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Volume 155: debated on Thursday 15 June 1922

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asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the urgent need for a pure supply of milk to the community, the Government proposes to take steps at the earliest possible date to bring into operation the Milk and Dairies (Consolidation) Act, 1915?

I hope that a Bill will be introduced at an early date, and pending its introduction I cannot make any statement as to the Government's intentions as regards the 1915 Act.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what quantities of machine-skimmed condensed milk were imported into this country in April and May, 1922, and how these quantities compare with the corresponding months of April and May, 1921 and 1920; whether he is aware that during the months of April and May there was practical cessation of the manufacture of condensed milk in this country; and whether during these months in previous years very considerable quantities of milk surplus to the requirement of the community had been preserved as condensed milk of high grade quality?

The quantities of sweetened condensed milk, machine-skimmed or separated, imported in April and May of 1921 and 1922 were as follows:

I am informed that there has in recent months been a very large reduction in the home manufacture of condensed milk. The answer to the last part of the question is in the affirmative.

asked the Minister of Health whether, seeing that in the evidence laid before the Committee appointed by his predecessor to consider the question of fixing standards for condensed milk, there was practical agreement between the whole of the manufacturers of this country and the principal pre-War importers of condensed milk and other interests concerned as to the exact standards to be fixed, and that opposition was immediately forthcoming to the proposed standards suggested by the Committee by reason of their being considerably lower than the pre-War voluntary standard as recommended in such evidence, he is now prepared to publish the Report of the Departmental Committee on Condensed Milk Standards; and whether he is aware that there is now general agreement that it is in the interests of the community that such standards should be fixed for full cream sweetened and unsweetened condensed milks and skimmed condensed milk, and that special labelling should be required for the clear distinction?

I understand that there was agreement amongst a number of the witnesses who appeared before the Departmental Committee on Condensed Milk Standards as to the standards which they wished to have fixed and that the Committee, in recommending somewhat lower standards, had in mind particularly the consideration that it would be undesirable to cut off a substantial proportion of the national supply of the commodity. I may also remind the hon. Member that my powers in the matter are limited to what is necessary for the prevention of danger arising to public health and I should, therefore, not feel justified in fixing any standards which could not be attained generally. My predecessor undercook to publish the report of the Departmental Committee if there were any general desire for it, but no such desire being expressed, the report was not published. For reasons already indicated, I am not prepared to make Regulations fixing such standards as those which were suggested by the trade interests to which the hon. Member refers, but I am prepared to consider the question of making Regulations requiring appropriate labelling.