Considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
MR. GRETTON moved an Amendment I which would have the effect of restricting the operation of the Bill to imported foods. He said that he moved this Amendment on behalf of his hon. and learned friend the Member for Kingston. Not only did the Bill empower the officers of the Local Government Board to supervise the importation of food, but also the preparation, the storage, and the distribution of food. That power would override the very ample and complete powers already conferred by the Public Health Act, 1875, and also the further powers given in the Act of 1896. The effect of the proposals would be to put a great expense on the Exchequer, and at the same time to override the administration of the great local bodies which had been set up. He was not aware that any serious complaint had been made against the administration of the public bodies in respect of the Food and Drugs Acts, the operation of which had been attended with good results. The effect of leaving out the words which he now moved to omit would be to give the Local Government Board full power, which the Committee would agree the Department ought to have, over the importation of all food supplies from abroad. No doubt there was a great scandal in connection with some of the foodstuffs imported from other countries, and they were all agreed that further powers should be given to the Government to protect the people of the United Kingdom against the distribution of unwholesome food which was sent here in considerable quantities. A further Amendment which he proposed to insert at a later stage was to put in the Bill after the word "consumption" the following words," or from the storage or distribution of any such articles after importation." The combined effect of these Amendments would be that the Local Government Board would be able to exercise full powers, which no local authority could so effectively exercise, over the importation and distribution and storage of foreign food stuffs, but the powers of the local authorities would be left untouched. As a consequence, there would be no danger of incurring the expense of a new army of inspecting officers which, as the Bill stood, might be entailed to the country.
"In page 1, line 9, to leave out the words 'preparation, storage, and distribution.'"—(Mr. Gretton.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
said he wished to take that opportunity of asking the President of the Local Government Board on this rather comprehensive measure to make a statement as to his general policy in regard to the Bill. He was taking, in the first clause, very extensive powers, but if the right hon. Gentleman assured them that these powers, widely drawn as they were, were necessary for the preservation of the public health, then his case was a strong one. But he (Lord Balcarres) intended to submit to the right hon. Gentleman in a few minutes an argument in addition to that advanced by his hon. friend which really made him rather alarmed as to the extent to which the right hon. Gentleman was carrying his Bill. The Bill was to enable regulations to be made for the prevention of danger arising to the public health from the importation, preparation, storage, and distribution of articles of food, other than drugs or water. He did not know why the right hon. Gentleman excluded drugs and water, both of which might be extremely deleterious to health. The right hon. Gentleman first took power to deal with the importation, preparation, storage, and distribution of articles of food. That might be a very desirable thing, but in the hands of a Minister who took extreme views it might be a very dangerous power to be vested in any Government Department. With regard to the preparation of food, it seemed possible, on the face of the Bill, that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to go into any kitchen in the country and inspect the way in which food was being cooked. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to do that? The right hon. Gentleman could also deal with the storage of food. He could go into any larder, or cellar, or shop, and he could make rules in regard to the storage of food in such places. Then there was the power which the right hon. Gentleman took with regard to the distribution of articles of food, under which he could make rules as regarded the packing up of a box of chocolates which he (Lord Balcarres) sent from there to his own door. He had a very great respect for the Local Government Board, and he did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman meant in any way to use the powers which would be conferred on him by this measure in an unreasonable way, but, at the same time, he thought that those powers were very extensive. Assuming that it was really necessary to take such wide powers, the right hon. Gentleman said that they were guarded by the words, "the prevention of danger arising to public health." Of course that would be the explanation that any officer acting under the Statute would give when saying that he wished to see how a person was doing his cooking, or the way he was keeping his food, or how he was sending articles of food through the post, or, again, how he was keeping his beer or wine in his cellar. He supported in a formal manner this particular Amendment in order to ascertain whether the Committee might have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he really did not mean to enforce all the powers he was asking Parliament to give him. Personally, he did not like powers which were not limited in the Statute, but were only limited by the good word or good faith of the particular Minister concerned. After all, Ministers changed, and the next Minister in charge of the Local Government Board might take a different view from the Minister who preceded him. He submitted to the right hon. Gentleman that the powers taken in the Bill were really gigantic, and that he owed to the Committee, and also to the country at large, some assurance that, at all events so far as he was concerned, he would adhere strictly to the object described in his speech the other night, and would not carry out what would be a serious infringement of private rights where no danger to public health was involved.
said he was fully convinced of the necessity of conferring on the Local Government Board very wide powers in regard to this matter. He had been about forty years actively engaged in the manufacture of articles of food and drink. During that period he had often wondered how anybody who knew anything at all of the facts of the case could be satisfied with the inspection of factories and of places where the preparation of food now went on. The sanitary inspection at present carried out was mainly directed to the protection of the people engaged in the work of the manufactories and not to the protection of the health of the people who were to consume the articles produced. He had had to go through many manufactories, and having regard to the condition of these places he was quite sure that no hon. Member would ever think of consuming the articles which were made in such surroundings—surroundings which in some cases were as bad as could possibly be imagined. For example, he had seen the manufacture of things intended for human consumption carried on in places where there was a stable in one corner and a dust-bin with cradling worms in the middle. It required some knowledge of the effects of these evil surroundings on articles of food to realise the gravity of permitting such conditions to prevail. The moulds were simply harbourers of germs, and even the sterilisation required by cleanliness was not carried out. The filling machines were covered with a mass of dirt and a gelatinous deposit which made them breeding grounds for micro-organisms of the worst description. For these and other reasons he hoped that the powers taken under the Bill would be as wide as possible. Until the proposed regulations were made and put into efficient working order it was impossible that many of the objectionable things which now went on in connection with the preparation of food should be put an end to. The careful manufacturer had no fear of these regulations, but, on the other hand, he would welcome them as an assistance to him in carrying out the methods he had at heart, and because they would make other men who were carrying on a similar business conform to the same methods as himself. The careful manufacturer would also welcome the rules and regulations because he was anxious to impress on those whom he employed the necessity of these precautions. The need for such precautions was constantly present to the minds of those engaged in the preparation of food stuffs, and he hoped that this very desirable Bill would pass with the fullest powers possible embodied in it. He also hoped that hon. Members would take care to criticise the regulations when they were laid on the Table, and he did not think any Member would find after going into the matter that the restrictions could possibly be made too wide.
said he did not desire in any way to delay the progress of the Bill, because, having listened the other night to the President of the Board of Trade's description of the premises in which the preparation of food stuffs was very often carried on and at which the regulations were aimed, he was bound to say he did not think anybody could doubt that such steps as were really necessary to prevent a continuance of the present state of things should be taken. But he did not really understand the form of the Bill. If hon. Members would look at the Bill they would see that it ran in this way: "The power of making regulations under the Public Health Act, 1896, and the enactments mentioned in that Act" should include certain other powers relating to measures to be taken for safeguarding the public health. He had taken the trouble to go back through those Acts, and he found that the Public Health Act, 1896, referred one back to the Public Health Act, 1875. The section in the Act of 1875 which, unless he had entirely misread this Bill, would give to the right hon. Gentleman his powers, was Section 134 of that Act, which applied merely to extraordinary and exceptional cases. Under that Act the powers of the Local Government Board were given to them not at any time according to the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman but whenever any part of England appeared to be threatened with or was affected by a formidable epidemic or endemic or infectious disease. It seemed to him that what the right hon. Gentleman wanted, and appeared to think he was getting in this Bill, was a free hand to do what he pleased. The hon. Member who had just spoken desired that the right hon. Gentleman should have this free hand, but he (Mr. Bowles) saw that there were dangers, not perhaps in giving these powers to the right hon. Gentleman individually, but in giving an absolutely free hand in matters of this kind to any Government Department. What he ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman was that owing to the way the Bill had been drawn there was a limit placed on his powers, which were only to be exercised where he could show that the whole or some part of the country was either in the grip of or imminently threatened by a formidable epidemic. If that was so it meant a considerable limitation of the powers which the right hon. Gentleman thought he was going to take. He did not see where was the need of any reference to the Public Health Act, 1896.
said the hon. Member was speaking about the whole drafting of the Bill, and that was not in order. The question was whether the Committee should leave out the words mentioned in the Amendment.
said he thought it was intended that on this Amendment the right hon. Gentleman should make a general statement, and it had occurred to him that if that statement were made at this stage it might save time later on.
said that as he understood it the general statement referred to by the noble Lord was as to how the right hon. Gentleman meant to carry out the Act in regard to the importation, preparation, storage, and distribution of food, which would distinctly be in order on that Amendment.
said in that case he would not proceed further.
said he did not rise to address the Committee out of a feeling of opposition to the Bill, but because in connection with this Amendment he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman a few questions. He had a feeling, based on some experience, that if this Bill became law it would not in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman run any risk of becoming a dead letter. Nevertheless, what he was anxious to ascertain was what organisation he proposed to create in order to carry the Act into effect so that all sorts of articles of food and drink would be brought under its purview. In connection with the matter of administration he asked what the new staff would number, and whether it would be able to put the Act in force the moment it became law. He might be very ignorant, but there were two words in the clause which he thought required some explanation. From what he had been able to gather when the Bill was last before the House there was no statement made by the Minister in charge to show whether soda water was included in the Bill. They all knew that was an article of human consumption. These gaseous waters had a very great vogue, and were very often distributed under very bad conditions. Some of them also had alcoholic contents which they ought not to have. Personally, he believed there was no more unwholesome thing than soda water, and he wanted it clearly established whether the right hon. Gentleman, if that Bill became law, would have the control of these waters and would in some war be responsible for inducing the public to consume less of them, thereby doing a great act towards the improvement of the general health of the community.
said the noble Lord (Lord Balcarres) had appealed to him to make a general statement as to what was to be the policy and the conditions of administering the Bill. Perhaps that would be convenient and he trusted it might shorten discussion if he said a word or two. First, let him say with regard to these regulations that the Government proposed they should be laid before Parliament, that they should be issued to the public under the notice of proposals to make rules which was embodied under the Rules Publication Act of 1893, and that they should be published in the London Gazette at least forty days before they came into force. Any public body would be able to obtain a copy of these rules when they were made, and the authority making the rule must under the Act consider any representations or suggestions sent to them before they issued the rules. The effect of that would be that any hardship apprehended would, he was sure, be dealt with by the Local Government Board in precisely the same way as they had always dealt with matters of this kind when representations were made to them with respect to regulations by persons or interests supposed to be affected. He passed from what the Board intended to do in regard to the regulations to the necessity for the regulations. The noble Lord asked him what would be done in regard to mineral waters, and the question had been repeated by the hon. Member for Hoxton. After the statement which had been made by the representative, as he thought he might be called, of the Mineral Water Trade Association in support of the Bill, it was obvious that in the judgment of these people the regulations could be successfully entrusted to the Local Government Board. The hon. Member for Hoxton, who pursued the same argument, had very good reason for so doing, because in the East End of London, according to a report which he had in his hand, the conditions under which mineral waters of a certain class were made were such, he could assure the House without troubling them with details of the noisome and filthy surroundings, that if they listened only for a sentence or two, they would fully agree with him that soda water and mineral waters should be included in the Bill—
He could assure the House that when some Stepney customers complained of water being dirty it must be very dirty indeed."During my recent inspection I only found one distinctly dirty collection of bottles. They belonged to a foreign immigrant in Stepney who carried on the business of bottling in quite a small yard about 11 feet by 12 feet, in which was situated a water closet; the yard was not tidily kept, and the water used was exposed to contamination by sooty particles and dust. Several of the bottles, filled three days previously, were tinted, and two of them contained many tine filaments, specks, and masses which looked like colonies of mould."
Why does not that come under the Factory Act?
said that in such cases a person rented two rooms and hired next door, say, a back yard for a store. There was no machinery or workshop, and factory and workshop regulations did not apply. The local sanitary inspector made conditions with regard to the sanitary arrangements for the use of the inmates, but neither the factory nor the workshop inspector nor the sanitary inspector had got any further power. What the Local Government Board wanted to do was to supplement the powers of the local medical officer of health so that he might see that the yard was paved, that the water was clean, that the conditions under which the industry was carried on were not fraught with danger, both to the people engaged in the industry and then to the consumers of the products. The noble Lord went on to ask whether under the Bill it would not be possible for the medical officer or the inspector to go into any kitchen. Might he ask for one moment the attention of the House as to the need for someone going into kitchens of that kind? The passage referred to one of the best local authorities in the country. Ought not someone to go into this kitchen?
So long as the water closet from a mechanical point of view satisfied the sanitary inspector under the Public Health Act, he could do nothing in regard to preventing the storage, preparation, and distribution of food. He took another case—"The most serious defect in this system is that mud and filth is allowed to fall into the kitchens, but this has been obviated in many cases by the provision of movable trays placed immediately beneath the openings."
And, again, with respect to other rooms—"Again, in a large number of cases the water-closet accommodation was in a very defective condition; in thirty-five cases the water-closet either opened or communicated directly with the kitchen, and in nine others they were actually within the kitchen itself, without either light or ventilation."
Some of the choicest morsels and the most expensive classes of food and drink for the West End were prepared under conditions absolutely intolerable and abominable. He was asked by the hon. Member for Hoxton what organisation was going to be resorted to for the carrying out of those regulations. They did not intend to create any new organisation, but to act through medical officers of heath, who would be desired to enforce the regulations of the new Act."For instance, butter is made in rooms used as sleeping rooms, cheese is prepared in ill-ventilated cellars, or in close proximity to a water-closet, and while it is recognised that the milk churn which contains milk must be kept scrupulously clean, no importance is attached to the appearance of the churn in which cream for butter-making and sour milk are placed."
asked if the staff at the disposal of the authorities would be adequate in numbers and otherwise to carry out that highly important matter, which was essential in the health of the country.
said he thought the present staff would be able to do the new work concurrently with their present sanitary work. Under the Bill they would in effect be able to kill two birds with one stone. The hon. Member for Norwood had asked whether the section of the Act, which he quite innocently misquoted, applied. It did not; he quoted the wrong section. The noble Lord could rest assured that the Local Government Board under these regulations were not going to irritate people who carried on their business decently and in order. The Board did not intend to use the regulations as a means of harassing any trader or manufacturer legitimately carrying out his business in an elementarily decent way. But he thought that in view of the enormous amount of foodstuffs of all kinds concerned, liquid, tinned, canned, and raw, or partly cooked or preserved, and after the scandals that had been revealed during the last twelve months, the Local Government Board would not be doing its duty to the country unless it sought to afford the protection of the Bill. He appealed to the House, and he gave them the assurance that the Board would only maintain the interests of public sanitation and public health, and would not interfere with any undertaking carrying on the preparation, storage, or distribution of food in a proper way. He appealed to the Member for Rutland, who asked if the Government could accept the Amendment which he moved, and upon which he (Mr. Burns) had been invited to make that general statement. Might he say that it was impossible for them to accept the Amendment? If they accepted the Amendment the effect of it would be to leave out one of the important points of the Bill. They could not confine the Bill to imported food. The hon. Member for Hoxton would be one of the first to admit that if he had to choose between food from abroad properly tinned and prepared or some of the tinned foods prepared in some of the East End places to which he had referred, he would wish to have the imported food, rather than imported food mixed with home food in the places he had described. If their powers over food at home were limited and they were confined merely to imported food, they would destroy the whole effectiveness of the Bill.
said the speech which the President of the Board of Trade had just delivered made it perfectly clear that this was a Bill of great importance. In his interesting speech the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with an aspect of the question which they all admitted to be vital to the health and well-being of the people, but he had not touched on the objections of the noble Lord who sat beside him. The President of the Local Government Board had dealt at length, with great emphasis and with great justification, with the necessity for exercising supervision over the preparation and storing of food under certain circumstances, but he had not addressed a single word to the objections which had been raised by his noble friend to certain provisions of the Bill. The Bill would give the Local Government Board power to exercise supervision over storage of food and drink in private houses. The right hon. Gentleman might say they were raising captious criticism to the principles contained in the Bill, and that the Local Government Board had no intention of invading the privacy of private houses. That might be so, and they might be satisfied to trust to the good judgment of the present occupant of the Presidency of the Local Government Board, but they had no security that any future occupant of that office would entertain the same enlightened view. It would be an intolerable thing if, under the provisions of this Bill, it should be competent for the Local Government Board inspectors to invade private houses and inspect the conditions under which articles of food and drink were stored. He had a suggestion to put forward which would perhaps avoid that danger which they felt the Bill involved. The proposal was that the Local Government Board should have the power to make regulations for the prevention of danger arising to public health from the importation, preparation, storage, and distribution of articles of food or drink intended for human consumption. He would suggest that after the word "intended" they should insert the words "to be sold," and it would then read "intended to be sold for human consumption." That would leave the Local Government Board the power of inspecting such kitchens as the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned, in which the conditions as described were perfectly horrible and quite repugnant to the feelings of anybody who cared for human health. If the right hon. Gentleman would accept the words he had suggested private kitchens belonging to dwelling-houses would be freed from inspection. He did not think the country would tolerate for one moment that it should be in the power of Local Government Board inspectors to invade private dwelling-houses. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider that point, and do something to meet it. In dealing with the regulations which it was proposed the Local Government Board should draw up, there was a stipulation that the said regulations should be laid on the Table of the House for forty days before they became operative in order that those who disagreed with them might have an opportunity of making plain their objections. Could the President of the Local Government Board give an undertaking that the House should have an opportunity of discussing them if it wanted to, for much would depend on the time of the session at which they were laid on the Table.
said he thought they ought to leave the question as to the regulations on that clause. It would be better on the new clause.
bowed to the Chairman's ruling. He wished to urge, however, that the right hon. Gentleman should accept the words he had suggested which would limit the inspection to articles of food imported, prepared, stored, or distributed for sale, and would not include the inspection of private houses.
said he would be happy to accept not only the spirit, but the substance of the hon. Gentleman's proposals, provided the form should be "intended for sale for human consumption." That met the whole of the points that had been raised. It was not intended to invade domestic kitchens; it was only intended to deal with food for sale for human consumption.
said he welcomed the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken. He had an Amendment on the Paper, but in view of the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken, he would not move it.
said that as one who had helped in public health administration for several years, he wished to point out to the House that public authorities had already ample powers of inspecting I any kitchen of any restaurant, hotel, or eating-house at any time they wished to. He was the Chairman of the Committee which drew up the Report which had been read by the President of the Local Government Board. The medical officer of health for the City of London had inspected the kitchen of every restaurant, cook shop, or eating-house in his boundaries, and the medical officer of health for Westminster had done the same thing. He did not say the regulations were not required, for anybody who had read the reports of the inspectors would agree that they were. He had read the reports of medical officers of health as to the condition of the kitchens of some of the hotels in London and would not care to have his meals there, after reading those reports. What he wished to point out, however, was that in the last few years the London County Council had been advised that the boroughs had the power to inspect those places and some of them had exercised it. The difficulty was not in the making of regulations, but in the carrying of them out. It was no good for the President of the Local Government Board to make regulations if the present staff of local authorities was incapable of carrying them out. That was the one great difficulty throughout the whole of England. The President of the Local Government Board had spoken as though the regulations were only to apply to London and to the large corporations, but that was not so; they were to run throughout the whole of England. He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman had particularly mentioned meat and milk. How were they to be inspected? What was the machinery by which all the meat and milk could be examined in the country as well as in London? Everybody knew what it would mean to take the meat coming into London and have it properly examined. For proper inspection meat ought to be inspected at the time of slaughter. It would mean an enormous expense, but he would not shrink from that, for he believed that it ought to be done. But in the country there was no machinery at all for doing this work. Outside London no sanitary inspector need pass an examination, and while all large corporations would see that their inspectors did pass examinations, it was not compulsory. In the country sanitary inspectors might be paid the most miserable wages. In some cases they were only paid £10, £15, or £50 a year. Then medical officers of health were often paid small salaries and had not to devote their whole time to the duties of their office, but had to look to private practice to get their living. Under these circumstances how could all these large and powerful regulations be carried out? The real thing was to provide the machinery. The President of the Local Government Board had failed in that, for he had brought in a Bill to make regulations, but had brought in no Bill to establish the necessary machinery.
said that that question clearly did not arise on the Amendment. The Amendment was to leave out certain words and the hon. Member was not addressing himself to those words.
said the examining of these stores of food could not be carried out on the existing machinery.
said the hon. Member had been making that statement, and as a statement it was in order; but he could not go into the question of changes of machinery at this point.
said the issue was that that Bill entitled the local authority to carry out the inspection of food, but did not set up any machinery by which the regulations could be effectually administered.
said the hon. Member must bear in mind that they were not dealing with the question of machinery, but with the regulations which were to be made.
said he was in no sense in disagreement with the desire—the very proper desire—of the President of the Local Government Board to strengthen the inspection of the preparation, storage, and distribution of food in this country. The only point he wished to make, and which he had tried to explain, was that the Committee should have on this Amendment an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, which he had already partly given, that he intended to act through the local authorities in whom the powers of the Public Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act were already vested. If the right hon. Gentleman now gave him some assurance that words carrying out his expressed intention that these powers would be exercised through the present authorities would be inserted in the Bill at a later stage he would not press the Amendment any further. He was quite in agreement with everything that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, and if he had that assurance he would withdraw the Amendment.
said that he could give the assurance unhesitatingly. The Bill did not give the Local Government Board power to create any authority and they intended to act only through the existing authorities.
said that he thought that after what had passed his hon. friend would do well to withdraw the Amendment. He must say, however, that personally he would rather be inspected by the Local Government Board than by anybody else. He had thought all along that the Local Government Board were going to carry out these duties, but he now understood that the importation, preparation, storage, and distribution of food were to be looked after by local men. He did not wish, however, to press that point now, but would merely content himself with advising his hon. friend to withdraw his Amendment.
said that while thanking the right hon. Gentleman for what he had said with reference to the arguments which had fallen from his hon. friends, he would like to urge him to consider very seriously whether the existing staff of the local authorities could undertake this work. While paying every tribute to the activity and energy of the local authorities, such experience as he had had in London made him doubtful as to whether these duties would not be better carried out by the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he thought the arrangements which he contemplated would make the working of the Bill efficient. He (Mr. Hay) had grave doubts on that subject. He desired to aid in making the provisions of the Bill efficient, and he therefore appealed to the right hon. Gentleman again seriously to consider whether he could not find it possible to take further steps to strengthen this inspection.
said that after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
"In page 1, line 10, after the word 'for,' to insert the words 'sale for.'"—(Mr. John Burns.)
Amendment agreed to.
DR. COOPER moved to leave out the words "examination and." He said that he moved the Amendment not so much out of opposition to the Bill as with the object of trying to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman what the word "examination" meant. He did this in the interests of his constituency. His borough had in it the Foreign Produce Exchange. Also large cold storage depots, three or four miles of wharves, and a large number of the wharves were crammed full of the goods which the right hon. Gentleman sought powers to examine. What he wanted to know was on what authority would the cost of the examination fall. The articles to be examined were not intended for Bermondsey and not even for London, because the produce was distributed throughout the whole of the country. On whom, therefore, would the cost of the examination fall? The right hon. Gentleman rather appeared to indicate that the cost would fall upon the local authority, but, if that were the case, it would cast a very unfair burden upon one borough in London, as it might have to bear the expense of examining articles of food intended for distribution over the greater part of the country. Under those circumstances he thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to consider whether a district so affected should not receive some contribution from a central fund, or whether the examination should not be made by the central authority for London or by the Local Government Board.
said the question of a grant from a central fund did not arise under the Bill. It would require a Resolution, and therefore the reference to it was not in order.
said that he only suggested the matter for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration. He must ask the right hon. Gentleman what the examination really meant. If it meant that the inspector was to enter upon the wharves and to open all the cases of produce it meant a very serious thing. If it did not mean that, how were the inspectors to obtain information as to the defective articles of food which were very often contained in the cases. Nearly all the boats bringing Ostend rabbits, fresh-killed sheep and pigs, as well as tinned produce, came up to the wharves in his district. Was the cost of the examination in all those cases to be charged to the local authority? He had no desire to press his Amendment, but he would be perfectly satisfied to receive an answer from the right hon. Gentleman.
"In page 1, line 13, to leave out the words, 'examination or.'"—(Dr. Cooper.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
said in answer to the hon. Member, that the Port Sanitary Authority of London, plus the medical officer and the sanitary officers of the hon. Member's own parish, now carried out fairly well the duties entrusted to them. They did the work so well, in fact, that last year between the medical officer of the hon. Member's own parish and the Port Sanitary Authority's medical officer some 2,600 tons of unsound meat was condemned. More meat than that would have been condemned had they had the power which this Bill through the regulations would give them. He had no doubt that if this Bill was passed and regulations were made, the medical officer of the district which the hon. Member represented and of the Port Sanitary Authority would be able to have a stronger grip over the importation of unsound meat than they now had. The hon. Member had raised the question of cost. On that subject might he say that the whole of London contributed to some of the local expenses, while Imperial taxation bore the cost of half the salaries of some of the medical officers. In regard to London, the county council, which drew revenue from the whole of the Metropolis, paid half the salary of the whole of the officers mentioned. He must admit that in the event of the Bill proving that the medical inspection had to be increased and more inspectors had to be appointed the Local Government Board could only act on the experience of six months' working of the Bill. Until that experience was forthcoming he was assured by the medical officer of the Local Government Board and the efficient staff working under him that in hearty co-operation with the existing medical and sanitary officers they would be able to do a great deal of good without adding a single penny either to the local rates or to the Imperial taxes. He therefore appealed to the hon. Member not to press the Amendment, and as representing a district in which a large quantity of meat of this character was unloaded, to assist to give that power which these authorities were asking him (Mr. Burns) through this Bill to grant. The Local Government Board had not received from the whole of the Port Sanitary Authorities of England and Wales nor from any medical officer or any association of medical officers, a single protest against the powers which were sought to be secured by this Bill. On the contrary, they had the unanimous support of all the local authorities on whom these duties would be devolved. In these circumstances he thought his hon. friend would be well advised not to press his Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said he had on the order paper an Amendment in the following terms:—
They had had the assurance from the right hon. Gentleman however, that he did not intend to interfere with the local authorities. The object of his Amendment was that there should not be two authorities set up to deal with this question; that there should, in fact, be no rival authorities in competition with the existing authorities which now dealt with these questions. As they had had that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman he would not move his Amendment, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had very wide powers given him in this Bill."In page 1, line 25, at end, to insert the words "(3) Nothing in this Act shall authorise the creating of an authority other than the existing sanitary and port sanitary authorities to carry out the regulations made under this Act.'"
Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
MR. JOHN BURNS moved a new clause in fulfilment of a pledge to the House as to the laying of regulations before Parliament for forty days, their publication in the London Gazette, and other incidental conditions.
"All regulations made under this Act shall be laid as soon as may be before Parliament, and the Rules Publication Act, 1893, shall apply to such regulations as if they were statutory rules within the meaning of Section 1 of that Act, and that Act as so applied shall, notwithstanding anything in Subsection 5 of Section 1 thereof, extend to Scotland, with the substitution of a reference to the Edinburgh Gazette for the reference to the London Gazette."
Brought up and read a first time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
said that he wished to raise one or two questions in regard to this matter because he believed it was one of very great importance. He thought that this Bill was too important a measure to be taken at that hour. He saw by the Amendment just moved that all the regulations made under the Act were to be laid as soon as might be before Parliament, and that the Rules Publication Act should apply to such regulations as if they were statutory rules within the meaning of Section 1 of that Act. In reference to that he would like to ask what opportunity the House of Commons would have for considering these regulations. It seemed to him that if they were to apply the same system to other Acts of Parliament they would be able under an Amendment of that kind to legislate to a considerable extent. He for one would be only too pleased to allow the right hon. Gentleman to be an autocrat so far as the Local Government Board was concerned, knowing that in his hands the welfare of the country would be perfectly safe. Nevertheless they could not expect the right hon. Gentleman to be followed by a gentleman of exactly the same capacity, and it seemed to him a very serious matter for Parliament to allow any President of the Local Government Board or any authority to have the powers contained in that particular Amendment. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what the Amendment meant, and whether the House of Commons would have an opportunity at any time of discussing these regulations.
said the Bill was really carrying out and extending the powers of the Public Health Act of 1896. That applied to England and Scotland, and under the new clause which the right hon. Gentleman brought up he had very properly put in a provision that in the application of these further powers to Scotland the Edinburgh Gazette was to be substituted for the London Gazette. As the principal Act applied to Ireland just as it did to Scotland and England, was there any objection to adding to the new clause a provision that the Dublin Gazette should be used in so far as the Act applied to Ireland. He did not put forward the claim in any contentious way, but he did not see that there could be any objection.
said he would like to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. In the earlier part of the discussion in Committee he had said that he did not think the Bill would be a dead letter in the right hon. Gentleman's hands. Might he express the hope that so long as the right hon. Gentleman was at the Local Government Board, he would make it his business that Parliament should have an opportunity, anyhow, in the first year of discussing these new regulations? It was all very well to say that under the provisions of the Bill the rules would be on the Table of the House for forty days, but the knew that that, to all intents and purposes, especially under the conditions under which business was now conducted, was, except in rare exceptions, an absolute farce; the chance of a private Member being able to raise a question on the laying of regulations was very remote indeed. The regulations really were the means by which Parliament would be able annually to overhaul the treatment of the food of the people. The question was, therefore, of the first importance for the health not only of adults but also, what was in many respects more important, of the children, and he most sincerely asked the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence with the Leader of the House to see that an adequate opportunity of discussing the matter was reserved. They might be told they would have it on the Local Government Board Vote, but they all knew that, although the Local Government Board Vote was far more important in many respects than the Home Office Vote, only one day as a rule was allowed.
Not one this year.
said that, at most, two had been given in recent years and the bill of fare for the day was of such variety and such importance that there was very little chance of such an item as these regulations forming part of it. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider his suggestion.
said that during his Parliamentary career he had noticed on several occasions that when a Minister in charge of a Bill was confronted by serious opposition as to want of full details as to the working of a particular measure, he fell back on the expedient which the right hon. Gentleman had adopted on this occasion. He had introduced a Bill of one clause saying that Regulations for the carrying out of that Bill would be laid on the Table of the House, and had led the House to believe or understand that they would have an opportunity of discussing these Regulations. With regard to a great number of Bills perhaps that was sufficient assurance, but he did not know whether the Committee had properly realised what appeared to be vested in the Local Government Board under this Bill. Under the Bill and under the clause they were now discussing the Local Government Board would be able by mere rules to do things which if they were in an Act of Parliament would be the subject of very serious and long discussion. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman when he proposed that new clause, or when he gave the pledge to which he referred a few moments ago, must have done so, to use a somewhat vulgar expression, with his tongue in his cheek, knowing perfectly well that the proposal was really not worth the paper on which it was printed. Let them take that session. Supposing the Bill had been passed into law last session and the Regulations foreshadowed under that particular Amendment had been laid on the Table of the House any time during the latter half of the session, what opportunity would there have been of discussing the Regulations? The Regulations of the Bill were drastic and far-reaching, and they were of such a character that the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the House should have an opportunity of discussing them. At the present time it was quite clear that under the pressure of business to which the House of late had been accustomed, it would be utterly impossible to get any opportunity. He had not gone into any statistics, but the right hon. Gentleman must know that during the last two months of this session almost every day had been allocated by the various guillotine and other Resolutions, and that it would have been impossible for any Member, even the right hon. Gentleman himself, to introduce a discussion on such a matter as the Regulations foreshadowed under that clause. Personally he was not very intimately interested in the Bill, except in so far as it was pointed out by the hon. Member for Bermondsey that a large quantity of the food which was landed in his particular constituency was distributed through all parts of the country. For all he knew his own constituency might consume a number of the potted rabbits, potted pork, and other foods which had been spoken of. That gave him a direct interest in the Bill. He would point out particularly that, whereas the right hon. Gentleman might think he was making a considerable concession under that Amendment, he was in reality doing nothing of the kind. The probability of the Regulations being discussed by the House was remote in the extreme.
said he would make an appeal to Members opposite and to the House generally. It was the idea of the Government that the House would get the Appropriation Bill by about eleven o'clock and they were desirous of getting the first seven or eight Orders on the Paper, most of which were entirely non-contentious. They were disappointed in not getting the Appropriation Bill till nearly twelve. He made the arrangement with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Forster) that they should get the next three Orders. He was sure the Opposition would abide by that arrangement. If the Opposition were to go on discussing these Orders the arrangement was no use whatever, because they could get the Orders at any time in such circumstances. The House would see hat it was not quite fair to arrange to give a certain number of Orders and then to discuss them as if no arrangement had been made. He did not imply that there should be no discussion whatever, but he thought hon. Members would support him in the view that there should be nothing in the nature of detailed discussion.
said the clause was a considerable concession. As a matter of fact Local Government Board Regulations and Orders were ruled out expressly from any necessity of the kind. The Board made Regulations under various Public Health Acts, under the Unemployed Workmen Act and under the Poor Law and other Acts; and if hon. Members would look at the Rules Publication Act of 1893 they would see that these regulations were specially ruled out. But on his occasion, in deference to public opinion, the President proposed to present Rules to the House, This was the scheme under which it was proposed to lay these Rules.—