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Clause 7—(Appointment Of Veterinary Inspectors)

Volume 65: debated on Thursday 30 July 1914

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(1) A local authority may, and when required by the Local Government Board shall, appoint or combine with another local authority in appointing one or more veterinary inspectors or employ for the purposes of this Act and the Milk and Dairies Orders any veterinary inspector appointed under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, and any local authority may, and when required by the Local Government Board shall, provide or arrange for the provision of such facilities for bacteriological or other examinations of milk, as may be approved by the Board.

(2) Any Order requiring a combination of local authorities for the purposes of this Section may provide for all matters incidental to such combination, and in particular how the expenses incurred are to be apportioned.

I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words "dairymen being entitled to avail themselves of such facilities at a nominal charge."

The object of the Bill is to have clean, pure milk, but cases may arise when farmers may suddenly have a suspicion that one of his cows is giving tuberculous milk. In such a case he ought to be able to test quickly whether there are any grounds for his apprehension, and he could do so if he had this facility for a bacteriological examination of the milk, and if his apprehensions were well grounded he could at once stop disposing of the milk. On the principle that prevention is better than cure, I cannot help thinking that the acceptance of this Amendment would often be the means of preventing the pollution of the milk, and thereby enabling a farmer to avoid prosecution for an offence committed quite unwittingly. If dairymen had access to this bacteriological examination it would often be the means of preventing a breach of the law, and of producing a state of things which we should all prefer to see brought about by mutual arrangement rather than by prosecution. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept this proposal.

I beg to second the Amendment. We are all very anxious that the milk supply should be pure, and it is most desirable that farmers should have an opportunity of detecting whether milk is tuberculous before putting it on the market, and before they are proceeded against. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give favourable consideration to the matter.

This is a Clause which provides that the local authorities may, and when required by the Local Government Board shall, provide certain facilities for bacteriological and other examinations. The hon. Member-proposes that local authorities shall be obliged to give facilities to dairymen to have their milk examined at a nominal charge. It is not a duty imposed on the Government but on the local authorities, and it applies not only in the case of farmers, but to dairymen within the meaning of the Bill—that is to say, every milk seller in London, and every wholesale man in any of our big towns could require the local authority to give facilities to have his milk examined, at whatever intervals he might himself choose, at a nominal charge. It is very desirable that farmers and others should be encouraged to have examinations made of their milk, but I am not sure that it is right to require the local authorities to provide facilities, at the cost of the rates, for the milk trade of England to have bacteriological examinations made whenever they wish. I am sure that the local authorities, especially in rural districts, would give facilities to farmers where possible, and would have these considerations well in mind. But I seem to have a recollection of having heard protests in this House more than once against Bills being passed which cast onerous duties on local authorities that have to be paid for not at the expense of the taxes, but at the expense of the local rates, and I seem to recollect hearing the hon. Member who moved this Amendment occasionally in this House, and on deputations, giving expression to those sentiments. I hope that the House on this occasion will not require local authorities to assume this new and heavy burden. I feel sure that they will voluntarily give such facilities as the case requires.

I am very glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has said. With all respect to the hon. Member, I think that the facilities given by the county council in most counties of England are sufficient. For that reason I hope that the hon. Member will not press the Amendment to a Division.

I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter. On the question of expense I am hoping that he will accept an Amendment which I have further down on the Paper that three-fourths of the expense should come from the Treasury. The provision of pure milk for the people is of national importance, and if this Amendment would conduce to that result, the Treasury ought to bear the cost.

I quite see the point of what the right hon. Gentleman says. The expense might be very heavy if every dairyman in every city were entitled to have a free bacteriological examination. What you want to ensure is that the milk shall be pure at its source, and the real object of the Amendment would be ensured if this were done. I hope therefore that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the Amendment and accept it so far as it relates to farmers who are the source from which the milk is obtained.

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether without this it would be legal for a local authority if it chose to allow these facilities to farmers, leaving it of course, optional to them, the arrangement about the charge being made by themselves? I see a great objection to placing the burden on them if they do not. want to undertake it, of doing the work at a nominal charge. But it would be an obvious advantage if farmers were interested, and if they are so interested that they would wish themselves to have their milk tested in this way, and the local authority is willing to do the work, and the farmers are willing to pay a fixed price, then unless there is some provision which enables the local authority to do this, a power of this kind might be useful.

On a point of Order. This Amendment if carried would impose a charge on the rates. Is it in Order on the Report stage?

There are public analysts and so on to whom farmers have access if they care to avail themselves of it, at very reasonable charges, and in some cases for no charge at all. The amendment moved by my hon. Friend is the first instance of any farmer asking for this. If there was a demand by the agricultural bodies generally, I think that I should have heard of it. I do not think that there is any demand for the Amendment at all.

I have had very pressing demands. My hon. Friend as a member of the Central Chamber of Agriculture has great experience, but his experience is not of this type of farming. However, in view of the discussion which has taken place, I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.