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Ministry Of Food

Volume 529: debated on Monday 28 June 1954

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Non-Welfare Milk

44.

asked the Minister of Food the average annual cost of production of non-welfare milk per pint; and the average sale price.

The average cost of milk as delivered to the consumer is about 7½d. a pint. The retail price for ordinary and pasteurised milk during 1954–55 will average about 6¾d. per pint.

What social justice is there for selling milk which is non-welfare milk at ¾d. a pint less than the cost of production to a nation prepared to pay hundreds of millions of pounds for beer at three times its cost of production—and to pay for it gladly.

I can only say that the different fluids are consumed by different people of different ages for different purposes.

Livestock Sales (Staff)

48.

asked the Minister of Food the number of officials in his Department who will be employed in connection with the sales of livestock.

On a point of order. Can anything be done to help private Members, Sir? I put a Question on eggs on the Order Paper to the Ministry of Food, but it has been transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. Previously, the Ministry of Food answered similar Questions. We ought to stop this reprehensible and evasive action.

It has frequently been pointed out that the transference of Questions is entirely a matter for the Departments. It is impossible for me or the learned Clerk to know exactly what the bounds of Ministerial responsibility are.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary think that this considerable staff will be adequate?

West Indian Produce (Marketing)

49.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement on the marketing arrangements regarding the procurement of foodstuffs from British West Indian territories.

The only foodstuffs bought by the Department from the British West Indies are sugar and concentrated orange juice. The sugar is marketed through the trade, the orange juice distributed under the Welfare Foods Scheme.

In view of the anxiety expressed recently, which the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, will he look at this matter sympathetically and see that the vital food-producing industries in the West Indies are adequately safeguarded?

I appreciate the point which the hon. Member has in mind, particularly in relation to bananas and citrus fruit, and I assure him that the representations of the West Indian delegates have been very sympathetically examined.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any progress was made during the recent discussions with the West Indian fruit delegation on the question of citrus fruit?

Yes. What was explained and what was promised to the West Indian delegation, as recently described to the House by my right hon. and gallant Friend, relieved their anxieties in relation to citrus fruit.

Skimmed Milk (Disposal)

50.

asked the Minister of Food if he will give an estimate of the quantity of surplus skimmed milk disposed of as waste in the years 1952, 1953 and to the nearest convenient date in 1954.

Would it not be a far better policy, instead of wasting this valuable food by throwing it down disused mineshafts, to give it free of cost to milk distributors, who would, I think, gladly bottle it and offer it for sale to consumers?

That is a difficult problem. The skimmed milk in surplus, which amounts to one-third of 1 per cent. of the total supply of skimmed milk, is in the hands of the manufacturers. They do their utmost in time of flush to convert it into powder or dispose of it for food on farms, but this is a difficult problem which recurs whenever there is a milk flush of substantial size.

Is my hon. Friend aware that very good skimmed milk cheese can be made—Dorset Blue Viney? If the manufacture of that cheese was encouraged I am sure that it would have a large sale among people who are afraid of getting too fat, because it contains no fat.

I am sure that manufacturers are aware of the possibilities of converting this milk into cheese, but I note my hon. Friend's point.

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter and see whether there is not a possible way of putting this waste milk to good use?

I am as concerned as the hon. Gentleman is about this, but this is a very difficult problem for a short period of each year.

Butter (Price)

51.

asked the Minister of Food whether in view of the fact that butter purchased by his Department at 2s. 11d. per lb. is retailed at 3s. 10d. per lb., or more, he will reimpose price control.

No, Sir 2s. 11d. per 1b. is the f.o.b. price for Southern Dominions butter. To the average f.o.b cost must be added the cost of freight, duty, handling expenses, overheads and costs of distribution before a true comparison with the retail price can be made.

Having regard to all the normal and legitimate costs of transport and distribution, is it not quite obvious that the Ministry of Food is getting far too great a share of the swag, and that out of this 11d. margin, the Minister is taking 5d. or 6d. a 1b.?

I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that his guess is quite wrong, and that the modest profit, which may at any time turn into a loss, is not of the size that he guesses.

Does the Minister appreciate the significance of this Question, which states that butter is sold at 3s. 10d. per lb., although that fact was hotly denied by the party opposite last week?