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New Clause—(Further Power To Stop Supply Of Milk Within Any County Or County Borough From Any Dairy Without Such County Or County Borough)

Volume 65: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1914

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(1) In any case in which the medical officer of health of any county or county borough is of opinion that tuberculosis is caused or is likely to be caused by the consumption of milk supplied from any dairy without such county or county borough, the council of such county or county borough, or the medical officer of health thereof, may stop the supply within such county or county borough of milk from such dairy until the supply of milk therefrom is stopped by the council of the county or county borough in which the dairy is situate (in this Section referred to as "the responsible authority") or the medical officer of health of the responsible authority, or in the case of any difference arising between the council of such county or county borough and the responsible authority as to the necessity for stopping such supply until such difference is determined by the Local Government Board.

(2) For the purpose of this Section the council of such county, or county borough and the medical officer of health thereof may exercise all such powers as would have been exercisable by them under the provisions of this Act if such dairy had been situate within such county or county borough

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

This is one of a series of Amendments I have put down at the instance of the London County Council. Its object is to prevent the undue curtailment of their present powers to prevent the sale of tuberculous milk in the Metropolis. As the Bill stands the position of the responsible London authority will be considerably worse than it is now. Since the passing of the General Powers Act, 1907, the London County Council have taken strong measures to prevent the sale of tuberculous milk. They have found no less than 1,100 tuberculous samples on sale in London. They want to be able to continue this work. They do not wish, during the time that the local authorities are perfecting their organisation, to find that the milk supply of London has become less satisfactory than it now is. The object of the Clause is to enable them to take immediate action to prevent the supply of tuberculous milk without waiting for the local authority in the county from which the milk came to take steps and make an order. Similar power to this was proposed in the Milk and Dairies Bill of last year, and I think that is a strong argument if the right hon. Gentleman will consent to its re-insertion in this measure.

The London County Council has no idea of excluding milk in this way in every case where they find it tuberculous. The natural and the usual course will be to communicate at once with the county councils from which the milk has come and leave it to them to stop supply, but we have to remember from bitter experience in the past, that in certain districts there is a distinction in the minds of the local authorities between the importance of the producers' interests and the interests of the consumer. It is quite "possible that you may find some county councils rather slack in administering the new order, and if they are slack it will mean that the milk from the area infected with tuberculosis will go on being sold in London for a very long time. The Local Government Board cannot interfere until they have held a local inquiry which will take probably some months, and then when they do interfere they have only the obsolete and clumsy device of a mandamus.

I think this power would be a great security to the milk supply of London. The London County Council do not in any way wish to invade the territory of the rural county councils. The Clause, as it is drafted, gives, for the purpose of this Section, to the London County Council and to councils who ask for this power to go outside the area and stop the supply, all powers which they exercise at present or which they would exercise if the dairy was situate in the county of consumption. That is necessary to ensure that proper compensation should be given under Schedule 3 in the Bill in cases where the milk has wrongfully been prohibited from being sold in the county, and it is in no way intended to use it to enable the London County Council to inspect dairies without the permission of the local medical officer, and if it would make it easier for rural county councils to agree to this Clause I should suggest that their difficulty might be met by saying, "Provided these powers mentioned in Sub-section (2) would not enable any county councils to make inspections on its own account outside its own area."

Although I sympathise with the purpose the hon. Member has in view I am afraid I cannot possibly accept the Clause. It does not apply, of course, only to London, but to all counties and all county boroughs and it would enable any authority of a county or a county borough to stop the supply within its own area of milk from any dairy which it thought was supplying tuberculous milk. It is not to have any power of going back to that dairy and verifying whether or not the milk comes from that particular dairy. It is not to have power to take any steps to secure a remedy for the defect, but it is simply to issue a fiat that the milk from a particular dairy is to be stopped. The scheme of the Bill is that in circumstances such as these the medical officer of the borough or place in which the milk is being sold has a right to call upon the medical officer of the county from which the milk comes to make immediate inquiries into the circumstances and to take all steps necessary to stop the supply of milk.

There are elaborate provisions in the Bill in Clauses 3 and 4, and in the Second Schedule, to enable this to be done. The case of tuberculosis, after all, though important, is not one of immediate urgency. In the case of scarlet fever or diphtheria we ought to stop the supply instantly. We ought to know whether a great deal of the milk does or does not contain tubercle bacillus, but it is not necessary to stop instantly the supply of milk from particular dairies. The effect of the Clause proposed by the hon. Member would be, I am sure, to cause much friction between the authorities that issued such notices and the localities in which the farms were situated, and against which Orders were issued. The Committee sat for seven days, and this proposal was never made there. I hope the House will retain the Bill as it stands in this regard.

Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and negatived.