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Constitution, &C, Of Food Hygiene Advisory Committee

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 27 October 1954

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

1. The Food Hygiene Advisory Committee (in this Schedule referred to as "the Committee") shall consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister and not less than four nor more than eight other members so appointed. At least one member of the Committee shall be a woman.

2. The chairman and other members shall hold office for a period which, in the cases of each of the members first appointed and of any member appointed to fill a casual vacancy, shall be of such duration not exceeding five years as may be determined by the Minister, and in the case of all other members shall be a period of five years:

Provided that any member may by notice in writing to the Minister resign office at any time and shall be eligible for re-appointment from time to time on or after the expiration of his term of office.

3. No member of the Committee shall be capable of being elected to, or of sitting in, the House of Commons.

4. Of the said members, other than the chairman, there shall be appointed—

  • (a) one after consultation with organisations representatives of employers;
  • (b) one after consultation with organisations representative of workers.
  • 5. If a member becomes, in the opinion of the Minister, unfit to continue in office or incapable of performing his duties, the Minister shall forthwith declare his office to be vacant and shall notify the fact in such manner as he thinks fit, and thereupon the office shall become vacant.

    6. The Committee may act notwithstanding any vacancy among the members of the Committee.

    7. The Committee may make rules for regulating the procedure (including the quorum) of the Committee.

    The new Clauses are on a rather different point, but it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we had a general discussion of the whole matter on this Amendment, if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan) is satisfied with the arrangement.

    The Parliamentary Secretary will, I think, agree that we are raising a matter of some importance. He will appreciate its importance in the light of his own personal experience. We are trying by means of the Amendment to secure what is, I believe, in the minds of all in the Committee.

    We have been dealing with a Clause which gives the Minister considerable powers in the making of regulations, and my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that these regulations should be standard and commonly accepted throughout the food trades and businesses. We do not expect to see a whole host of people enforcing these regulations. We want the regulations to be standard, recognised and fully carried out. For that purpose it is essential to obtain the full cooperation of the trade and all working in the trade. Without that co-operation the regulations will be difficult to enforce and a goad deal of energy will be spent on enforcement.

    The question is how best to secure this co-operation. I hope that the Minister will not rely on consultations with the trade through its representative associations and with the employees through the trade unions. Such full consultation exists, and I believe there is a very happy relationship between the Ministry and the food trades, but when we are considering such a problem as this we ought to try to set up some recognised procedure.

    The Ministry has had a good deal of experience in these matters. There have been committees, such as the liaison committee, which have worked extraordinarily well. The fact that these committees have been in existence has meant that there has been a full understanding of the purposes of and the necessity for the regulations. The trade associations and the trade unions, on their part, have acted as the public relations officers of the Ministry in gaining the good will of the food businesses and trades and of those working in the trades.

    In order to secure this good will, it is best to have some standing machinery. For the regulations which we have been discussing at some length we should have a standing advisory committee with a constant association with the Department and constantly available to advise the Minister. If he is considering new regulations, the Minister can consult this standing committee and the trade, in its turn, through its representative associations, and the trade unions, on behalf of the employees, can constantly bring before the committee any difficulties which arise in the implementation of the regulations.

    I have had a little experience of these matters, and I know quite well that this sort of machinery is not welcomed by the civil servants. I believe they are quite wrong in being reluctant to welcome it, but I know that they do not welcome it. and I appreciate why. They fear a certain duality of responsibility.

    The House is in some difficulty about regulation-making powers, but even if the Government accept the affirmative procedure, the powers of review which the House can exercise over the regulations is limited, and it is far better, when we have this delegated legislation, that we should encourage the sort of approach which I have in mind. Particularly in the Ministry of Food, this sort of association has worked extraordinarily well, and that is why I hope the Minister will be able to accede to the wishes of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and set up standing machinery which will keep him in touch with the views of the food trades and at the same time will ensure that his purposes are fully understood by the trades. As a result, we shall have the full co-operation of the trades and this committee will serve as a sifting process so that we have constantly before us the common enlightened views of the food trades.

    7.15 p.m.

    The Minister has had to consider these regulations under the disadvantage of having to consult the different trade associations separately and individually. The Working Party's Report shows the advantage of getting the various interests around the table and resolving the problem there. I am sorry to harp on this subject, but I believe the Parliamentary Secretary would have had a much easier life had there been in existence the machinery which we are proposing here. He would not then have had to bargain individually and separately with the different trade associations.

    The purpose of the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friends is somewhat different. Today there is a whole range of bodies concerned with research into the questions which we have been discussing over the past two days affecting the constitution of food. There is the Ministry's own Committee, Sir John Charles' Committee, two Committees of the Medical Research Council, the Food Manufacturing Industry's Research Association and other bodies carrying out research in various industries. I do not complain of that, for I do not mind a multiplicity of research, but the Minister must provide the machinery for the coordination of these different fields of research.

    We must also bear in mind many of the questions which have been raised constantly during our debates on the Bill. Suggestions have been made that we should publish lists of approved additives or lists of disapproved additives. We know that in this connection different steps have been taken in different countries. We know the practice in the United States and the practice in Canada. We recognise that in this country there is a general desire to do the best that can be done in the circumstances. This food research advisory council would deal with those points.

    A host of ideas was submitted to us and we were sorely tempted to put these down as separate Amendments, each making a specific suggestion as to what might be written into the Bill. We are content to say, however, that if such a body as this is constituted and is given powers to deal with research and provide a means of advice and instruction, then rather than try to write these matters into the Bill we will accept what this Committee feels to be best in the circumstances.

    Therefore, for these reasons, I hope that the Minister will be able to say that he agrees that this is the best way of approach to the regulations, and that he will accept the principle of the Amendment. With regard to research, I hope that he will accept that there are good grounds for such a body. In dealing with many of the questions which have been discussed by the Committee and many of the fears which have been expressed outside by people interested in food hygiene, particularly on the question of the constitution of food—additives, the taking away from foodstuffs and so on—it would be better if we had such an authoritive body, and allowed that body to advise us how best to proceed.

    I hope that when the Minister replies he will let us know that he is prepared to accept the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has just moved. The Amendment seeks to constitute a central council for the purpose of giving advice to the Ministers in the matter of making regulations and codes of practice. The regulations and the code of practice will need alteration from time to time in the light of practical experience and in order to keep abreast of the advance of science.

    Undoubtedly, the Minister will receive expert advice from the officers in his Department, and they will be able to give him information about the latest scientific developments. But I would expect the Minister to welcome advice from persons who are engaged in the catering trade—advice from people who will have had practical experience in the application of the regulations.

    Yesterday, the Minister, when accepting an Amendment which had been moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), used these words:
    " I agree with the right hon. Lady that we want to be sure that we do not exclude any future information that we may want, and we cannot know now exactly what we may want in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 1860.]
    That, I suggest, shows that the Minister is most anxious to receive all the information that he can get on this very important matter. If a central council were to be set up, it would be able to advise and guide the Minister in the matter of amending from time to time, as necessary, the regulations and the code of conduct.

    That council, whatever its name may be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North has explained, would also consider other matters, such as publicity, and I would expect the council to give very careful consideration to the matter of the education of food-handlers in the simple principles of hygiene. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, I have been very interested in this subject of the education in hygiene of food-handlers, and I should like to see the Minister showing more interest in it. I think that a council such as we suggest would certainly direct his attention to the importance of that matter.

    I should like to say a few words on the next Amendment, which stands in my name and the name of my hon. Friends, concerning the establishment of local clean food committees. Reference has been made in our earlier discussions to the proposals which have been put forward by the National Caterers' Federation for hygiene regulations. It might not be out of place if I were to pay a tribute at this point to the National Caterers' Federation for the manner in which they have co-operated in this rather difficult matter of advising the Minister about making regulations.

    One of their suggestions, No. 45 (1), is that clean food committees should be established throughout the country representative of the local authorities, all branches of the catering trade and consumer interests. It goes on to say that these committees should be empowered to arbitrate in all cases of dispute arising from the application of these regulations. I do not accept that myself, and I did not put it down in an Amendment, because I felt quite sure that the Minister would not be able to agree to local committees being empowered to arbitrate in all cases of dispute.

    But when I thought about their suggestion, I came to the conclusion that there might be wisdom in the setting up of local clean food committees. After all, we already have in many towns clean food committees, generally known as clean food guilds. The first of these was born some years ago at Guildford, and since then many others have come into existence. They have performed a very useful purpose. Furthermore, there are people who have taken an active interest in the work of the clean food guilds and who are very knowledgeable about this matter of hygiene in food premises and the cleanliness of food-handlers. If local clean food committees were set up, I am sure that in many places there would come on to these committees people who already possess considerable knowledge of the subject which they would have to consider.

    While, when disputes arose between the local authority and the food traders, the committees should not arbitrate in a judicial manner, they might consider these cases and be able to advise the food traders, or advise the sanitary inspectors, thereby lessening the number of prosecutions that might otherwise arise under the regulations. I would suggest that the matters which would be considered by the local food committees should be reported to the central council, which I mentioned a moment ago. The central council would be kept informed of what was going on throughout the country, knowledge from the local clean food committees would be passed to the central council, who would consider it and would be able to advise the Minister on the manner in which his regulations and the code of practice were operating throughout the country.

    7.30 p.m.

    I think that the catering industry would welcome the setting up of these local clean food committees, and that food traders would be willing to serve on them. The traders would feel that they were taking a more active part in this important campaign to try to raise the standard of food hygiene. They would prefer to be in this position of responsibility rather than simply be carrying on their businesses as food traders and feeling that they were suffering under the Minister's regulations. It would give them an opportunity of co-operating with the Minister so that the standard of hygiene could be raised. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will give careful consideration to the two proposals for a central council and for local clean food committees.

    I shall not detain the Committee very long, because it is clear that the principle of having some form of advisory or consultative body is accepted by both sides of the Committee, and I hope that one form or another will prove acceptable to my right hon. Friend the Minister.

    As far as my hon. Friends and I are concerned, the suggestion arose from the Second Reading debate. When I heard some of the accusations that were bandied across the Floor of the House, it occurred to me that there would a better atmosphere if draft regulations or codes of practice were considered at some stage of the proceedings by an independent outside body. I call to mind that well-known and admirable statutory body, the National Insurance Advisory Committee.

    Those who have studied the workings of the National Insurance Act will, I think, agree that one of the ways in which the complicated regulations which are made under the 1946 Act and its predecessors become acceptable is because, when they come to the House, there is a concurrent report from an advisory committee outside Parliament which can con- sider the regulations and their acceptability and workability. I regarded this as an admirable example to be followed, and I therefore put down my new Clause. The Parliamentary draftsmanship is impeccable because mutatis mutandis I took it straight from the 1946 Act; from that angle there can be nothing wrong with it. I realise, however, that it might need some kind of change before it is acceptable to my right hon. Friend.

    The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) deals only with regulation-making powers under Clause 6 of the Bill. I and my hon. Friends have in mind a body with much wider powers. There has been mention today of the code of practice, and following out of something which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, I feel that the body envisaged in the new Clause would be the ideal body to issue and to be responsible for the code of practice. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) that the same body could rightly be the leader in the sphere of health education, which we want to see more widespread. I am not particular about the form of the machinery. We all have in mind the kind of purpose which we wish to see carried out, and I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will in due course have some good news for us.

    I should like to add a few words to what has been said in support of the Amendments. What has to be considered is not only the making of the various provisions in the code of practice. This is a subject to which as much publicity as possible should be given. It is most important that throughout the length and breadth of the land we should have committees which will consider not only the general issue but will consider in their own localities the particular problems arising on the question of food hygiene.

    It is very well known to Members of the Committee that the problem has been under consideration by bodies in various cities and other parts of the country. As far as I can see, there can be no reason whatever why bodies should not be established to deal with the points to which the Amendments refer. Some kind of advisory body will have to be set up so that the Minister may not only know what he hears casually from various sources but may also know the opinion of a cross-section of both the professional and non-professional population on this matter.

    Every section of the trade, all medical people and practically every form of organisation in the country has some interest in this matter. It is important not only that their opinions should be gathered and sorted out by a set of officials, but that representatives of the various interests who know the circumstances in their own respective fields should be available to discuss the code and to arrive at decisions which will help the Minister to produce the right kind of code.

    The Minister should welcome the setting up of a central council such as is proposed, together with the local committees and, indeed, a research council. He cannot do other than to accept the proposal. In consequence of the wideness of the subject, its tremendous importance to the health of the nation and the tremendous reactions on the general life and industry of the country if food hygiene is not observed, it is worth while to be as liberal as possible in the amount of advice that is taken. Consequently, the suggestions made ought to appeal to the Minister. I, too, do not think that we necessarily wish to adhere to the actual wording of either of the Amendments. The substance of them is important, and I hope the Minister will accept that.

    I rise to support the general principles which are being put before my right hon. Friend from both sides of the Committee. I think we all realise that in this legislation we are creating a large number of new offences and we are arming the Minister with a very large number of additional powers. We should all be pleased to feel that it will never be necessary for the Minister to use all those powers to the full and that the number of prosecutions for new offences will be reduced to a minimum.

    An indication of the success of this legislation is the smallness of the number of prosecutions which take place under it. It cannot be too often said that the real answer to the problem of food hygiene does not lie in prosecution but in education. The lazy or the slovenly person engaged in the food trade can always get the better of the inspector, and will only maintain standards, in the absence of inspection, through proper education.

    By this suggested advisory machinery we are making a fundamental contribution to the development of this industry. It is an extremely complicated industry, made up of a very large number of units, some large and well conducted, others extremely small and possibly more primitive. The only way in which we can get development over a large front in an industry of that kind is largely by carrying the industry and the Ministry together in partnership. I hope that this type of machinery will have that effect.

    It has been suggested that a code of hygiene might be issued by some advisory council of this kind. I think such a code ought, at the same time, to carry with it the authority of the Minister, but I see no reason why a code should not be prepared by a committee comprised of representative elements of the industry and approved by the Minister for general issue. I feel that hon. Members opposite will agree with me when I say that an advisory committee of this kind should not be limited to Clause 6, as happens to be suggested in another Amendment. Clause 5, for example should surely come within its ambit.

    Yes. I said "should" and, indeed, one would hope that we might reach a stage where an advisory committee of this kind would have the confidence of the Minister on the one side and the industry on the other, and that labelling and advertising might be presented to it by manufacturers for approval before committing themselves to the expense of launching it. In that way we should get a self-established standard by the industry which would be far more effective than statutory restrictions.

    It would be worth considering whether with such a committee there should not be developed, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), an educational system of its own, with the possible production not only of literature but of documentary films and the possible running of advice and instruction for people in the industry, which would all be directed to the common object of education.

    I feel a little doubtful about supporting immediately the proposal to create local committees. I think one wants to begin at the beginning and see how the thing goes. It might be that some such development of the kind would follow. There are, of course, local road safety committees of local authorities with functions which are ill-defined but which nevertheless have a very valuable educational job to perform. Nevertheless I think we should start with the central body and see how the things grow naturally over a year or two.

    7.45 p.m.

    I should like to say a word about the proposed research association. Here again I feel some diffidence in wholeheartedly supporting the proposal. One has to remember that there are in existence already at least two bodies, the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council. Both of them have substantial functions to perform within the field of food. I am not quite sure that one is justified in creating a full-blooded food research committee or council alongside these already established bodies operating in the same field.

    I rather feel that the line of advance is through the machinery of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, because that is a Governmental body with the duty of stimulating research in industry generally, and it works by the very healthy method of encouraging industry to form its own research association. Then if it is satisfied with the quality and the work of the staff of an association, it contributes pound for pound with the industry. It is along those lines that development by the industry itself is encouraged, and it is under the aegis of the D.S.I.R. that there is likely to be found the most fruitful line of approach to the research problem.

    I agree with the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) that in all matters of this type connected with hygiene we must put education right in the forefront. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) moved a Motion in this House in 1951 which met with general approval. He and those of us who supported him made it quite clear that we had three words in mind, education, agitation and legislation, legislation coming last. We have not changed our mind about it. We know that if legislation is approved before it is understood, or if it is unwelcome or is full of oppressive measures, then inevitably it must fail. However, tonight we are discussing legislation which we feel the country requires, and we want to give it the accompanying education so that it will be welcomed virtually by everybody.

    Last night I mentioned experiences in the United States, and it is quite clear that the partnership between the administration, the chemical manufacturers and the food industrialists there was not harmed at all by the kind of legislation passed in that country in 1938 on the subject of safety with drugs. Indeed, the partnership and the co-operation became closer and more pleasant as a result of a better understanding. I said last night that the situation has now arisen in the United States where the same type of legislation is going forward concerning food with chemicals added.

    I want to say a few words about the proposed food research advisory council proposed in the Amendment. We have been debating this Bill in Committee for nearly two days, and we have not yet had any assurance from the Minister, or his Parliamentary Secretary, as to what he has in mind about the practical methods he hopes to use to give the public protection.

    Even though the right hon. Gentleman is new to this phase of Parliamentary discussion, because he has not held his present position long, I am sure he will agree that the public, both here and in other parts of the world, have been used in some cases as guinea pigs during the last 20 or 30 years as a result of new substances which have been used for food processing and in food technology generally. The evidence for that is apparent when we have had to withdraw things from circulation because we have found, when they have done damage to human beings, that they are dangerous. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the withdrawing of the sweetening agent Dulcin, the use of which we had to forbid when it was found that, given experimentally in fairly large matters to animals, it caused tumours of the liver.

    How will the Minister give us protection? He has taken complete powers in this Bill, starting with the very first phrase in Clause I. Then, in Clause 4, he has taken power to get information from every food manufacturer in the country about all their processes and scientific research, giving them the guarantee that it will be kept confidential except under certain special circumstances mentioned in the Bill.

    So the Minister and his advisers are to become the repository of all known knowledge in the country upon this subject. And he is asking for this knowledge specifically for the protection of the public. If I am wrong in anything I am saying, I hope the Minister will disagree with me immediately, but I am sure that this is the purpose of the Bill. That has been the purpose of the agitation which led up to the Bill. It is the whole purpose, therefore, of the education that has been forced on to people and which has led them to understand how they suffer. So they ask for a remedy, which is a reasonable and proper thing to do.

    Yesterday we were saying that we hoped to be as fast off the mark as the United States, but tonight the time has come when someone must tell us what it is they have in mind to do. Otherwise we shall be left with this situation: the Bill passed and regulations made—and they may only be made if it is thought to be expedient. There will be no lists of prohibited chemicals published. We must now ask for assurances on what is to be done, so I am standing here to ask for this subsection with reference to research and an advisory council to advise the Minister.

    We do not know how long the right hon. Gentleman will he in charge of this phase of the work. It is not for nothing that we have seen the interest of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary throughout our deliberations. The odds are, therefore, that this piece of work will go over to them. We know there is a most efficient Medical Research Council and we want to know in what way, when this work is collated, the public is to get protection. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate, he will give us some reassurance on this point.

    I want to support something said by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) about the necessity for education. For the last two days we have been discussing the necessity of educating the trade—that is to say, the people who are intimately concerned with the manufacture and distribution of foods of one kind and another—in improved standards of hygiene. But also we have to educate the British housewife to the necessity for improved standards of hygiene. For she, poor lass, has become brutalised over the years by the very low standard of hygiene observed in this country.

    The first problem is how to educate the housewife. There are laws of libel which make it difficult to do this; they are an inhibition on saying freely and frankly what ought to be said about the conditions in shops, markets and so on, which the British housewife has come to accept as being a normal standard. However, we all agree that this work must be done, and I cannot think of a better way of doing it than through the agency of the councils which both sides of the Committee clearly want to see established.

    I do not know whether it could be done through the clean food committees, but I should like to see an organisation having the support of the Minister, and having a statutory power which would prevent it from being hauled into court if it described a bad condition; which would be able to say to the Women's Institutes, "Here is advice to you to give to your members on what sort of standard of conditions they should demand from the shops where they buy fish, meat and other goods."

    It is by these means that we can raise the standard of hygiene in the country, and if we did it through the agencies suggested by these Amendments, we should be going a long way towards forcing traders throughout the country to adopt the methods which all of us want to see adopted.

    By a process of elimination, Mr. Thomas, I now have no competitors wishing to take part in this debate. It is probably for my benefit that I should have heard all the other speeches, but I am now more than ever sure that it is essential I should speak in this part of the debate.

    I support the spirit of both of these Amendments, namely, that there should be a central council to give advice to the Ministers. I certainly do not support the two words quoted in both Amendments, "food hygiene." From nearly all the speeches that have been made one would think that this Bill only concerned food hygiene. I would draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that there is an equally important part of the Bill dealing with pure food. I will not say it is more important. but it will not help the individual who, say, gets a dose of prussic acid that all the facets of hygiene have been observed. Therefore, it would be wrong to call such a council a food hygiene council when of equal importance is the question of pure food.

    There will be much delegated legislation under this Bill, since over 350 local authorities will play a large part in carrying out the resulting regulations. Therefore it is important to have a central advisory committee. It is a simple matter for local authorities to deal with matters of ascertainable fact, such as the fat content of milk, but when it comes to other issues not so easily defined, such as labels, there may be difficulty in administering the regulations because 350 different local authorities can give them entirely different interpretations. We know from experience that over 100,000 labels were reviewed and passed during the operation of the advisory service of the Ministry of Food. They were accepted by the food manufacturers and processors and local authorities in all good faith, and this saved a lot of unnecessary legislation.

    Therefore, I advocate support of these Amendments. I hope that those who frame the wording will remember in later stages of the Bill that this is not merely a clean food Bill but, what is equally important, a pure food Bill and, in consequence, will alter the name of the proposed central food hygiene council.

    8.0 p.m.

    I hope that the Minister will recognise that this debate has served to focus the attention of the whole Committee on the apprehensions of certain hon. Members, which I think reflect the apprehensions of the public with regard to food which is peculiar to this century. Many of these problems would not have arisen before this century because this horrible thing "additive" a word which I do not like at all, has only come into our vocabulary comparatively recently.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) is anxious to define pure food. Generally, when people talk about food hygiene today they speak in terms of both clean and safe food. I hope that we shall not want to quarrel over or attempt to define the terms of reference of the proposed council or committee. I object to proliferating committees. We have committees of all kinds concerned with this subject—research committees, food safety committees and so on. It seems to me that we need a co-ordinating committee which will serve to focus the attention of the country on the important aspects of food which we have debated today. Therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the principle as having been discussed today and to accept the Amendment in that sense.

    I support the views which have been put forward on these Amendments. On advisory councils, whether local or central, there should be a representative of the consumers. Several of my hon. Friends have said that the main need in a campaign for clean food is for education. That is perfectly true, but there also should be a medium through which the consumer can express his or her point of view. As my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) said, because of the law of libel, it is very difficult for an ordinary person to put into practice any complaint which he or she might have.

    If there were representatives of consumers on advisory councils they could put their views forward in an indirect way and draw the attention of the authorities to difficulties experienced in shops, catering establishments, on British Railways or wherever food is served. When one thinks of the amount of education that needs to be undertaken, and the difficulties involved, and also the difficulty of finding a medium through which the consumer can express his or her views, one hopes that when these bodies are set up consumers will be represented upon them.

    We have had a good debate on this group of proposals, but I hope that my saying that will not encourage my hon. Friends to make longer speeches on their Amendments. I am becoming worried by the clock. This is an important Bill and we must see that we have it passed before the end of the Session. It would be a tragedy if anything went wrong and we lost it.

    We have four proposals before us, one for a central food hygiene council, another for a food hygiene advisory committee, another for a series of local clean food committees and a fourth for a food research advisory council. I believe in consultation, and that in the case of the Government, consultations and the seeking of advice are very good foundations for good law. Therefore I believe that in principle the matter which we are discussing is important. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) knows my Department very well. Everything that I have heard so far confirms his statement that our contacts with trade associations are close, frequent, friendly and prudent.

    The difference between the proposed central food hygiene council and the food hygiene advisory committee is broadly that the functions of the second, which is proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan) would be considerably wider than those of the first. I am impressed by what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North says from his experience at the Ministry of Food—that something on those lines would fit but, as the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) said, we must be very careful not to proliferate committees.

    I agree with her in hating the word "additive." Cannot we have "addition "? I should think that it would mean almost everything that "additive" means. Anyhow, let us try it and see. I do not feel that the proposals for a central food hygiene council or for a food hygiene advisory committee, as they stand, are the best that we can do or are exactly right. I should like to offer to consider both, to consider their form and functions and then bring forward a suggestion at the Report stage which in all probability will provide what I believe hon. Members on both sides of the Committee wish to have.

    I am not happy that it would be a good plan to include provision for local clean food committees in the Bill, that is to say, to place an obligation on local authorities everywhere to create such committees. All kinds of methods have been and are being tried now to promote interest in these matters. A number of different kinds of bodies exist under the auspices of local authorities.

    I think that it would be a mistake to set up these clean food committees now because, as we all know, committees set up like that become very rigid and do not produce results to the same degree everywhere. I should like to encourage local authorities to adopt whatever method they think will produce the best results, and see how we go. It is perfectly open to local authorities to create voluntary clean food committees in an advisory capacity, if they so wish.

    The function which is proposed for them, with which I would disagree and would not think appropriate, is that they should consider disputes, presumably between a local authority and an occupier or owner. I should have thought that that was not a very good function for this kind of committee. In a case like that, a local authority has to decide whether an offence has been committed. In all the circumstances I do not feel able to support a provision in the Bill for clean food committees. In time, that kind of organisation might grow spontaneously to meet local needs.

    As to the suggested food research advisory council, nobody is keener on research generally than I am. I am quite sure that enormous advantages and dividends come from research in every field of activity. We want to do everything we possibly can to support, encourage and promote research, but I am afraid that if we include provisions for such a council in the Bill, we might cut across some of the very useful work which is going on at present. My Department is in very close touch with the Medical Research Council, which is a responsible body doing most useful work.

    There is obviously an important field to be explored here, but I do not feel that it would be right here and now to include provision for this research council until we have had a chance of further exploring this field and seeing whether a co-ordinating body is required or not. It will be perfectly easy in future to set up an advisory body for that purpose if and when we are convinced that the need is there, but I should be very sorry to cut across or damage the work that is being done at the present time.

    If I might respond to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to expedite our proceedings, I would say at once that I am sure that my hon. and right hon. Friends will be satisfied with everything that the Minister has said. We are agreed in principle, and we would willingly allow the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to consider this central food hygiene council proposal and to endeavour to discover the best formula.

    On the question of clean food committees, if my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) will allow me to say so, we appreciate his enthusiasm about this, but my own experience leads me to take the same view as the right hon. Gentleman—that it is far better to allow these bodies to develop along their own lines in different localities, and to depend on the enthusiasm and voluntary interest of all the people affected, rather than try to bring the matter within the scope of the Bill.

    On the subject of the food research advisory council, I would say that this was a cockshy, but it is a matter to be considered very carefully. The right hon. Gentleman has his own scientific advisers, and has mentioned several committees to indicate how much good work is being done in this field, but what we would like him to do—and we appreciate his interest in research— is to review the various bodies at present carrying out research to see whether or not he could provide a formula to meet the desires of most people at present concerned in food hygiene. In other words, we should try to match the work that is being carried on in other countries, such as the United States, Canada and Sweden, and try to provide that the consumer here has the same safeguards and protection.

    I would readily concede that the attempts in our proposed Amendments to meet this situation may not be perfect, and, again, I am sure that my hon. and right hon. Friends will be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that he appreciates the purpose, will consider how it can be attained and will make it one of his jobs as Minister to seek the best solution.I take it that what I have said is generally acceptable, and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    8.15 p.m.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

    Appreciating what the Minister has said, I rise again only to say that we have had a very useful discussion on the provisions of Clause 6 and that I wish only to reinforce two points.

    We appreciate that the present draft regulations are a great improvement on those which we had before us on Second Reading, and that the Parliamentary Secretary has gone a long way towards restoring the original regulations. I understand that he will consider the present draft regulations in the light of our discussion, and that, if any of us have any particular representations to make, they will be borne in mind, and we very much appreciate that.

    The second point is this. I understand that the code of practice is really more than a code of practice. I hope I am right about this, but, at the same time, I hope that in some regard it is a forewarning that some of the matters at present in it might be reconsidered and might, if it becomes possible later, be incorporated in subsequent regulations. In other words, I think that is a desirable concept to have. We accept the fact that some of these matters referred to in the code of practice could never become the subject of legislation, while some others might do so. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee hope to make progress with the Bill, and I hope this will be understood by all concerned, both employers and employees. If the Parliamentary Secretary could make that point clear, then, in view of the very wide discussion we have had on this Clause, I should have no other point to raise.

    I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance which he seeks. On that point, he is right. Very often, it is not practicable to put something into regulations, but, in due course of time, it does become possible. I rather like his conception of the code of practice as being not only a piece of general advice but an intimation that it will be the intention to get as much of it as possible transferred to legislation.

    I should like to have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that subsection (2, d) of this Clause means that he proposes in the regulations to make provision for compulsory ante-mortem inspection. I think that in this country it is the exception rather than the rule that animals are inspected on the hoof before they enter the slaughterhouse, and I am firmly of the opinion that there should be this ante-mortem inspection.

    The inter-Departmental committee, to which I referred when moving an Amendment some time ago, says this in paragraph 46 of its Report:
    "The inspection of animals ante-mortem by a qualified person at the place of slaughter is important to facilitate timely recognition of sick or unthrifty animals, which should be slaughtered separately in order that their carcases and organs can be kept apart from any others. The inspector can then give them particular attention after slaughter, including the further examination of doubtful cases by laboratory methods. This is desirable since the sick or unthrifty-looking animals should be regarded as a potential source of food poisoning organisms. Ante-mortem inspection also provides an opportunity for the rejection of animals which should not have been sent to a slaughterhouse."
    The committee went on, two paragraphs later, to say:
    "We recommend, therefore, that all animals should be inspected ante-mortem at the place of slaughter."
    An hon. Member told hon. Members some little time ago that he and I, together with some other people, had had the opportunity of inspecting the provision for meat control in five European countries, Holland, Germany, France, Spain and Denmark. We paid particular attention to this matter of ante-mortem inspection. In every one of those countries, some of which would be regarded as exceptional by our standards, there were provisions for compulsory ante-mortem inspection.

    We were able to go into their slaughterhouses and lairages and watch the sick and doubtful animals being turned out for special watching. In most of the slaughterhouses we inspected, these doubtful animals were slaughtered in segregated and separate slaughterhouses so that they never came into contact with the animals which appeared, on the hoof, to be good sound meat.

    On this matter we prepared a report, in which we said:
    " In all countries visited, veterinary inspection of meat on the hoof—that is, the living animal—is insisted upon. That is not so in Great Britain."
    Britain lags far behind those countries in this vital matter of meat inspection and particularly of ante-mortem inspection. I hope that before we part with the Clause the Minister will give us an assurance that he intends under Clause 6 (2, d) to ensure that there is ante-mortem inspection in all the slaughterhouses of this country.

    During our discussions on the various Amendments to the Clause many matters of interest and importance have been considered. The Minister's acceptance of many of our Amendments has definitely improved the Clause, which is very much better than when it first came before us for consideration.

    I read a few years ago in a medical journal that we have in this country one catering establishment for 200 people. I do not know what the figure is now, whether the number of catering establishments is greater or fewer, but I do not suppose there has been any vast change. It is not expected that the standard of hygiene in that large number of establishments is the same throughout. In some of them conditions are bad, whether the establishments are large or small. In a few of these, conditions are disgusting. There are others, some of which are large and some are small, where the hygiene conditions are second to none in the world. The purpose of the Clause is to raise the standard of the worst of them towards the standard of the best.

    It is very important that we should have this high standard of hygiene throughout the food industry and in the catering establishments. Many people have meals out, a habit which became prevalent during the war, partly because of rationing and partly because people, and particularly women, went out from their homes to employment. I have heard from people engaged in the catering industry that there has been no decrease in the number of meals served in catering establishments since food was derationed. We can understand how this habit of feeding out arose, but it appears that the habit is persisting, although conditions in the country have altered.

    Another reason for the need of a high standard of food hygiene is that this country is attractive to tourists from all over the world. There have been thousands of visitors to our shores in recent years. We welcome them and wish to show them hospitality. We desire, while they stay with us, that they should have a diet of clean and wholesome food. Without being in any way fanatical about this matter of food hygiene, I feel that for the sake of our visitors and for the sake of our own people we should have the highest standard. Food should be clean and wholesome to keep our people healthy and to decrease the incidence of food poisoning. We must discourage habits of uncleanness. I welcome the Clause, as it now leaves us, and I shall look forward to further consideration of it on Report.

    8.30 p.m.

    Very briefly, I wish to put two points to the right hon. Gentleman. The first is with reference to a discussion which we had yesterday about the medical examination of personnel. Does not the Minister think it desirable that at least those who are newly entering the catering trade and who will have to handle foodstuffs should be subject to the simple form of examination that was mentioned yesterday to see that they are in reasonably good health and conform to the normal cleanliness of the skin, ears, and so on, the sort of examination which they could get from their own family doctor? I accept that to attempt thoroughly to overhaul everybody associated with the food industry would be quite impossible, but we must make a start somewhere, and a simple form of a certificate of fitness is, I think, desirable. I should like to know what the Minister thinks about that.

    My other point is briefly this. I see that in the code it is requested that there should be reserves of glass, crockery and cutlery so as to ensure prompt replacement of chipped, cracked or bent equipment. I admit to some special pleading on this matter as a Member for the Potteries, and I am sure that my colleague the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) would also admit that we have to say that we represent the Potteries.

    We have often quite seriously discussed this matter in this House, and I think it is worth asking whether it would not have been better to deal with the matter of cracked pottery in the regulations. I will give an example of what I mean. One day in July last the hon. Lady and I were sitting in the Tea Room in this House having our tea. Suddenly, she said to me, "Look at this plate that I am using." It was very badly cracked, which shows that even first-class establishments like the Tea Room of the House of Commons are not immune from that sort of thing. When I picked up the plate, it fell to pieces in my hand. I have the pieces in my locker, if the Parliamentary Secretary would like to see them. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that the cultures which could be grown from those cracks when the plate fell to pieces in my hand would be most interesting. There are some organisms which are heat resistant, which do not require oxygen, and which can cause infection.

    I do not want to put it any higher than that. Some hon. Members who are not present at the moment often speak in lurid terms about infection from cracked pots. By no means do I go as far as they do on the subject, but it is my duty to say, and I say it sincerely and with feeling, that this matter ought to have been taken care of in the regulations.

    I have already declared my interest in this industry, but, nevertheless, I am very pleased to see the possibility of regulations covering the industry. I have been, and am, very critical of it. Having toured the United States of America and having seen the sort of standards that apply there, I am sure that anybody going round the catering industry of this country must be thoroughly ashamed of it and anxious to clean it up.

    Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will make it clear to the public that though he can do something in the matter, they can do a lot more. As a matter of fact, I confessed last night to some cowardice on the subject. If only the rest of the public would not be like me, but would take their courage in their hands when they witness some of these worst features in catering establishments and would call for the manager and really tell him that they are not going to put up with it, that would help a lot.

    If only the public would be as tough as that, then the managements of such establishments would say to them, "If you do not like it just leave it, and do not pay for it." If enough people were to do that and were to sting the caterer where he felt it most—in his pocket—and if they made their complaints within the hearing of other customers, then they would be doing far more than the Minister can do by his regulations.

    With all that number of complaints we should starve to death.

    That is a fine point, but even so, I hope that the Minister also will be tough with his regulations. There is no reason why he should not be, because he will have the public behind him. The Press comment alone which we have had on this Bill is enough to show that if the Minister takes his courage in both hands and sets out to clean up the industry the country will be behind him. I hope that he will really put this Clause into effect, and I can assure him that if he does the public will back him up.

    The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) asked for an assurance about ante-mortem inspection. He knows that under subsection (2, d) there are powers for securing the inspection of animals intended for slaughter. As soon as may be—I have to add that qualification, for there is need for a considerable expansion of staff—those powers will be converted into regulations, and meat inspection, both ante-and post-mortem will be made a requirement.

    I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) say that he thought the examination of everyone in the food trades is impossible, and I hope that he did not vote for it in the Division last night. I said yesterday that there were 180,000 in the trade, but I meant in catering establishments. There are over a million in the food trades. I am giving thought to the question of the examination of new entrants, but compulsory examination of new entrants to an industry, with a possible implication of a certain standard to be observed, is something which raises wide repercussions and will need very considerable thought.

    The subject of cracked pots is essentially a matter of education, and it would be too early at this stage to make their use a punishable offence. Let us prepare the way by education, and then one day it may be possible to approach the problem in a more vigorous fashion. I agree with what the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) said about what the public could do to help themselves. If the public showed more courage—and it needs real courage—to indicate their dismay, and even their disgust, much would be achieved. We are determined to help things on. Whatever criticisms may have been directed to this Bill, I think it will be generally agreed that it takes us a great deal forward, and we are prepared to do all we can in that direction.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.