts of the country to which I used to go as a schoolboy during my holidays and the conditions of the farms there. Last night I was talking to a niece of mine about one of the places where I used to go, and I asked her if a certain farm was as dirty as it used to be. As a boy I did not mind dirt, but I used to go into the road rather than go through the farmyard because it was so foul and filthy that even a boy did not like it. My niece told me that she was there last week, and the farm is just the same.
There are many places where the conditions under which milk is produced are disgustingly dirty, and they must be cleaned up. If the local authorities had been willing to do their job and had done it—and they had powers to do it—this Bill would not have been necessary. The local authorities cannot have it both ways. I have heard in recent Debates of local authorities complaining of additional 524 duties and expenses being put on them. If they were charged with doing this work they would have to employ veterinary surgeons and inspectors and have to pay for them. I do not believe that they would be able to do it. Incidentally, I would not, after my own experience of some of these authorities, trust them to do it. Some of them have been neglecting it very badly for many years past, and I am afraid that they will go on neglecting it. There was in one or two speeches a misconception of the powers of the veterinary inspectors and medical officers. I should like to ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the powers of a medical officer of health with regard to matters affecting human health, such as contagion and infectious disease, will remain unimpaired under this new arrangement. There seems to be an idea that powers of that kind are being taken out of the hands of the local authorities, but I believe that it is a misapprehension. The medical officer will, I understand, retain his powers and there will be veterinary inspection, which is very badly needed in order to make the milk clean.
I share some of the apprehensions of the hon. Member for Cheltenham. I am constantly advocating increased consumption of milk, but I always have at the back of my mind the fact that much of the milk is dirty and can only be made safe for drinking by being heated or otherwise rendered germ-free. We cannot remedy this by pretending that danger is not there and by concealing the facts. We can only remedy it by getting the whole business cleaned up. Somebody referred to the tremendous outcry there was when arsenic was discovered in beer. It is unfortunately the fact, as the hon. Member who spoke on the medical aspect of the question said, that there are over 2,000 deaths every year from bovine tuberculosis. That is a pretty serious matter, and we ought not to conceal it. Milk is a very dirty fluid and ought to be cleaned up. It is unfortunate that any attempt should be made to prevent it. I hope that no large number of Members will support the Amendment, because it is phrased in dignified language and declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill on the highest principles. What the Amendment would in fact do would be to prolong the reign of dirty milk. The Amendment is a dirty milk Amendment, 525 and those who vote for it are voting for dirty milk.
Those who, like myself, represent urban constituencies will take the strongest objection to this Amendment, because they want to protect their constituents by getting clean milk at the earliest possible moment. We cannot have that until we get scientific, intelligent veterinary-trained officers and sanitary inspectors into the task of cleaning up the cowsheds, which very badly need it. You cannot leave that in order to engage in a lot of high falutin' conversation about the powers and duties of local authorities after they have been given half a century of trial and failed in their duty in this respect. There has been a lot of nonsense talked about this Amendment. To postpone a matter of this kind, about which all the scientific data are in the hands of the Minister of Health, and refer it to a Royal Commission is really a piece of special pleading which may have I do not know what interests behind it but which is no credit to the enthusiasm of Members for the health and well-being of the country. We want clean milk, we must have clean milk, and the way as laid down in this Bill is the way to get it. To postpone it would be no way to deal with the problem; it would only mean a continuance of dirty milk.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I have considerable sympathy with the Amendment because I believe that the system of local government is a valuable feature in our national life and all possible use ought to be made of its machinery, and because, too, I believe that the system of centralisation of power in Whitehall has its dangers. At the same time, I realise that not all district councils have satisfactorily administered what is called the principal Act, and that, in consequence, some reforms are not only desirable but absolutely necessary. The reasons for the failure to carry out the existing Act ought to be recognised. One of the principal reasons is that many councils cover wide scattered areas in rural districts and have small rateable values, and they have not the means to maintain adequate staffs to give them travelling facilities and to meet all the expenses to enable the staffs to carry out their duties effectively. If reasonable grants-in-aid could be made to enable 526 adequate staffs to be employed, much of the difficulty would disappear—not all the difficulty, I think, because I agree with some other speakers who have spoken, including the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden), that local friendships and local feelings may have something to do with the lack of action by sanitary inspectors and local councils.
As I suggested, it would be better to set up a definite standard of administration by local authorities and to lay down regulations to take the place of the present local by-laws. I believe it is a terrible source of weakness that any local authorities can make any bylaws which they think are convenient to them. Bylaws vary all over the country. Most decidedly, regulations should be laid down by the Minister, as is proposed in the Bill, and once they are laid down, the inspectors should see that these standards and these regulations are attained and adhered to. In fact, as has been pointed out in the Debate, the Food and Drugs Act does confer powers to bring pressure upon, and to act in place of if necessary, a defaulting local authority. Those powers have never been made use of to my knowledge in my own county. I do not think they have ever been used, but I do not see any reason why they should not be used. If they had been made use of, the state of affairs which is rightly complained of now, might have been very different indeed. I suggest that those powers be confirmed and extended, and that local authorities be required to carry out the duties to the satisfaction of the Ministers concerned.
If power passes to the Minister, the question is, from where is the qualified staff to come to carry out the duties, whether that qualified staff consists, as it must, of sanitary inspectors or of veterinarians? Practically all the qualified men are at this moment employed by local authorities or have some measure of public duties to perform. District councils will still want them for other duties besides those connected with milk. There is, as we all know, an actual shortage of veterinary surgeons—a very considerable shortage too. Some veterinary surgeons are said to be employed in the Army on non-veterinary duties. I believe that is the case and I therefore suggest to the Minister of Agriculture that he might con- 527 sult the Secretary of State for War to secure the transfer to legitimate veterinary duties of any such veterinary surgeons. There will be great difficulty in finding those staffs, apart from the existing people, and if they are to be found even in part from the existing staffs will there be very much difference in efficiency?
There is a well-recognised method in local government of devolving duties. It was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson), in the case of the trunk roads, in which county councils act as agents for the Ministry of Transport. There are many more cases. It is perfectly legitimate at the present time, and it was much more common than it is at this moment, for county councils to devolve their duties upon district councils as regards local roads and for the district councils to act as their agents. Indeed, they do so in connection with civil defence and in various other ways. I suggest that the Minister should consider making use of this method and delegate his powers to county councils, who would act as his agent. Those councils might be authorised—I do not say they should be—in turn to delegate the duties to selected district councils who had the necessary staffs and who had carried out their duties satisfactorily. Such district councils would, in that case, become sub-agents or something very like it of the Minister. They would act under the authority and by the authority of the Minister. Standards of work would be given to them, and the attainment of those standards would be absolutely insisted upon.
Regulations would be made by the Minister, as is indeed proposed in the Bill, and those regulations would take the place of any local by-laws, which should, in my submission, be entirely abolished. The Ministry's inspectors would keep all concerned up to the mark. I suggest that that is a practicable scheme and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider doing something of the kind. It would make use of the machinery and of qualified staffs of local government bodies and it would constitute a measure of devolution which would avoid over centralisation in Whitehall. Probably, under suitable inspection, might make for very much increased efficiency. Like the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. H. Guest) I am not only very much in favour 528 of cleaner milk but of clean milk. We have at the present moment various grades of milk. The county councils are principally concerned. I suggest that those grades might be tightened up and, in fact, that there should be no ungraded milk—which must be dirty milk. No ungraded milk should be allowed at all. In conclusion, I suggest that the Minister should make use of local government bodies, whether as his agents or otherwise. To use them as agents would be most suitable, and let him get them on to his side rather than against him.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
Like other hon. Members I have listened to almost all the arguments used on both sides, and there have been some on both sides on both sides, if hon. Members know what I mean. I approached this Debate with an open mind—or rather with two fixed prejudices, one in favour of clean milk and one in favour of allowing as much autonomy as possible to local authorities. As the Debate has worn on, I am bound to say that I have felt increasingly that the mover and supporters of the Amendment have not made out their case. I should like to pay my tribute to the courtliness and sanity of the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope), who put the matter very succintly and clearly and whose authority in all matters concerning agriculture must weigh with this House. Moreover, as one of the staunchest, truest and bluest representatives of Conservativism, he could hardly be suspected of giving his approval to any kind of totalitarian scheme of State Socialism such as some of the supporters of the Amendment seemed to fear in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who moved the Amendment with eloquence and grace, failed, I think, to make out his case, because he concentrated too much on the argument that the Bill is whittling away the powers of the local authorities. That, it seemed to me, is not the issue to-day. Surely this issue must be considered on its merits alone, the issue of clean milk and the best way to get it, even if it does mean removing one particular power from the local authorities. Again, the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) said that he had been sent to this House by the local authorities. I do not believe really that he was. Certainly, 529 I was not. If they sent him here, they did so in their capacity as constituents and not qua councillors at all. There are, of course, good and bad authorities. I have received a good many of those telegrams and letters, such as other hon. Members have spoken of. One always treats these representations from one's constituency with respect and sympathy, but the respect and sympathy are just slightly diminished, perhaps under a kind of law of diminishing returns, when one observes that the wording of most of the telegrams is identical.
There is just one question that I should like to ask the hon. Lady, who I see has returned from her well-earned milk-shake. That is to reinforce what was said by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Roberts) with regard to the possibility of using the machinery of the war agricultural executive committees. Are they to be used in administering this scheme? Perhaps it is difficult to say so yet, because although most of those who have considered the future of agriculture are agreed that, in some form or other, the war agricultural committees should continue after the war, I do not think there has been an actual pronouncement yet by the Government to that effect. If the hon. Lady could give us some kind of assurance of that kind I think it would dispose to a very large extent of the argument about a crowd of bureaucrats in Whitehall.
I hope that agriculture will continue to be regarded, as it has been increasingly regarded in recent months, as an industry which should be outside party politics altogether. There have been divisions on both sides in this particular Debate today. But I sincerely hope that the Second Reading of the Bill will be carried, perhaps with such adjustments before the Committee stage as that indicated for Clause 5 by the hon. Member for Hems-worth, but without acrimony and without a Division.
§ Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)
I do not make up my mind to vote against the Government in the time of emergency through which the country is at present passing without thinking very deeply and searching my heart, but I shall do so on the present occasion. If the Amendment is carried to a Division I shall vote for it. If the Amendment is, by leave, withdrawn I shall vote against the Second 530 Reading of the Bill. I yield to no one in my desire for clean milk, and plenty of it, in this country. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) spoke with a good deal of feeling about the Amendment being a dirty milk Amendment. I am inclined to say that this is a dirty milk Bill. I think I can claim to know as much about milk as he does. Little more than to years ago I was Chairman of a Milk Commission which went all about this country. I know what the merits of some local authorities are and what defects some local authorities have. It is quite true that the standard is most unequal. It is also true that the standard of milk has been improving steadily throughout the last to years. !Much more good milk is being produced, despite the difficulties which are being experienced by farmers and local authorities such as shortage of staff and shortage of labour—exactly the difficulties from which my right hon. Friend will suffer when he begins to try to implement this Measure.
I am convinced that this is a wrong approach to the object which we all have at heart, of getting clean milk for this country. I agree with what one hon. Member said to the effect that the issue was that of clean milk and not consideration of local authorities. I do not believe we shall get clean milk in this way. I have wandered about this country on the milk issue, talking to all kinds of people, with every possibility of hearing every kind of opinion. I do not believe that you will get good milk without plenty of good will and co-operation. This is not a country which likes being run in the manner proposed in the Bill. For this reason, I believe this to be a dirty milk Bill, and I do not think it will ever work satisfactorily.
Apart from that I shall vote against the Bill on a question of principle on which I have a very deep conviction. I am a believer in Parliament. I want to see Parliament doing its duty. No Parliament in the world carries the responsibility of this Parliament. It has a range of duties such as has no other Legislature. It has to deal with a vast Colonial Empire, with a Commonwealth of Nations, and with affairs all over the world. It has to do its best for a people whose very living depends upon the part which this Parliament enables its Government to play in the affairs of the world. Yet here we are being told day after day that this 531 Parliament should take over more and more of what is really the business of local government in this country. I am not for centralisation in Parliament. Because I believe in Parliament I am for devolution at the present time. I believe that if we do not have devolution, the burden of business will break the back of the Parliamentary system in this country. Parliament is hopelessly overburdened at the present time.
The Minister says he will be there to be shot at. I disagree with him. He will have the same alibi as before, because there is never time to discuss the things we want to discuss in this House. He knows that as well as everybody else. There is not time to discuss every detail of domestic legislation in this House; there never will be, if the House is to discharge its greater duties. Yet this is a Bill to put more and more of that detail on it, a pressure which can only lead to the House losing control more and more of the things to which it is supposed to attend. So far from taking the course taken by much recent legislation, we should build up the efficiency and good will of the local authorities. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that grants in aid should be given and that powers should be taken to see that local authorities that do not do their duty are forced to do it or are suspended if the present powers are insufficient. On that basis the work required to give us good milk can be done by local authorities far better than by a centralised bureaucracy.
That is the issue we are up against on this Bill—not clean milk but the way in which to get it, the way in which the countryside is to be governed. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) unfairly attacked, I thought, my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, in saying that his speech was redolent of the parish pump. Parish pumps are not redolent.
§ Earl Winterton
I did not say so. As a stylist I must protest against the hon. Member attributing to me such a cliché as "redolent." I said that he should go and get a drink from the parish pump.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I will leave that to HANSARD. But let me say to my Noble Friend that I am a convinced and unrepentant parish pumper. I think 532 that is the only way we will get any good out of the country. The countryside is full of virtue if it is called out, but if we try to centralise everything to dragoon the farmer and kill all the spirit of local service we will destroy that virtue. It is by team work we will get things clone that we want done. The idea that every corner of the country can be run from Whitehall and Westminster, and that the Civil Service necessary for the purpose can be controlled by this Parliament is a vain mirage. I will therefore vote against this Measure. I have no doubt it will be carried, but I hope that my right hon. Friend, for whom I have no hostility and who has done admirably in many ways for the agricultural industry, will be advised—I am sure he will be well advised—to consider modifying this Measure very considerably in Committee.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
After listening to this Debate, I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) that it has been almost like what he called an old fashioned Friday, because we have had a real Debate, with speaker answering speaker, all putting the points in which they believe, in extremely good and forceful speeches. In spite of the fact that Members are divided on the surface, one against the other, there are certain points on which I think we all agree. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) described the Minister of Health as a co-belligerent of the Ministry of Agriculture. I quite agree. Listening to the Debate, I came to the conclusion that all the Members who have spoken are co-belligerents in the war for clean milk. Our aim is to improve the quality and to increase the quantity of milk. I begin with this point, because I believe that there is far more agreement than is perhaps realised by some hon. Members who have spoken. We are all dissatisfied with the present standard on the farms and the lack of cleanliness of milk off the farms. I am not saying that all the milk and all the farms are dirty, and that all the people looking after them are incompetent: we need not say that the position is worse than it is, but we want to improve it. When hon. Members discussed clean milk they did not discuss the question of the milk becoming dirty off the farm: they concentrated on clean 533 production. But even if there is clean production, that does not necessarily mean that the consumer will get clean milk.
I believe that the foundation of the whole scheme is co-operation between the Ministry of Agriculture and the local authorities in giving the consumer clean milk. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) said that, of course, there were changes as the war went on, but he thought it rather a ridiculous point for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to make that a big local authority like Birmingham or London, had no control over the production of milk and could control the milk only when it reached them. He said that that was not an argument for saying that the position had changed. But if we realise the situation to-day, we shall see that it has changed and that it will change more. We have more milk, and, as my right hon. Friend said, we hope that in future there will be still more milk. That milk travels more; therefore there are further dangers. Thirdly, that milk has to be bulked, to move it from one area to another. I cannot see that it is necessarily a local service. It is a local responsibility in different areas, but surely the real local responsibility is in the area where it is consumed. The responsibility is with the local authority there to see that the milk is clean. That authority, in nearly every case, has no control over the area where the milk is produced. This service, because of more milk, more travel, and more bulking, has almost ceased to be a local service, and has become a national service. The suggestion is that there should be co-operation between the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health at the centre, and between the local authorities and the Minister of Agriculture in the country, so that right through, from the time the milk is produced until it reaches the consumer, some authority is in charge.
I agree entirely with the hon. Member for The Wrekin, who said that the whole point is the line of demarcation. I believe that that has not been brought out clearly enough. The Minister of Agriculture is responsible for the health of the cow; the local authority is certainly responsible for the milk that reaches the consumer. At what point should the authority of one come to an end, and that of the other begin? That is the problem we have to face. I have always regarded 534 housing and health as necessarily complementary services. I have always felt that housing was essentially a health service, and I have deplored the suggestion that housing should be removed from the sphere of health and worked as an entirely different service. I feel that in this case, if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture is really to look after the health of the herds, he ought also to have the responsibility of their housing, and at a later stage; after the milk has been produced, it ought to be the responsibility of the local authorities. I believe that, if hon. Members will consider this point for a moment, many of them will agree that that would be the best method of dividing the responsibility. Hon. Members have asked why should people from Whitehall come into these various areas and inspect the cowsheds; but already the Ministry of Agriculture's inspectors are looking after the cows in the cowsheds. The only question between us is whether those people who are looking after the health of the cow should also look after what one might call the "Environmental Services" or the housing of the cow and the milk then be looked after by the local authority, or whether the line of demarcation should be further back.
There will be ample work for both the local authority and the Ministry of Agriculture. We want to see both making every effort in future to secure better and cleaner milk. I know quite well that there are difficulties in war-time, I know that the local authorities have not sufficient staff, and I know that they will have great difficulties in future. We talk about housing and water supply and the tremendous work that local authorities will have to do in connection with those services, and the work the sanitary inspectors and medical officers of health will have in looking after human beings. We know the difficulty of getting veterinary surgeons and assistants for looking after the animals.
In the whole field of local government there is going to be a shortage of staff. But because we realise that fact we are anxious that this scheme should be decided upon early enough for people to be trained to look after the milk and, as sanitary inspectors, to look after the housing. The hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) asked if we could not tell the boys and girls in the 535 schools to-day of the opportunities there will be in the future to train for this particular work. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton and others asked, what was the urgency: why we should do this now? The whole point is that we should decide what the lay-out should be, so that in our training colleges we may prepare sufficient people to train the staff who will be needed. We cannot begin that until we know what the people are to be trained for. Young people today will want to know what opportunities there are in the future, and if we can decide upon a scheme that will work we shall be able to put it into operation because the people will have been trained to work the machine. That is the reason why we consider that this House should decide now what the scheme is to be, in order that, whatever scheme is decided upon, there may be the staff able to work it.
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton made several suggestions. He said that we should either strengthen the local authorities and let them go forward, or have a major health authority, such as a county council, to take on the work; and he pointed out that, in England, there were inspectors who went to see if the county councils were doing their work. I was a little surprised about that because it did not fit in with the other view, which says, "We do not want inspectors coming from Whitehall." When the scheme is established as we should like it to be there will be a shortage of skilled technical people, and, if you are going to have inspectors inspecting inspectors, how can you do it? It cannot be done by b regulations that are laid down, for how by that means can you see whether an authority is doing its work, where it is a case of keeping up standards? The only way that standards can be kept up is by inspecting; it is very difficult to do it by regulation. Therefore, I think that the suggestion would mean a duplication of inspectors, and it might mean that farms would have to be inspected twice over. And we cannot use people, of whom we have not got enough, in double inspections like that. We mean to use the skilled people we have to the best of our ability.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
It is natural that the hon. Member should ask that, and I had got some figures in order to be ready for him. I knew that one of the reasons was that the problem in Scotland is very much smaller. You have 13 inspectors in Scotland, and, I think, one-seventh of the cow population to deal with. My point was that if you are using inspectors to inspect inspectors, you were using a great many skilled staff for what is in Scotland a much smaller job. If you do the same amount, you would want 91 inspectors. I think if the hon. Gentleman knows about Scotland, he will know that the dairy farms are in certain areas of Scotland, and you have got to tour the moors of the North in order to look after the dairy herds. The main point which the hon. Member made against the scheme, if the Department took it over, was that the Ministry of Agriculture would have too few veterinary surgeons and thus would not be able to work it. I think he will agree with me that looking at the scheme as a whole, we are all going to have too few on our staff, whether local authority or Ministry; I think that the question of numbers does not come into the problem so much, because, on each side, we shall want more staff, whoever does the inspection.
It is a joint effort we are asking for from the local authorities and the Ministry. It is not the case, as some hon. Members have said, that you want local authorities to have nothing to do with clean milk. Local authorities have told us and I quite agree with them, that they feel that more work should be done on the inspection of milk. Local authorities will be responsible for the milk when it leaves the farm. They will be responsible for it in transit and in the shops and right up to the time it is supplied to the consumer. We hope that the local authorities of this country will take a very great interest in this for they have shown a great interest in the past. Of course, there are bad and inefficient authorities, but I believe it is all wrong to say that local authorities as a whole have not been interested. What we want now, when we have got to do a bigger job, is to see that more is done not only on the production side, but during the time after the milk leaves the farm. I believe that not nearly enough stress has been put upon that.
Some hon. Members have spoken on the subject of how milk is delivered, and 537 described how they have seen churns and bottles treated, and have spoken of the various things they have seen in the shops, such as milk being left there and bottles being opened. I am not an alarmist, but I think the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) will agree with me that this is not satisfactory. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done on those lines. Is it not possible for us to co-operate here, and with the local authorities and the Ministry of Agriculture, in this big job? I wonder whether, if we were starting today to define the job as between the Ministry of Agriculture and the local authorities, we would not define it in the way we are defining it now. How can we, at the present moment, say that, considering the scheme which the Minister of Agriculture outlined for healthier herds and for seeing that we get better milk—and we will never get better milk unless we get healthier herds—and the inspection of the herds, the amount of milk they produce and the way the cows have to be kept—after all that work has been undertaken by the Ministry how can we say that the buildings are to be handed over to somebody else?
People say we are taking away from the local authorities powers that they have used, but we do not want local authorities to do any less work. More work has to be done, but we ask them to make the best allocation of work they possibly can. I believe that is vital if we are to start anew to-day with a great campaign.
Lastly, I come to the point which hon. Members have made, in every part of the House, that this is an attack on local authorities. I have stood at this Box more than once, including yesterday, when arguments have been pressed upon me that water or housing, or some other social service, should be put into the hands of some National Board. Only yesterday, I was told that the rural water supply scheme—giving taps to the countryside—should not be undertaken until there was a plan for a National Board, and I stood here and defended the local authorities. Housing has come up again and again, and people have said "Take it away from the Ministry of Health, and give it to a National Board. Do it from the centre. Use mass production." I always opposed that, because a housing service is a purely local service. The houses are built there and inhabited 538 there and the local authorities have control of them. But milk, as it journeys through the country—produced in one place and travelling in different containers to another where it is consumed—is not a local service, but a service of many local authorities. I believe we can have cooperation between these local authorities.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Roberts) asked us to consider a form of appeal. My right hon. Friend says that he will be interested to hear any constructive points on the subject of an appeal. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton said that my right hon. Friend had spoken with balance and skill in Debate and I know that I cannot rival him. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton himself spoke with great skill and I cannot rival him either, but I want this Bill because it is for the benefit of the health of the country and of the children who are growing up. It is something on which we should co-operate throughout the country in order to make this tremendously valuable food really worth drinking.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
Would the Minister accept the suggestion that has been made that local authorities might be used as agents under the scheme?
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)
The hon. Lady has made an excellent case for the Government, but the verdict is going out from this House that the local authorities of this country have failed in their duties. We are going to say to them, in effect, that—and it must be remembered that they have had powers and duties for the war years—and that they have neither exercised their powers nor carried out their duties, and that the standard of purity of milk in this country is a menace which the Government wish to remove by the Bill. It is very hard luck that the local authorities should receive this snub. I have been brought up—and I think that a great many of us here have been—to trust the man on the spot. The man on the spot is the man who has created this country, and, incidentally, to use rather high-flown language, it is the man on the spot who has produced the British Empire, and do not let us get away from that. To limit the powers of the men on the spot, the local authorities, is to take away their pride and prevent them from doing something to help the country.
539 On a question of very deep principle, I oppose the Bill. I oppose it because too much centralisation will lead us on the road to servitude. We have had plenty of examples, and I ask the Minister and the Government to pause before they go on with this type of legislation. A great and respected journal has said that when authority presents itself in the guise of organisation, it develops germs fascinating enough to convert communities of free people into totalitarian States. Speaking for a number of my hon. and right hon. Friends I think they will agree from the depths of their hearts that the warning that I am trying very inadequately to give is a very proper warning. The time has not come when the rigid enforcement of an alleged ideal is sound policy, and this Bill is unsound policy.
|Division No. 23.]||AYES.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h. Univ.)||Foot, D. M.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Apsley, Lady||Fox, Squadron-Leader Sir G. W. G.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Gates, Major E. E.||Peat, C. U.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)||Pilkington, Captain R. A.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Goldie, N. B.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pym, L. R.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Gretton, J. F.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Groves, T. E.||Roberts, W.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Bull, B. B.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Burden, T. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Hicks, E. G.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southpert)||Storey, S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hughes, R. Moelwyn||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Suirdale, Viscount|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Tate, Mrs. Mavis C.|
|Critchley, A.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Levy, T.||Teeling, Flight-Lieut. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Linstead, H. N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Drewe, C.||Llewellin, Col. Rt. Hon. J. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Eccles, D. M.||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ede, J. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Montague, F.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||York, Major C.|
|Elliston, Captain Sir G. S.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Mr. Boulton and Mr. A. S. Young.|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Petherick, Major M.||Studholme, Captain H. G.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Procter, Major H. A.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Manninghum-Buller, R. E.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Lt.-Col. Dower and Mr. Turton.|
§ Miss Horsbrugh
In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys), we want cooperation with local authorities and with the Minister of Agriculture and if on the Committee stage we can find something which will make that co-operation better my right hon. Friend will certainly consider it. We want both to play their part.
§ Mr. Turton
In order to have a vote on the clear issue and not on the Amendment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 116; Noes, 13.541
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Tuesday next.— [Mr. A. S. L. Young.]