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Clause 1—(Prohibition Of Sale Of Tuberculous Milk)

Volume 65: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1914

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

If a person—

  • (a) Sells, or offers or exposes for sale, or suffers to be sold or offered or exposed for sale, for human consumption or for use in the manufacture of products for human consumption; or
  • (b) Uses or suffers to be used in the manufacture of products for human consumption;
  • the milk of any cow which has given tuberculous milk, or is suffering from emaciation due to tuberculosis, or from tuberculosis of the udder, or from acute inflammation of the udder, or from any of the diseases specified in the First Schedule to this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act, if it is proved that he had previously received notice from an officer of a local authority, or that he otherwise knew, or by the exercise of ordinary care could have ascertained, that the cow had given tuberculous milk, or was suffering from any such disease.

    I beg to move, after the word "Act" ["First Schedule to this Act"], to insert the words, "or has permitted the cows or their milk to be handled by any person or persons suffering from any disease liable to infect or contaminate the milk."

    This Amendment must really be read in conjunction with two or three later Amendments, and it will save time if the House will allow me to explain the nature of the proposal now. Under Clause 2 the purposes for which special and general Orders may be made respecting milk and dairies include the following:—
    "(b) the inspection by persons authorised by the local authority for the locality in which the dairy is situate of dairies and persons employed in or about dairies."
    Clause 11 provides:—
    "If any person obstructs any inspector or other officer of the Local Government Board or any medical officer of health, or any veterinary inspector or surgeon, or other officer of or person employed by a local authority, in the execution of his powers under this Act or any Milk and Dairies Order, or fails to give any such officer all reasonable assistance in his power, or to furnish him with any information he may reasonably require, he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act."
    If we turn to Clause 15 we find that the penalty for committing an offence against the Act is £5 for the first offence, and in the case of a second or subsequent offence £50, and so on. I beg to say that these penalties, owing to their magnitude, are obviously intended to be applied to persons engaged in the dairy trade for profit, and not to persons employed at a daily wage in milking cows, cleansing churns, or anything of that kind. If these powers were rigidly enforced for inspecting persons connected with a dairy in order to ascertain whether they are in a state of health, and otherwise fit persons to be employed in a dairy, the Act will meet with a great deal of opposition, and I think the opposition will be justifiable. The purpose of my Amendments, the first of which I am now moving, is to make it quite clear that, the liability for the cleanliness of the dairy and for all matters in connection with the health of the cows being placed on the farmer or the dairy keeper, the liability for employing healthy people who are reasonably cleanly in their habits shall also rest on the person engaged in the industry for profit. The Amendment places that liability on the farmer or dairy keeper in exactly the same way as Clause 1 says:—

    If a person—
    "(a) Sells, or offers or exposes for sale, or suffers to be sold or offered or exposed for sale, …"
    and so forth, the milk of any cow which has given tuberculous milk, he shall be guilty of an offence against the Act.

    He has got not only to see that the cows shall not be animals suffering from acute inflammation of the udder or any disease specified in the first Schedule to the Act, but also that neither the cows nor the milk is handled by any person or persons suffering from any disease which is liable to affect or contaminate the milk. No doubt the effect of this effort to get a purer supply of milk will be to increase the cost of milk. A person engaged in the dairy business will have to comply with all the provisions of this Bill, and I think it perfectly reasonable and fair, to avoid all this friction which will occur from the inspection of every person engaged in or about a dairy, to leave to him the liability for the cleanliness and health of the persons engaged in the dairy, just as you leave the liability for the cleanliness and health of the cows which are being milked upon the farm on the person who is engaged in the industry. Therefore I think that if this Amendment and the following one, which is practically consequential are read together, with the omission of these provisions in Clause 2 and Clause 4 for the compulsory inspection of persons, we shall have a simpler Bill, which will undoubtedly work very much more smoothly, and will be very much more logical.

    I beg to second the Amendment, because I cannot help thinking that this system of compulsory inspection of farm labourers will cause a great deal of inconvenience and irritation in the country districts. Though the Bill talks about dairies yet the term "dairy" includes a farm. Consequently a person employed in a dairy means every person employed on a farm. Consequently every farm labourer whether he is engaged in the business of handling or milking cows will come under the provisions of this Clause and be liable to compulsory medical examination. As the Clause is framed it is apparently a sort of harmless examination, but one has to look for the intention of this Bill to the Bill of last year which was a little more elaborate in its provisions. The effective operation of this Bill rests with the Local Government Board, which may make Orders for the inspection. The Bill of last year set out what the intention then was. It provided that the medical officer of health of any sanitary district or any officer of the sanitary authority acting on his instructions shall have power at all reasonable hours to enter into any dairy situate within the district and inspect the dairy, and the medical officer of health shall have power at reasonable hours to inspect the persons employed in or about the dairy. It is perfectly clear from that, having regard to the interpretation of the Bill, that this is compulsory examination for every labourer engaged on a farm, and not only the labourer himself, but his wife, if she has a job on the farm, or his daughter.

    I have no hesitation in saying that it would be very bitterly resented in the countryside, particularly accompanied, as it is, by very heavy penalties—penalties of £5 for his refusal to submit to medical inspection, or refusal to allow his wife to be submitted to medical inspection; £50 penalty for a second offence, and for a continuing offence £2 a day. Surely that is not reasonable legislation. I strongly protest against the words remaining in the Bill in their present form. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed."] Hon. Members opposite call out "agreed." What, would they say if a similar provision were put in a Bill for compulsory medical inspection of trade unionists who handle tools? But we know that compulsion is an element in all Radical legislation. You have it in the Shops Act, in the Coal Mines Acts, in National Insurance, and in Home Rule. It seems to me that there is always a policeman behind every Radical measure. I am concerned for a countryside district where a very large number of labourers are employed, and I very strongly protest against this provision being introduced into the Bill rendering these people, who are unable to protect themselves, and who are indirectly represented here, liable to be subjected to compulsory medical examination. It is said: "We do not intend to examine them all."

    When I referred to this point on the Second Reading the President of the Local Government Board stated some case of a man with a sore hand who had been employed in milking the cows. That is no case on which to base power enabling-a medical officer of health, or any person whom he may employ, to subject to compulsory medical examination every man engaged on a farm. It will be said, it was suggested in Committee, that this power was necessary to discover consumptives and people of that sort engaged in the dairy business. We are all agreed that consumptives should not be employed in actually handling the milk. But this goes far beyond that. If it were limited to people actually handling the milk I should perhaps not have so much objection to it. But by this Clause any busybody or medical officer of health could hunt up consumptives all over the land. That is a very unreasonable provision indeed. We have had in the countryside quite enough in the way of inspection. Most hon. Members know how the countryside has suffered from the administration of the Swine Fever Regulations, the consequence being that where pigs were once a source of profit to labourers, one hardly sees a pig now. All this is the result of this inspection and interference with people who are endeavouring to the best of their ability to carry on a perfectly proper business. Where is that system going to end? Are you going to examine every man who handles food; the baker, the fishmonger, the butcher, the greengrocer. I venture to think these words are wholly unnecessary in order to secure the object we have in view to secure milk for the people, but is simply part of a system which has grown up of interference with the people and their liberties.

    The hon. Members really have two proposals in view. They propose to omit from the provisions in the second Clause the part which would allow the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture to make regulations to allow the inspection of persons employed in the dairy, and as a recompense they propose to put into Clause 1 a penalty upon any person who allows a person suffering from a dangerous infectious disease to have any part in the handling of the milk or cattle. With respect to the second proposal which is now before us, I submit it is quite unnecessary because it is already the law of the land. Under the Contagious Diseases of Animals Act of 1878, an Order in Council was made in 1885 which includes this provision which now has the force of law:—

    "It shall not be lawful for any person following the trade of cowkeeper or dairying or purveyor of milk to allow any person suffering from dangerous infectious disorder or having recently been in contact with a person so suffering to milk cows or handle vessels used for milk for sale," etc.,

    and presenting penalties for any breach of that regulation. Therefore it is quite clear so far as the Amendment which is now before us is concerned it is unnecessary, and on that ground I ask the House not to accept it. With respect to the further Amendment, which, as it is linked up with this, I submit I am in order in discussing, that would strike out a part of the Bill which is essential for its proper working. The two things are necessary in this connection. In the first place it is above all things desirable to see that the milking business should be conducted with cleanliness.

    Everyone who has made a study of this matter knows that it is most desirable to impress upon the agricultural community, all the agricultural community, that they should do what the best farmers already do, namely, see that their cows are milked in a cleanly way. It is therefore necessary that the inspectors when they go round examining these matters should have the opportunity of observing whether the persons who actually engage in the milking of the cows and in handling the churns and other vessels have or have not got filthy hands. Secondly, this provision in the Bill aims at the detection of dangerous diseases, not by any general medical inspection, which is not contemplated. It would not be for a moment dreamt of for every labourer and farmer and farmer's wife who might be engaged directly or indirectly in milking cows, but where an epidemic does break out, where there is diphtheria or typhoid fever or other disease which is traced back to the farm it is essential that the medical officer should be able to examine the persons medically to see whether or not they are responsible for the contamination of the milk.

    Let me give the House two or three recent cases that have actually occurred. In Bradford in 1912, 112 persons got typhoid fever due to milk infection from an unrecognised case of typhoid fever. At Chelmsford in 19'10 there were twenty-five cases of diphtheria due to an unrecognised case of diphtheria in the house of the farmer who supplied the milk. In Folkestone and various Kent districts in the years 1905–9 there were no fewer than 323 cases of typhoid fever in several successive outbreaks coming from five different farms, owing to the employment of one man who was what is called a carrier of typhoid fever; that is, he had had typhoid fever, been cured of it, but carried in his body the germs of the disease, which infected the milk at each farm to which he went. Under these circumstances, as similar cases come to the knowledge of the Board year by year, it is obviously necessary that there should be power to secure medical inspection in these cases. For these reasons I trust the House will confirm the decision of the Committee which considered this point carefully, and retain the provision of this Clause.

    I am in entire agreement with the right hon. Gentleman that it is essential that people who have the handling of cows or milk should be liable to inspection. My complaint is that the words of the Bill go much beyond that. The Bill speaks of "persons employed in or about dairies." The right hon. Gentleman will agree that in the opinion of a large number of Members of the Committee that would make almost every employé on a dairy farm liable to inspection.

    Perhaps I can save the time of the House. I had hoped that hon. Members interested in this question would have put down an Amendment which I suggested, namely, to omit the words "employed in or about dairies," and make the Clause read "persons in or about dairies who have access to the milk or to the churns or other milk receptacles." I promised to consider that, and I shall be glad to move it.

    Question, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill," put, and negatived.