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Clause 3—(Amendment Of S 22 Of Principal Act)

Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1944

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

There is one point I think we ought to clear up before we leave this Clause. Perhaps the Parliamentary

out that he was right and his interrupter was wrong?

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 119; Noes, 18.

Secretary can explain the position of producer-retailers vis-à-vis other dairymen. Under this Clause, the producer-retailer will have his licence taken away by the Minister with no right of appeal, whereas other dairymen will have their licences considered by a local authority, with a right of appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture
(Mr. Tom Williams)

I think my hon. Friend is wrong in his first assumption. The Minis- ter does not intend to take anybody's licence away. What will happen under this Clause is that the producer-retailer will be placed in exactly the same position as any other producer of milk and the Minister's officers will, of course, inspect farm buildings owned or rented by a producer-retailer just as they will inspect buildings, water supply, etc., of other farmers.

If you compare a United Dairies shop with a farmer who is a producer-retailer you find this difference, that the question of the cancellation of the United Dairies licence will be considered first by the local authority and then, if they are aggrieved by the decision of the local authority, there is an appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction. In the same area there may be a producer-retailer with his dairy behind and his shop in front. Whether he has a licence to retail milk will be decided by the Minister of Agriculture, with no right of appeal. It appears to me to be extremely unfair that in the same town we should have two men carrying on the same trade, one with a right of appeal and the other with none at all.

When I replied to the hon. Member's first question, I replied exclusively on the producing side of the operations of the producer-retailer. I said the producer-retailer on the productive side would be in an identical position with any other producer of milk. But because the producer-retailer performs two functions, he comes under exactly the same authority for inspection as the United Dairies when selling his milk. Therefore, if any contravention of the Regulations occurred in the distribution of milk, it would be the same authority who would deal with the producer-retailer who would deal with the United Dairies. There is no discrimination at all on the distribution side. There is only a difference because the producer-retailer performs two functions instead of the one performed by United Dairies.

Do I understand the position to be this? "A" sells milk from his farm. The question whether he has a licence to sell is decided by the local authority and not by the Minister. On the Second Reading the Minister led me to think that the sale of milk on the farm by the producer-retailer would be decided by the Minister of Agriculture and not by the local authority.

My recollection is that the Minister was referring only to the operations of a producer-retailer on the productive side. It was considered in the initial stages whether or not, because of the duality of the producer-retailer, he might be divorced from the operations of Clause 1. However, the Minister explained clearly why it was felt that the producer-retailer should be left in exactly the same position as any other producer.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making it quite clear. It appears that the local authority will inspect the farm of a producer-retailer and decide whether he has a licence to sell milk or not. At the same time, on the same farm, the inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture will be inspecting to see whether it is right for his cows to produce milk. Is that clear?

I think we can get it straight in a moment, if we exercise a little patience. I think I have made it plain that the producer-retailer only differs from the normal producer, or the normal distributor, because he performs two functions, and the only case where the selling of milk by a producer-retailer would be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, is where the producer-retailer sold his milk from the farm and not through an ordinary dairyman's premises.

That is the very point that I put, to which I understood the right hon. Gentleman to give the opposite reply. If a producer retailer is selling his milk on his farm, he will no longer have his licence considered by the local authority and, if he is competing with another producer retailer, he will find himself deprived of the right of appeal which the other man has. That is a point which the Committee should weigh carefully before they pass the Clause. I am sorry to have taken so long to get it out but now we have it clear. You have this anomalous position. The producer retailer who is partly selling off his farm and partly in a shop will find the question whether he has a licence for the shop decided by the local authority and the other part by the Minister of Agriculture. You will have two authorities inspecting the trade of the same man, which does not seem very satisfactory.

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will resist this attempt to take power away from the Minister of Agriculture, and take away our power to challenge his decision on the Floor of the House. Hon. Members opposite want little petty agricultural communities where the farming and the landlord fraternity are the dominating factor in these little councils. They were trying last week to get the Minister to agree that a trained legal mind was required. Exactly the same thing happened with the Minister of Health.

I think that we are getting a little far from this Clause, which is on a fairly narrow point and rather a complicated legal one.

I agree that it is complicated, but, as far as I can see, the whole aim of the die-hard Tories is to have these duties put into the hands of county councils and local councils because all these little councils have their own inspectors.

The only object we have is to get the authorities in England the same as they are in the blessed land of Scotland which the hon. Member represents. If he is dissatisfied with the local authorities, why has he not put an Amendment down to make the Scottish Minister look after Scottish milk as the Minister of Agriculture is doing in England?

I hope I have said enough to let the Parliamentary Secretary realise what is happening. I listened when the question was discussed on the Adjournment, and it was evident that that was the aim and I can see that there is the same aim here. They do not want Members of Parliament to have the power to impeach the Minister. They try to get round it by all manner of means. They have tried it in one instance, and I do not want them to succeed where the Minister of Agriculture is concerned, because he has done a good job and he requires power behind him to enable him to carry on his good work.

I cannot allow what the hon. Gentleman has said to go unchallenged. He said that the opposi- tion to this Bill was a move of the Right wing Tories. The whole of the party to which the hon. Member used to belong, the Independent Labour Party, went into the Lobby with us.

This is an issue which cuts across all parties, and I suggest that Members below the Gangway on this side should look out because if they are not careful they will suffer from the attitude they are taking up.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.