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Milk (Self-Wholesaling Allowances)

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1943

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51.

asked the Minister of Food what amounts in respect of self-wholesaling allowances were paid, or will be paid, for the period 1st November, 1942, to 31st October, 1943, to co-operative societies in different parts of the country, to the Express Dairy and to United Dairies; and if any estimate can be given for the same payments for the 12 months ending 31st October, 1944?

It has not been the practice to disclose, in relation to particular firms or trading organisations, information of the character suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend, and I hope he will not press me to do so.

In view of the fact that this money comes out of the taxpayer's pocket, does the Parliamentary Secretary not feel that I am justified in asking this Question?

I would be very willing to give the total figures, but the hon. and gallant Member is asking for figures which there is no obligation on companies to disclose under the Companies Act. I think it would raise a difficult matter of principle.

Is it not the case that co-operative societies did not wish for this allowance, and is it not obviously a waste of public money?

As the producer-retailers do not get the same as bigger concerns, is it not a matter for the public to know the reason why?

I am very willing to give the total figures, but this is a Question which asks me to segregate particular firms and particular co-operative societies and to give information which discloses facts about their businesses which are normally not made public.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary really take up the position that this House is not entitled to have information about money paid from public sources? If so, it is an entirely novel one.

I precisely did not take up that position. If the House wants the information, it must have it. What I did was to ask the hon. and gallant Member not to press me. I would like to have an opportunity of presenting in considered form the question of principle involved to the House but of course if the House wants the information it must have it.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me how I can get the information?

52.

asked the Minister of Food the amount payable in respect of self-wholesaling allowances to milk producers for the 12 months from 1st November, 1942, to 31st October, 1943; and by how much per gallon the price to producers could have been raised if this same sum of money had been paid to the producers?

The allowances to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers are not payable to producers. A few producer retailers are eligible for them, but the amount involved is negligible and would make no difference to producer prices if spread over the whole of milk production.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what sum of money is in fact being paid throughout the country for this self-wholesaling allowance?

The hon and gallant Member asked what was the amount payable in respect of producers. There is no allowance in respect of producers.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what sum of money is being paid out of the taxpayer's pocket in respect of this self-wholesaling allowance?

The hon. and gallant Member's Question gave me some trouble. I thought he had made a mistake, but I answered the Question. I thought he meant distributors, and I think he does, but he did not so notify me. If that is what he does mean the figure for the year ended 31st October, 1943, was approximately £2,400,000. I cannot give an exact estimate for the year ending the 31st October, 1944.