29 NOVEMBER 1940, Page 14


SIR,—We see you are discussing " Wasteful Milk Rounds." The Government has announced it is carefully examining the recommen- dations of the Committee on the Cost of Milk Distribution presided over by Lord Perry. Rationalisation as recommended by this Com- mittee means the survival of the biggest retailers only and the total extinction of about 6o,000 small retailers throughout the country who have, in the past, always been regarded as the backbone of British commerce. It is obvious to all those with a knowledge of the milk trade that Lord Perry's report could not have been published at a more inopportune moment for the following reasons: r. The country is suffering severely from dislocation brought about by a state of war and disruption which has been caused in nearly aft the large towns and cities through enemy actich., resulting in move- ment of the population, which must upset all the grounds upon which effective rationalisation can be proceeded with.

2. In spite of the fact that the Minister has assured the country that the milk production this winter will be sufficient for the population there are already signs that the liquid milk supply will be inadequate and that milk will have to be rationed. The distributors, therefore, are being asked to work their business on a reduced margin, with the possibility of ever-creasing costs (vide the recent wages award of the Milk Distributive Trade Board) and with the almost certain possibility of a reduced turnover which must result from rationing.

It could further be questioned whether the Co-op. movement would be able to carry out distribution at a margin which is any less than is obtained at present, and therefore if this report is proceeded with Lord Woolton will undoubtedly have the whole of the retail distri- butive trade in line against him. Moreover, the Co-op. movement and the M.M.B. together could not hope to succeed in taking over (as has been timidly suggested) the distributive trade of the country, and any attempt by them to do so would only result in the complete dis- ruption of this essential food service.

• Members of Parliament studying this problem should propose that no further steps be taken on the report until April or May of next year when milk supplies will, it is hoped, be more normal and the position of the population in the various towns and cities possibly have reached a more stabilised condition than at present. Then, and only then, should the matter be reconsidered by the appointment of a Distributors' Board with full statutory powers, who would be in a position to deal effectively with the M.M.B., carry out reforms which are not possible under existing circumstances and discipline and con- trol the retail milk trade. Without such a Board any attempt to rationalise the industry would result in unfair advantages to the large combines and Co-ops., with victimisation of the smaller traders.—