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Clause 4—(Obligation To Inspect Dairies In Certain Cases)

Volume 65: debated on Thursday 30 July 1914

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(1) If the medical officer of health of any local authority has reason to suspect that tuberculosis is caused, or is likely to be caused, by the consumption of any milk which is being sold or exposed or kept for sale within the area of the local authority he shall endeavour to ascertain the source or sources of supply, and on ascertaining the facts shall forthwith give notice of them to the medical officer of health of the county or county borough in which the cows from which the milk is obtained are kept, whether the dairy where they are kept is within or without the area of the local authority, unless the local authority are themselves the council of that county or county borough.

(2) On the receipt of such notice it shall be the duty of the medical officer of health of the county or county borough to cause the cattle in the dairy, and, where the case so requires, the persons employed therein, to be inspected, and to make such other investigations as may be necessary.

(3) Sufficient notice of the time of the inspection shall be given to the local authority whose medical officer of health gave the notice, and to the dairyman to allow that officer or a veterinary inspector or other veterinary surgeon appointed by the authority, and, if desired, another veterinary surgeon appointed by the dairyman being present at the inspection if either party so desire.

(4) The council of the county or county borough on whose medical officer of health the notice is served shall send to the medical officer of health of the local authority who gave the notice copies of any reports which may have been made by the medical officer of health making the inspection, and of any veterinary or bacteriological or other reports which may have been furnished to him, and shall give him information as to whether any action has been taken upon those reports and as to the nature of that action.

I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "has reason to suspect" ["if the medical officer of health of any local authority has reason to suspect"].

4.0 P.M.

I am as anxious as anybody to protect the country from infectious milk, but I cannot help thinking that the words which, by my Amendment, I propose to leave out may lead to unnecessary hardship if they are retained. Of course, there are a good many men whose opinions are of the highest importance, and could not be challenged, but we know by sad experience that there are a good many medical officers who are moved by other motives than purely humane or scientific motives. If the President of the Local Government Board cannot accept my Amendment because he thinks it too drastic, perhaps he would suggest some more moderate words, or, at any rate, something which will not give the medical officers of health such immense powers as this Bill gives and will protect to some extent the producers.

Amendment not seconded.

I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "and, where the case so requires, the persons employed therein."

This Amendment is a repetition of the Amendment which was adopted on Clause 11 the other night and has for its object to enable the medical officer of health whenever he is so minded to make a medical inspection of the persons employed in the dairy, and also the labourers employed in the farm.

I accept the Amendment.

In view of the statement of the President of the Local Government Board that he is prepared to accept this Amendment, and as the whole thing was discussed the other night, I need not say anything further.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3), to insert the words,

"and such officer or person appointed as aforesaid shall have the same power to require any cow to be milked, and samples of milk to be furnished to him as are vested in the medical officer of health of the authority whose duty it is under this Act to make the inspection."
Under this Clause where the rural councils of the county boroughs on the requisition of the authority where the milk is consumed carry out the inspection of the dairy, the medical officer of the county or a veterinary inspector or veterinary surgeon appointed by the authority, should they desire another veterinary surgeon, is allowed to be present at the inspection if either party so desire. Obviously the presence of an officer representing the authority where the milk is consumed could be of no value unless he is enabled to get evidence. At at the present time, of course, it is usual to take samples of the milk for use. The London County Council is most anxious to retain these powers. They will, of course, have no independent opportunity of inspection, and they do not ask for it. but they do wish that their inspector who accompanies the officer inspecting should be entitled to take samples. Such provision cannot possibly hurt the local authority responsible if they are doing their work, and the sample by the independent authority will only check the result and the power to take the sample will avoid friction by preventing any dispute as to whether the cow is tuberculous or not. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept this Amendment.

I certainly hope the House will not accept this Amendment, because it is entirely contrary to the spirit and intention of this Bill. The object of this Bill is to have uniformity of administration throughout the whole country, and the object, moreover, is to enable each authority to carry out the requisite duties within its own area, but not to permit an outside authority to come within the authority of the consuming district or to invade the locality in which the milk is produced. There seems to be no reason, if you are going to have uniformity of administration throughout the whole country, why you should give such power to the London County Council or to any other municipality which happens to have had passed in its favour a General Powers Act which contains certain powers which are now going to be superseded.

Let me put it on the footing that the hon. Gentleman is putting it, namely, that there should be in this case dual inspection.

There is dual inspection already. The London officer can accompany the medical officer, and all that we ask is that he should be allowed to take away some evidence.

That is a stronger claim than I thought the hon. Member was putting forward. We now know that the unfortunate producer of the milk is to be subject to a dual analysis, and subject, therefore, to the possible condemnation not of one authority, but of one of two authorities. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accept this Amendment.

One of the main objections throughout the long controversy which has gone on for years on the Milk and Dairies Orders and on various attempts to pass general legislation by agriculturists and their representatives has been against invasion of any kind whatever. Farmers have accepted the idea of general inspection and legislation governing the production of milk, merely on the ground that it is going to sweep away local legislation with the powers of invasion causing great inconvenience and hardship in many parts of the country. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman if he gives way in the slightest degree at any stage of the Bill to the maintenance of the power of invasion, or the maintenance of the right of one authority to invade the area of another authority, he will never get his Bill. If he gets it through this House, he will not get it through the other House, and as we all want this general legislation to be passed in a reasonable form, he should resist this Amendment which we believe to be absolutely unnecessary.

I base my appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to accept this Amendment on purely administrative grounds. I quite admit that under this Sub-section the medical officer who represents the consuming authority has got the right to come down and to be present at the inspection in the producing area. I admit invasion to that extent, but I suggest that if you allow the medical officer of the consuming area, not merely to be present as an observer of the inspection but to take an executive part in this inspection, and by taking away a sample he would be taking an executive part in the inspection, it would be opening the door to a great deal of friction between the medical officer and the local authority. The object of allowing the medical officer of the consuming authority to be present at the inspection is in order that he may be convinced that a thorough and proper inspection is being carried out. If you allow him to take away samples and submit them to an independent analysis you are opening the door to a good deal of needless administrative friction. I am much more interested in this question from the point of view of the consuming authority than the producing authority, but I suggest that you have to trust some of them. If your medical officers in the producing area are so incompetent or dishonest that they cannot be trusted with the taking of samples by the authorities in the consuming areas, it is time the right hon. Gentleman took other action to reform those authorities. In a matter of this sort it is necessary for the consuming authority to trust to the discretion and ability of the local authorities and the medical officers of health in the producing area. If we adopt the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. W. Guinness) we shall be opening the door to a great deal of friction which will make the administration of the Act very difficult.

I confess that I had not foreseen all these difficulties, although I had formed the opinion that although this Amendment was of little use, it probably also would do little harm. I see now that there are possibilities of friction between the two authorities. If the officer of the authority which first takes action comes down to the rural district from which the milk comes, and if he is allowed to accompany the local medical officer and take a separate sample, he must take it for some purpose to have an independent analysis made. If two authorities have two analyses, the probability is that the second analysis could only be of use to enable one authority to quarrel with the other. The Mover of this Amendment must realise that his proposal is strongly opposed by many of those who are looking at this matter from different points of view, and who have rendered to this Bill loyal and consistent support. In the circumstances, I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will persist in his opposition to this Amendment, because I feel satisfied that it would interfere with efficiency. If we rely upon the vigilance of a duly appointed officer we are much more likely to get the result which we all desire than if there is a division of responsibility. Those interested in this trade will be quite willing to deal with one representative in the administration of the law, but if there is one thing more than another we object to, it is petty interference by two or three representatives of the law. I am satisfied that the acceptance of this Amendment would interfere with efficiency, and it would be extremely annoying to dairymen who are anxious to do all they can to secure a clean milk supply.

I am very much disappointed with the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, because he gave me some ground for hoping that he would accept this Amendment. I think it is only due to the London County Council that I should give a word of explanation. Hon. Members representing rural districts do not quite understand what this Amendment means. It is said that this is a question of maintaining existing legislation, but as a matter of fact it would not give any fresh power of inspection. The London County Council has also been accused of having the intention of harassing local authorities by their inspection, but they cannot do that. They cannot have any controversies in the Court with the local authorities. All they can do, if they find local authorities are not carrying out this work, is to appeal to the Local Government Board, and therefore this is not a question of repeating jurisdiction. At the same time, I quite realise that I have no hope of carrying this Amendment. I relied on the right hon. Gentleman's reasonable frame of mind the other evening to enable this Amendment to go through without any difficulty, and I do not look for any borough Members to support me. Under these circumstances I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.