Skip to main content

Clause 6 —(Regulations As To Food Hygiene)

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.

3.52 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 22, at the end, to insert:

(d) for imposing requirements as to the provision and maintenance of, or prohibiting or regulating the use of, wrapping materials or containers in which food is sold, or offered, exposed, stored or prepared for sale for human consumption.
This Amendment follows on last night's debate, when we were dealing with Clause 6 and the various Amendments which were concerned with omissions from the regulations. I shall not keep the Committee very long on this Amendment, because I think its intention is very clear. We are very anxious—and the Minister yesterday was very sympathetic towards our intention—to repair an omission. The Parliamentary Secretary will recall that in the original regulations provision was made prohibiting the supply of wrapping paper and containers which had been used for other purposes for the wrapping of food.

Most hon. Members know that it is the practice of certain vendors of fish, meat, and so on, to buy newspapers from houses without making any inquiry about the source of that paper. It is not an exaggeration to say that much of that paper has come from rooms where there has been a patient, perhaps a chronic patient, who needed a lot of reading material. Indeed, perhaps the fact that that house had a chronic sick person would mean that a large amount of newspaper would be collected there.

We are anxious to protect the consumer from infection. I recall the report of a chief medical officer which revealed that the scrapings of the wallpaper over the head of a tuberculous patient six weeks after the death of that patient revealed virulent tubercle bacilli. In other words, it is possible to collect newspaper from the bedroom of a sick patient and for that newspaper to be infectious six or seven weeks after it has been collected.

In the original regulations this provision was included. I am asking once more for the protection of the consumer, and I hope that the Minister will be as sympathetic as he was last night.

The question which the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) has raised is one which is raised by a number of other Amendments, whether sufficient power is given by Clause 6 (1) to cover this point. The relevant word in that subsection is "packaging," and I am inclined to accept the right hon. Lady's view, which is implicit in what she says, that the word "packaging" might not ordinarily be understood to cover the process of wrapping.

I will not weary the Committee with the details, but there are one or two other considerations in relation to the use of plastic materials which lead us to the same conclusion. We will look very sympathetically at this Amendment and its wording before the Report stage. We accept the general principles of the Amendment. This is an acceptance of the principle of such an Amendment, subject to an examination of the words. and perhaps the right hon. Lady will accept that situation.

It may be convenient to raise this point now. As the Parliamentary Secretary said, there is a later Amendment dealing with meat and fish products. I assume that his attitude to that Amendment is the same as it is to this one, and that what he is prepared to consider is writing into the Bill powers providing that regulations may be made concerning wrapping and packaging generally.

The hon. Gentleman must not draw me too far. I said that what is common to this Amendment and to certain others is the question whether there exists in Clause 6 (1) sufficient power to do what is required. Although at first sight "packaging" may appear to cover the kind of problem which the right hon. Lady has raised, there is, I think, doubt about it, and for that reason in view of the limitations in the ordinary understand- ing of "packaging," I accept the principle of adding words to meet the problem of wrapping, and I undertake sympathetically to look at the words.

Apart from accepting the principle of what I particularly had in mind, with my eye on a later Amendment. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the general problem of poisoning and the particular problem of food poisoning relating to meat products. There is, I think, a general feeling today that the problem would largely be met if we could insist, wherever possible, upon the wrapping of meat products to safeguard those products against handling.

Apart from accepting the principle, I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to have regard to the fact that it would be desirable to write into this Clause the express regulation-making power to regulate the wrapping of those foodstuffs.

I am confining myself to the issue whether sufficient power exists in Clause 6 (1) to do these things. What is subsequently done by regulation will be a matter of scrutiny and challenge in the House. For the moment, I am on the point whether there is sufficient power. The right hon. Lady doubts whether the wording of Clause 6 (1) is sufficient for this purpose. I agree with her in relation to the doubt, and I have given her an undertaking that we will look sympathetically at this proposal. We shall have to study the words, for we have in mind another problem—that of plastic wrappings—and, therefore, we should like more carefully to scrutinise the words.

In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.0 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 22, at the end, to insert:

(d) for imposing requirements as to the clothing worn by persons engaged in preparing, handling, wrapping or delivering food.
This issue was discussed very briefly as a by-product of another debate yesterday. My union is very interested in the question of protective clothing for workers handling foodstuffs. Whether the existing draft of Clause 6 gives the Government adequate power was a matter of doubt yesterday, and a Government spokesman indicated that they might be prepared to strengthen the existing wording. All reasonably-minded persons will surely agree that when food is handled in the manufacturing industries, or the distributive or catering trades, and is not in sealed containers, the persons handling it should be provided with proper protective clothing which is capable of being cleansed.

If one looks at the three drafts of the regulations which have been circulated, one finds that the Government are apparently not at all clear what should be done about this very simple issue. It may well be that the absence of adequate power under Clause 6 is the reason for this. The first draft of the regulations specified that clean overalls or other suitable protective clothing should be worn and should be capable of being and should be regularly cleansed.

My only reservation is that that does not make it quite clear enough that, since this is a question of public interest, it is a charge upon the trade, and that it should be the employer's responsibility to provide and cleanse protective clothing in exactly the same way as the employer provides refrigeration plant where that is absolutely necessary in the public interest.

If one looks at the third draft of the regulations, one ands that the Government are succumbing to most dangerous ideas. Regulation 6 (b) of Part II talks of keeping,
"as clean as may be reasonably practicable …"
and, as a practical trade unionist—

I do not think we can discuss these regulations now. They are not before the Committee.

They are surely implicit in the discussion, Sir Charles. I do not propose to read them at any length, but to use what appears to be the Government's intention to illustrate my argument. My point is that the third draft of the regulations refers not only to keeping clean protective clothing but also ordinary clothing, and I am sure that there will be those in certain parts of the food trade who will take that wording as a direct encouragement by the Government not to provide protective clothing.

All we ask is that by regulation the hygienic practices of the most progress- sive employers in the trade should become general. As a result of pressure from the trade unions, some leading co-operative societies, multiple grocers and private traders are following these practices, but there are still some co-operative societies and multiple grocers, and countless private traders, who need statutory regulations to bring them into line with what is absolutely necessary in the public interest.

I should like very briefly to support what has been said by my hon. Friend. As he was talking I was reminded of a story which was told to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), who is an eminent surgeon. He told me that some 60 years ago, when he was first a surgeon, surgeons used to operate in old frock coats. In those days they used to keep in a cupboard in their hospital old frock coats which they had more or less finished with, and used to bring them out to wear when they were going to carry out an operation.

That situation still exists in the catering trade. If one goes into many London hotels, or into restaurants throughout the country, one finds waiters wearing castoff dress suits. I should like somebody to carry out a crusade against the dirty habit of wearing old, cast-off dress suits when handling food.

We ought to have very strongly-worded regulations on this subject. These old suits are becoming more or less an established uniform. Men seem to be much more dirty in this respect than women. I find that most women are much more proud of their personal appearance and are careful to wear clean aprons and other clothing when they serve at table, but many of the men are still condemned to cast-off clothes.

If the Amendment is accepted, I hope that we shall make regulations which will do what America is trying to do. In that country, more and more people wear clean white cotton suits which can be sent to the laundry, and not old things whose respectable life has come to an end and Which are only occasionally sent to the dry cleaners, by which time they can almost stand up by themselves. These provisions need to be made in the form of regulations because there is no other hope of making it sufficiently well known that people should be more clean in these matters.

I now find that there is practically no restaurant in Soho in which I can eat, so dirty are the clothes that people wear when serving food. I always think that, if they are rather dirty when they come to me at table, there is probably much more dirt behind the scenes. If the outside is bad I am sure that the inside is awful. I hope that there will be no difficulty about accepting the Amendment and fostering the habit of cleanliness in clothing in the catering trade.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend gave an intimation of his attitude to the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) to line 15. I can say straight away that we accept the substance of the present Amendment and will seek to insert the appropriate words in the Bill. We have some doubt about the place at which they should be inserted, but not about their substance. My answer is based on the issue whether sufficient power is contained in Clause 6 (1). Although that subsection contains a reference to "cleanly conditions and practices," we think that there is sufficient doubt to justify the acceptance of the Amendment, and we do so on that ground. We shall examine it conjointly with the one which was moved yesterday, with a view to finding the right form of words.

I have listened very carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary's reply, and now I would ask him to remember one thing particularly, that the regulations and the code he himself has drafted are not satisfactory for ensuring that what he says he has in mind, and what I am sure he has in mind, will be brought into effect. This is an extremely important matter. It is not one that can be allowed to go by default, and it is not one that can be allowed to depend upon the whim of any Minister. It is highly important that the Bill itself should contain such provisions as will make it obligatory upon anyone concerned with the Measure to ensure that there shall be clean clothing for the people handling food.

The position is one that can be coped with. As we have heard, there are firms and co-operatives that do carry into effect what we all desire, and place great emphasis on this very important matter. On the other hand, there are loopholes at the present time, and unless they are dealt with in the way we have suggested here they will remain open. I have considered the words of the Amendment very carefully, and I cannot see why they cannot be accepted. They have been very carefully chosen, and the Minister ought to accept them as they stand. I do not believe that any form of words he is likely to devise will meet the case better than these words.

I appeal to him to keep this matter well in mind, because it is important not only from the point of view of the people served. It is also psychologically very important from the point of view of the person serving. If he is properly clothed he feels better and goes to his job with a clean mind as well as with clean hands. I think that this is one of the most important features of the Amendments we have proposed.

I would bring anew to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary something that, I am sure, he probably knows full well, namely, that the National Caterers' Federation, when considering this matter, itself suggested words to meet this requirement:

"That all reasonable precautions should be taken and suitable protective clothing be worn."
The reason I mention that is that the next phrase is one with which I do not agree. The Federation went on to say:
"The provision of such clothing should be the responsibility of the wearer, who shall ensure that it is clean and capable of being cleansed."
I ask the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to bear in mind, when considering this matter as they have kindly promised to do, that to put the onus on the worker in this instance would be a retrograde step, and I hope they will be careful about that. I cannot sit down without saying that I find myself enjoying myself in every restaurant I ever go into in Soho.

We appreciate the references to our drafting of this Amendment. I should have thought that it was a well-drafted Amendment, but I appreciate the Parliamentary Secretary's reasons for wanting to have a further look at it and asking us to take it back. I think he has given us an adequate assurance that he shares our view about subsection (V. On the face of it, there does seem to be a case for amending it along the lines we have proposed.

4.15 p.m.

I would make this additional point because I think there has been undue attention given to the catering business, because the provision of proper clothing for the job concerns not only the people who cater. One of the reasons we put down the Amendment was that the Meat Products Working Party included among its recommendations a recommendation that persons engaged in the preparation and handling of meat products should wear clean, washable overalls, and that people carrying meat should, in addition, wear head covers, and that the overalls and head covers should be kept clean.

That recommendation was one of the things we had in mind when putting down the Amendment, in addition to the question of clean clothing in the catering and food trades generally, and there is a case for making provision regarding clothing and its being kept clean. Where the onus should lie is a matter we shall consider when we consider the regulations, but I share the opinion that has already been expressed, that it very properly should lie upon the persons conducting the businesses. That is the best way to enforce such regulations.

I think my hon. Friends will be satisfied by the assurances the Parliamentary Secretary has given to the Committee, but we anticipate that it will be necessary to have some such Amendments as we have been proposing, and that he will find it so.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 22, at the end, to insert:

(d) for prohibiting spitting on premises where food is sold or offered exposed, stored or prepared for sale for human consumption (including any parts of such premises in which apparatus and utensils are cleansed).
The Parliamentary Secretary has been very sympathetic to our other Amendments, but we have been equally trusting, and on this one we must be firm and insist that he accept this form of words and incorporate it in the Bill. It is no good his saying to me, "We will see whether we have the powers in subsection (1)."

I would remind him of the history of the regulations. Originally, this prohibition was included in the first draft, and then it was omitted. Now we have the third draft before us and it is still omitted. Surely it is a logical assumption that, if it has been deliberately omitted on two occasions, there is little chance of the Minister emphasising the importance of this prohibition on another occasion. If he feels that it is right and proper that no person engaged in the handling of food, the preparation of food or the distribution of food, should spit, then let him embody the prohibition in the Bill today.

I have no need to remind the Parliamentary Secretary of the danger of dried sputum. There is a warning in every bus outside the Palace of Westminster that there is a £5 penalty for spitting in a public vehicle. The people travelling in buses are not handling food, not doing anything with other people's food whereby they may transmit infection, but a traveller on a bus who happens to be an actively tuberculous person certainly is a danger to the people next to him if he spits. It is for that reason that, some years ago, it was decided that a heavy penalty should be imposed upon a person guilty of spitting in a public vehicle. That is the background to this Amendment.

We on this side of the Committee have pleaded with the Minister for cleanliness in the food industry. As I said, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have, so far, been sympathetic to our point of view, but here is a prohibition they should insist upon, the prohibition of spitting.

The Parliamentary Secretary knows that I am not speaking now as a politician who is anxious to embarrass him. He knows perfectly well of those first-class and, indeed, famous medical officers of health of the Port of London Authority, of Southampton, of Brighton, with its thousands of catering establishments, and of Finsbury who, in July, spoke very strongly on this subject. Through the "Municipal Journal," they urged the Minister to do precisely what I am now asking him to do.

Therefore, I hope that on this subject, which surely does not need to be elaborated—one does not have to be a doctor to realise the danger of allowing people who might be actively tuberculous to spit where food is being prepared—the Minister will accept the Amendment.

The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), in page 6, line 22, at the end, to insert:

(d) for prohibiting smoking by persons engaged in preparing or serving food for sale for human consumption,
might, I suggest, be discussed at the same time.

My Amendment is quite separate, I hope. Spitting is not an essential part of smoking. I object to smoking where food is being prepared, whether spitting takes places or not.

I did not say that the two Amendments were connected, but they deal with the same sort of offence, and I think they might be discussed together.

My Amendment seeks to prohibit smoking by persons engaged in preparing or serving food for sale for human consumption. It may seem almost unthinkable that people should smoke while they are preparing food, but I have seen it, not only in catering establishments but, I am afraid, in hospital kitchens as well.

It is not only on aesthetic grounds that I object to the practice, although there is strong objection on those grounds. I do not think any of us like to feel that when our Christmas puddings are being made cigarette ash is liable to drop into them because the people making them are smoking. However, there is a much stronger objection on health grounds. It is difficult to smoke a pipe, and impossible to smoke a cigarette to the very end, without being liable to get some saliva on one's hands, and if the saliva is infected and those hands are used for the preparation of food, the food becomes infected.

I do not want to give the Committee unpleasant details, but I must remind hon. Members that saliva contains many germs, some being germs of disease. During the First World War I had charge of a ward of wounded soldiers. One of them got tonsilitis, and the disease was transferred to nearly all the occupants of the ward by means of the spoons, forks and cups which were used. That was obviously so, because directly we insisted upon the boiling of the utensils the disease stopped spreading.

I maintain that the danger is much greater in the case of those who are preparing food because they infect with germs—sore throat germs, pyorrhœa germs and all sorts of other conditions—not only spoons and forks on which germs do not multiply but also food in which germs do multiply and in which, when kept warm, they multiply very quickly indeed. It may be said that the food is often cooked after it has been infected, but that does not in every case destroy the toxins produced by the germs.

I urge the Minister to give very careful consideration to the Amendment. I hope I am not asking too much. According to subsection (1). the Minister may make such regulations as may appear to him to be expedient to secure the observance of various provisions, and in subsection (2) are listed some of the matters to which we ask him to give special attention. I submit that one of these matters should be not only the aesthetic question but the very real danger of smoking by those who are engaged in preparing and serving food.

I object to one statement made by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). As a confirmed pipe smoker, I protest against the suggestion that I dribble down my pipe. It is possible to smoke a pipe without dribbling and letting the saliva drop down.

As to the general question of smoking, we are dealing with food and food manufacture, and that covers a very wide range. I do not think there ought to be such a provision in regulations which would cover everything. There are situations in which no harm is done if a man smokes a pipe; for instance, when he is looking after an electric baking oven. However, when a woman is baking cakes in an oven or making the mix, it is obvious that she should not smoke a cigarette and let the ash fall into the mixture. Therefore, conditions vary greatly. This matter is already dealt with in the proposed code of practice, and it seems to me that the best method of dealing with it is by way of the code.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a case against a general prohibition, but he has also said that there are circumstances in food trades and businesses in which prohibition would be proper. Will he, therefore, support us in giving the Minister power to introduce regulations? We are not seeking to impose upon the Minister the duty of making a general prohibition. We seek to give him powers to do just what the hon. and gallant Gentleman apparently desires.

The point I was making was that the matter is already dealt with in the proposed code of practice, and, in view of the nature of the food business, I contend that that is how it should be dealt with.

The hon. Member for Barking has forgotten one thing. Allied to the question of spitting is the question of chewing tobacco, and that comes nearer to the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill). This is a matter of education. During the last 25 years there has been an enormous change in people's habits. I hardly ever see anybody spit now, but in the old days, when many people chewed tobacco instead of smoking it, they spat everywhere. Quite apart from the health reason, that was no doubt one of the reasons for the prohibition in public vehicles.

The right hon. Lady proposes that spitting should be prohibited throughout the food trade. I doubt whether it is a practical proposition to prohibit it everywhere. I doubt whether we could enforce such a regulation. However, I am certainly in sympathy with the idea, and I hope that by education and by the change in people's habits spitting in public will end and there will be no need for a regulation. In any case, that matter is also dealt with in the code of practice, which I hope will be generally observed in the food trade.

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me where I can obtain a copy of the code of practice, of which I know nothing whatever?

4.30 p.m.

I hope that the Minister will have no difficulty in accepting the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill). Spitting is such a disgusting and dangerous practice that it really should be prohibited in all places where there is food.

As the matter stands at the moment, reference to spitting is found in the proposed code of practice, No. 5:
"Every person engaged in the handling of food should refrain from (a) "—
and then, in the list of things which are covered there, is spitting.

We feel that this is such an important matter that it should be stopped by a penalty being imposed upon anyone who is guilty of spitting where there is food. We are asking that the reference to spitting should be removed from the code of practice into the regulations. and to ensure that it will be in the regulations we should have the Amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend inserted in the Bill. Like my right hon. Friend, I feel very strongly that the Amendment should be accepted.

I must confess that I am somewhat undecided about the Amendment which has been spoken to by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). I entirely agree with him that smoking when preparing food is quite wrong. It is something that we deplore both on aesthetic grounds and because of the danger to the health of others, which he has explained to the Committee. If his Amendment is accepted, then the Minister will have to put a prohibition on smoking in the regulations, and anyone who is found smoking when preparing food will be subject to a very heavy penalty of, I understand, up to £100 and/or three months' imprisonment.

If a person is smoking a cigarette or pipe while preparing food, and there is danger of the ash falling into the food, or if he is taking a pipe or cigarette out of the mouth frequently with the fingers, that should be stopped. The person who does that should be liable to penalty. But I can envisage the case in which the proprietor of a small café may have served his customers at lunchtime and then sat down in the kitchen to have a meal himself. After the meal, he may be enjoying a cigarette while drinking his coffee, and at the same time it could so happen that in the oven there is a joint being cooked for the next meal, so the proprietor will be smoking while preparing food, and, if a sanitary inspector came in, might find himself in trouble.

I hope that the Minister will consider carefully the proposed Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Barking because there is substance in it, but will he also bear in mind the danger or possible dangers which I have ventured to point out to him and the Committee. While I repeat that I have some doubt in my mind as to the wisdom of the Government accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Barking, I am quite sure that the Government must, and, I am sure, they will, accept the Amendment of my right hon. Friend.

May I ask my hon. Friend whether it would not be possible to allow for such cases as he has mentioned in the regulations, and permit these, while prohibiting generally smoking during the preparation of food?

Yes, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. If that were possible, I think that it would be very desirable. I hope that the Minister will consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend

This is, of course, a very interesting subject. In the code it is not only tobacco, smoking and spitting that are suggested as being very undesirable but the chewing of gum. I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) did not put down an Amendment to provide for a regulation dealing with the chewing of gum.

Gum cannot be chewed for an indefinite length of time without it being taken out of the mouth, thus contaminating the fingers with saliva which may well lead to the circle of events so graphically and accurately described by my hon. Friend. Leaving that aside, I think that we ought to be careful what we choose out of the things that are undesirable.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) spoke of the problem of spitting, and I entirely agree with her. I think that it falls into quite a separate category. The National Caterer's Federation themselves think it undesirable and that it should be in the regulations, They think that smoking, the taking of snuff and the chewing of tobacco, not gum, should also be in the regulations.

I think that spitting is in a separate category of its own. The caterers are under the impression that girls are the worst offenders. The women in the catering trades are always smoking, they say, and they are the worst culprits. I do not know whether this is true, but I do not think that it is so reprehensible as was suggested by the hon. Member for Barking.

I wonder whether he knows of the hair-mouse test which is concerned with the biscuit industry. The standard laid down in the United States is the number of hairs from a mouse attached to the excreta, which should not be in biscuits. If he will look at that, he will be less worried about ash dropping into the mix.

Strictly speaking, the question before the Committee is whether Clause 6 (1) gives the Minister the necessary power to make regulations relating to spitting and smoking. That is the first issue. Clause 6 (1) does give the necessary power, in its reference to cleanly practices and the like, so whether this. Amendment, particularising instances among uncleanly practices is accepted or not, it makes no difference to the position that the Minister has power to deal with this matter.

I will refer to the right hon. Lady's main argument in a moment. I ask the Committee not to extend this particularisation where it is clear that the power is already there, because if we give too many examples in subsection (2) we shall reach the position that it may be argued that things not specifically mentioned there are things on which it is not proper for the Minister to make regulations. What the right hon. Lady is saying—and I am sure that she will agree with me in this—is, why not make spitting a punishable offence in catering premises by including it in the regulations? In fact, she is. asking for an assurance on that point.

I agree with everything that she has said in the condemnation of spitting, though it could be added that, in general, there has been a remarkable improvement in this matter over the last 30 years. Our difficulty has been the question of how it should be done. Today, it can be made an offence. A local authority, if it cares to make a bye-law on the topic —and a number have—can make it an offence punishable by a fine of £5. I admit that such a byelaw is not included in the model byelaws that are sent to local authorities, and I think that there is a good case for putting it in.

Should it go further still? Should we make it punishable by a fine of £100 with the option of three months' imprisonment for each spit? I do not think that the best interests of public health are served by imposing, or by seeking to make possible the imposition of so heavy a penalty. I believe that education must play a tremendous part in modifying the conduct of those who have delayed the giving up of what seems to them a relatively harmless and unobjectionable habit.

At the same time, I recognise the point that the very fact of including spitting as an offence in the regulations gives it a strength that no byelaw would give it. We have been exploring the possibility of including it in regulations with a lesser penalty than a fine of £100 or the option of three months' imprisonment for each spit. I have every sympathy with the desire to bring spitting to an end. My only doubt is whether we should apply the big stick or a medium-sized stick, together with education.

I give the right hon. Lady the assurance that we will include spitting in the regulations, but with modified penalties. We think that is the sensible course to adopt. It is something more than a byelaw offence, but something less than the terrible offences which are covered by the regulations. I hope that the right hon. Lady will accept that assurance as expressing our desire to do what she wants to do. At the same time, let us be reasonable in doing it.

I cannot go all the way with the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) on the subject of smoking. I am trying to remove from my mind any prejudice that I may have by virtue of the fact that I am a smoker, and I am sure that he also will do the same by virtue of the fact that he is a non-smoker.

That is a further confession of weakness.

Let us decide whether or not we want to make it an offence for the barman to smoke in the bar where food is served. It is dreadful to think of cigarette ash dropping into one's Christmas pudding, but it does not have the slightest ill-effect on one's health. On the matter of smoking, I say that we should leave it where it is as something that can be made the subject of a byelaw by the local authorities, that we should seek to refer to smoking in the code of practice, but that we should not line it up with the large number of other offences which are worthy of condemnation and which, by inclusion in the regulations, we can deal with effectively.

4.45 p.m.

I welcome the Minister's promises, but I should be happier if he committed himself in writing. I take it that he is prepared to put this form of words into the Bill, because I am not prepared to accept anything less than that. He has been very sympathetic, but, surely, this calls for explanation if he really means what he says. If he supports me in my contention that spitting is wrong in this respect, why did he omit it from the first set of regulations, and, further, why when the first set of regulations were revised did he still omit it?

Why does the hon. Gentleman say that it would be wrong to put everything in the Bill because it would make it rather bulky, when he has already included in it such things as the cleanliness of apparatus, furnishings, utensils, and so on? Surely, the one word "spitting" is probably even more important than two or three lines of what he has already got in the Bill. It is difficult for me to accept what he says, because evidence proves that somebody has tried to evade this, though I do not say that the hon. Gentleman is not being honest at the moment. We now demand that it shall be put into the Bill so that it can no longer be evaded.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) has made a point about spitting, but I wish to make an appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary on the point of smoking. The hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that there had been a great deal of education during the last 25 years against the disgusting habit of spitting, and that this had had a marked effect in reducing its incidence. In the meantime, however, there has been a tremendous amount of propaganda in favour of smoking. Every youngster is appealed to at an early age to start smoking. He is appealed to on the subject in the newspapers, on the hoardings and in tobacconists' shops. He is induced to smoke because it is supposed to be a good thing to do, and, in some cases, an occupation which is even good for sore throats.

Many of the speeches which have been made today illustrate the intolerance of the smoker towards the non-smoker, and I want to make a plea for the non-smoker who finds that wherever he goes he is being encroached upon by the smoker who has come to regard it as a right that he should—

The hon. Member is extending the debate rather beyond the scope of this Amendment.

I will bring it within the scope of the Amendment, Sir Rhys.

As a non-smoker, I find when I go into a place where food is being prepared or served and where somebody is smoking that it is distinctly unpleasant. I, as a non-smoker, want to be protected against that infringement of my personal comfort. I speak for many non-smokers and smokers as well.

The Parliamentary Secretary agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), who argued that the wearing of proper protective clothing was very important, and that it has a psychological effect on the general standard of behaviour of the person working in the industry. So does smoking or spitting, or non-smoking or non-spitting. If the Parliamentary Secretary agrees that the wearing of protective clothing is good for the employee as well as for the customer, then it is only right and proper that action should be taken to stop people smoking while engaged in this type of work.

If the regulations say that it is right that one should not be lax enough to wear dirty clothing when in contact with the public, then, surely, it is right that one should not smoke in the same circumstances. Therefore, it is of a pattern that we should ask that where people are in contact with food they should observe the normal decencies, should wear proper clothing, should not smoke in the faces of customers, and that, in general, there should be as aseptic a standard of behaviour as it is possible to produce.

I think it is important that we should take a common line about the habit of smoking. I ask the Committee not to particularise in Clause 6 (2) by naming matters which are already covered. I can, however, see the case now, and I am sorry that the right hon. Lady wants it in writing. I did my best to be as forthcoming as I could and now we have agreed that it should be included in the regulations. In view of the exceptional emphasis which we lay on that rather than on the ground that it needs to be done because it is not covered by Clause 6, I accept the Amendment provided we can examine the words with a view to determining whether they are appropriate words or not.

I have some doubt about the words in brackets and whether, in practice, they will do what they are intended to do. I am referring to the words

"(including any parts of such premises in which apparatus and utensils are cleansed)."
I have to consider whether that is sufficient for the purposes of a place where they are cleaned and whether it can include the place where they are stored.

On the other hand, if I am pressed further I would be perfectly frank with the Committee. I am anxious that we should be united in our condemnation of spitting, and if the hon. Lady presses me. then I will accept the words in their present form and look at them subsequently to see whether they need changing to meet any of the points I have mentioned.

I hope that when we examine other proposals we shall ask ourselves whether they are covered by Clause 6 (1) and not seek to add everything we can think of even if the power already resides in the Clause. l hope the Committee will agree that I am seeking a way of taking a common view in condemnation and discouragement of a most undesirable habit.

I rarely heard anyone repenting so reluctantly, We have only tried to make the Government stand by their original intention. Before the Committee leave this Amendment, I think we ought to have the full history behind it. In these regulations the Government proposed to make it an offence to spit. For some reason unknown to us the Government changed their mind. When these regulations were redrafted and the far better regulations which we welcome were brought in, we saw that the Government still wanted to protect the liberty of those people who thought it fit and proper to spit.

This Amendment has been on the Notice Paper for a long time. If there had been any difficulty in the drafting, the Government could have put down an Amendment to improve ours. But the Government came to the Committee today unprepared to accept this Amendment. My right hon. Friend has waited a long time to get an adequate assurance. I do not want to be too ungenerous because the Parliamentary Secretary has given way, but this has reinforced the suspicion which we have already held about the Government in this Bill fully implementing their undertakings. The Bill, as has been frequently said during the course of our debates, is one which the Government found on a shelf in the Ministry of Food. It has been before Parliament for a year and at this late stage we get the Government saying that they will give way on this point.

I know that my right hon. Friend is perhaps rather more generous than I am, and that is why I intervened. I should emphasise that we have had difficulties in improving the law relating to food hygiene. We could not have had more obstruction from the Government than we have had, and it is only in the very last moments of this Session that we are allowed to discuss it and to put our Amendments on the Notice Paper.

We thought that these Amendments would have been accepted at once. We took this step to get these matters into the regulations and we have had to spend a long time to get them accepted. I say no more than this, that I hope the new Minister will appreciate the difficulties that we on this side of the Committee have had. However, I do not want to be so ungenerous as not to say that we are, of course, delighted that after these difficulties we have got an admission that it is a deplorable thing that spitting should not be accompanied by adequate penalties on people who are preparing and handling food.

I am rather surprised at the line taken by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), because it seems to me rather ungracious in the circumstances. My hon. Friend has made it clear that our condemnation of spitting is absolute. We are just as determined as any hon. Member on the other side of the Committee that every possible discouragement should be given to it. The difference between us is a difference in the method to be adopted to ensure the best way of bringing it about.

We proposed to put it into the code of practice. Now we have listened to everything that has been said this afternoon. I have been particularly impressed by the fact that every Member has clearly in his mind that this is an abominable habit and we must do everything we can to get rid of it. We have shown that we are entirely in agreement with hon. Members opposite and we have done our best to meet their particular view that this should be in the regulations. Having done that we think that it is a little unnecessary to have a paragraph in the Bill because it can be perfectly well included in the regulations.

Again, because hon. Gentlemen felt so strongly about it—and, in particular, the right hon. Lady holds very strong views on it—we have agreed that, in the circumstances, we will make an addition to the Bill of this paragraph. I would have thought that a bouquet would have been handed to us for being as cooperative as we have been and in doing something which hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to have done. I feel rather pained.

I am sorry that the Minister is rather pained. Surely it is I who should be pained. I was hoping, having regard to the Minister's attitude yesterday, that he would not have delayed the Committee for half an hour or more to discuss something of which he says he fully approves. Here is what the Parliamentary Secretary has done to meet us. First of all, he says he is 'sympathetic and then I tell him that I am not prepared to accept that. He then gets up and says, "We will have a different form of words." I then say I am not prepared to accept that. Then he says that if I press him hard enough he will give me everything. Why the Minister should feel pained I do not know.

When the Parliamentary Secretary says he will accept our Amendment I want to make it clear that we understand by that that he means the whole Amendment as it is on the Notice Paper. Only such an assurance as that am I prepared to accept. On that understanding I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.

I want to express my deep regret that I have not had an opportunity during the day of being heard on a matter of this kind which contains many medical problems in which I am interested.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: In page 6, line 22, at end, insert:

(d) for prohibiting smoking by persons engaged in preparing or serving food for sale for human consumption.—[Mr. Hastings.]

Amendment negatived.

5.0 p.m.

I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss together the next two Amendments to page 6, line 23.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 23, after "securing," to insert:

"at slaughter houses and elsewhere."
It is true that both this Amendment and the one following relates to the Inspectorate of Food, but they cover two entirely different points. I have no objection to their being discussed together, provided that the Question is put separately on each after discussion.

This Amendment has as its purpose to ensure that in the interests of public health adequate arrangements will be made by the Minister in his regulations for the inspection of meat at slaughterhouses as well as at other places, if the Minister thinks it desirable. The primary object of this Amendment is to ensure that meat is inspected at slaughterhouses. The subsection as drafted enables the Minister to make such regulations, but it is not obligatory upon him so to do. This country is one of the few Western countries where it is not obligatory upon anybody to have meat inspected in a slaughterhouse under the present law. When I found this out, it came as a considerable shock to me.

We had in 1951 the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Meat Inspection. That Committee was set up by the Ministers of Food and Health in 1949 because they were disturbed about the position in relation to meat inspection. One of its terms of reference was
"to consider whether inspection of home-killed meat at the place of slaughter can be made compulsory in England and Wales as it already is in Scotland…"
The reply of that Committee to this question was clear and explicit, for it said at paragraph 65:
"The evidence given on this point was wholly in favour of the principle that all meat for sale for human consumption should be inspected at the place of slaughter. With this we fully agree and have so recommended."
We are now having an increase in the number of slaughterhouses under the Slaughterhouses Act, 1954, and it seems to me at this time to be especially necessary to make it abundantly clear to everyone concerned that the additional slaughterhouses which will be provided under that Act must not only conform to hygienic standards, but that they shall also be so arranged that it will be possible for meat to be inspected adequately on the premises.

I do not think there is any doubt that meat, properly handled and efficiently inspected, is a relatively safe food. However, it is also true that it is particularly liable to disease, and a form of disease which is easily transferred to human beings. The possibilities of diseased meat finding its way to the public are always present, and consumers of meat are entitled to an assurance from the Government, and everyone else concerned, that in this Bill we are taking every step to ensure that inspection at slaughterhouses has not been omitted from f he safeguards which the public ought to have.

This is an opportunity to give legislative effect to the recommendations of that important Committee to which I have made reference, and I hope that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate that the Government are taking advantage of this opportunity to ensure that the recommendation of that Committee will be embodied in this Bill.

I understand, Sir Rhys, that with this Amendment you are taking the one standing in my name also to page 6, line 23, namely, after "inspection," insert:

"by a person who by virtue of subsection (1) of section one hundred of the principal Act is authorised to act in relation to the examination and seizure of meat."
It was some few months ago that, with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), I was privileged to see the slaughterhouses and wholesale markets in five of the principal countries in Western Europe. Particularly in the northern part, we were impressed with the much higher standard of meat inspection in those countries than we have here. It is for that reason that I have put these words on the Amendment paper, because I am anxious, now we have this Bill before us, that the Minister shall be given all power to ensure that properly qualified persons inspect our meat at the slaughterhouses, and also to ensure that there is no danger of an unqualified person doing that.

As the veterinary surgeon is the only person concerned with the animal when it is alive, he should also be one of the persons mentioned to carry out postmortem inspections. I am disturbed at the lack of inspection that is given, although I must say that, with the exception of the pig, the quality of the animals going into our slaughterhouses is definitely superior to that which goes into the slaughterhouses on the Continent. This is probably due to the adequate veterinary inspections which take place on the farm before the animals leave it.

My Amendment, therefore, seeks to ensure that the Minister has power to include among his inspectors veterinary surgeons as well as medical officers and sanitary inspectors. I know that the medical officer is the most suitable person to see to the inspection of meat in the shop, but I believe that much more use should be made in future of the veterinary surgeon in inspecting the meat at the slaughterhouses.

The Amendment accordingly proposes that the regulations should provide for inspection by no persons other than those who are defined as "authorised officers" for this purpose by Section 100 of the principal Act. The proviso to this definition states that
"(a) the medical officer of health and sanitary inspector of a council shall by virtue of their appointments he deemed to be authorised officers for all the purposes of this Act;
(b) any member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons employed by the council for the purpose of the inspection of food shall be deemed to be an authorised person for the purpose of the examination and seizure of meat under the provisions of this Act relating to unsound food;
(c) no officer of a council other than the medical officer of health, a sanitary inspector or a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons employed as aforesaid shall be authorised to act in relation to the examination and seizure of meat;"
I appeal to my hon. Friend to accept both Amendments.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) made clear what he was out to secure, and that is our objective. The lack of compulsory powers for meat inspection which he has described is a remarkable fact, but power is taken in the Bill to secure that inspection. I assure him that as soon as the personnel are available we shall tackle the problem of making it compulsory. I am entirely with the hon. Member in the need as soon as possible to make that inspection compulsory but, as matters stand, power is given in the Bill to secure the inspection of animals intended for slaughter without reference to place, that is, to secure inspection anywhere.

I suggest, therefore, that to insert the words "at slaughterhouses and elsewhere" means precisely the same thing as giving powers for the inspection of animals, which in the present form of the Bill means inspection of animals wherever it may be. If the hon. Member placed his Amendment on the Notice Paper to secure an assurance about compulsory inspection, then, since powers are now given to secure inspection without limitation of place, it does not further his purpose to include the proposed words in the Clause.

A similar consideration applies to the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch). He wanted to secure that the inspection was carried out by persons who are defined in Section 100 (1) of the principal Act and he read out the words of that subsection. That is the legal position. If inspection is made compulsory, Section 100 of the parent Act will provide the definition of the persons who will undertake the inspection. Therefore, the Government agree with what both hon. Members are out to secure but in both cases I suggest that the words proposed to be introduced are unnecessary for the purpose.

I hope I am not out of order in saying that the Parliamentary Secretary really is being rather naughty. Both these Amendments, on his own admission, would do no harm whatever. The one which refers to slaughterhouses is moved with the express object of calling attention to the fact that there ought to be inspection in slaughterhouses. The Parliamentary Secretary entirely agrees with the object. He says, quite rightly, that, strictly speaking, the Amendment does not add anything to what is in the Bill, but the Parliamentary Secretary should look at his own definition of a notice of sale in line 33 and onwards in the Bill. That states:

"…and that the article was sold having attached thereto a notice of adequate size, distinctly and legibly printed and conspicuously visible.…"
If the hon. Gentleman can justify every word of that extraordinary phrase as really adding something to the other words in that part of the Clause, he will perform a remarkable feat.

Now it is suggested that every Clause and Amendment should be pruned down to the very bone and that powers should be given in a most wide and general way, Surely the decent thing to do in a case of this kind is to accept an Amendment which is expressly designed not to alter the Bill but to call attention to a highly important principle in which the Parliamentary Secretary believes just as much as does my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion).

5.15 p.m.

As to the other Amendment, what harm is done by it? We are told that from Section 100 of the principal Act one will draw the inevitable conclusion that inspection must be carried out by authorised persons. With great respect, I am not at all sure that I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary. Probably it would be said by a court that an inspection by someone who was not an authorised person was not sufficient, but what harm is there in saying, if that is what one means, that it should be an inspection by an authorised person? I cannot see what purpose is served by a refusal of this kind. I should have thought that the Amendments did no possible harm in calling attention to facts to which it is desirable to call attention and that it would be more gracious to accept the Amendments.

I am sure the Minister will appreciate that if meat is to be contaminated at all the time just after the animal has been killed is the most critical time. That is why we feel that these Amendments are very valuable. While in general there is a definition in the Bill of where the inspection of meat must take place, there is no special reference to the most vulnerable period of time, that is, immediately after the animal has been killed and before the meat has been sold in the shop. It is for those reasons that we feel that the Parliamentary Secretary would be doing a good thing if he accepted the Amendments.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friends for their support and particularly to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who said something which almost caused me to feel that this is an Amendment on which we should divide. The Parliamentary Secretary, however, went so far to meet me that in the circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 6, to leave out lines 34 to 37.

The Amendment has the effect of removing subsection (2, f) from the Bill. We do not see the need for a special reference to
"…vehicles, stalls or places other than premises. …"
at which meat may be sold. We think that the general powers which the Minister is taking in Clause 6 (1) cover any action which it may be found necessary to take to safeguard public health when meat is being sold from vehicles or stalls.

We have in mind that in many areas, particularly in outlying areas in Wales and the North of England, and indeed in my own part of the country, we get very good service from travelling vans, owned by private firms or local co-operative stores. They serve the villagers very well. It is also the custom on market day for butchering firms to have stalls in the market place at which they give good service and introduce a further element of competition which is healthy and gives good value to the public in providing a greater choice.

We do not want anything done by way of placing a special bad mark against that kind of trade. We do not think that it is necessary to have special reference to stalls and vehicles which distribute meat. IL is for that reason that we move the Amendment.

I wish to support the Amendment. I think that very often in much of the legislation of this House the needs of country people are forgotten. If this Clause remains as it is more hardship will be entailed for the country dweller, particularly the wife of the working man. In many remote districts there are travelling vans in which meat is brought round. The housewife, instead of being compelled to go five or six miles to a town to buy meat, has an opportunity of selecting a joint from the van.

In addition to meat vans, in my area there is a very enterprising young man who has a shop on wheels in which he travels selling fish, meat and other commodities. The result is that people in such remote areas can rely on having something brought to their doorstep which otherwise they would not have a chance of buying, as it is quite impossible for them to make long journeys into towns, to buy fish, for instance. Anything done to prevent these vans from purveying food to country districts would he against the interests of remote areas. If we continue closing down schools, railways, and so on, remote country districts will become completely depopulated. Townspeople must remember that their wives can go to a fish shop or a butcher's shop early in the morning and select what they want. They have great advantages.

We do not want to see any prohibition of travelling shops of the kind which has been mentioned. Many travelling shops belonging to the co-operative societies are very much cleaner than some meat shops which I have seen and I am sure that travelling shops outside the cooperative movement are equally good.

Here, the Parliamentary Secretary can help us. I wonder whether the removal of this subsection would give us what is wanted. I am not happy about the wording of the subsection, but I want to ensure that travelling shops are as good and clean as they can be made. They are under some handicap as obviously they cannot have running water available. We have to make provision so that some of the dirty, filthy stalls which are not in covered markets may be put out of existence. We want to he sure that if this subsection is removed the Minister will still have power to deal with the had stalls where food is contaminated, stalls which ought not to remain.

An important point has been raised by this Amendment. This Clause deals with the prohibition and it goes too far in prohibiting the travelling shop, or the stall for the sale of hot dogs outside a football match. But there is power to regulate given by subsection (1). In the light of that complete power to deal with the problem by regulation, we are ready to accept the Amendment.

I cannot accept what the Parliamentary Secretary has said. Am I not right in saying that this subsection was embodied in a Defence Regulation? I believe the words were precisely the same. That Defence Regulation, I believe, was operated without interference with the vans which I quite understand are necessary in rural constituencies. I think I am right in saying that we felt it necessary to introduce the Defence Regulation to protect the consumer against the unscrupulous vendor who would expose articles such as are here described, which, the Parliamentary Secretary knows, represent a breeding ground for certain germs—

"meat, meat products or other food peculiarly susceptible to infection;"
I want the Committee to visualise the kind of stall I have in mind—a stall exposed to the sun, exposed to flies and dust without any protection at all. On that stall these food products are offered for sale, although we know that if they are exposed to heat and bad conditions they become infected. For that reason the subsection was embodied in the Defence Regulation. So far as I remember there was no difficulty about vans going round. All we were trying to do was to protect people during the time when the Defence Regulations were in force.

If this provision is left in, is it possible for meat to be delivered by vans in the country districts?

As matters stand, power is taken to make regulations to prohibit the practice. Having the power to regulate, we think there is no need to continue to include the power to prohibit.

As to the intervention of the right hon. Lady, I have not known of the inclusion in the Defence Regulations. That in itself would not prove a great deal, but from such advice as is immediately available to me we cannot recall it. Whether it was in or not I suggest that with these additional powers which were taken to regulate such matters there is no need to prohibit.

Am I right in saying that this proposal was regulated by the three advisory committees which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, were representative of the trade and were set up before the regulations were drafted?

The recommendation did come to us from an authoritative source. From memory, I would not be able to name it. But often we get recommendations from authoritative sources which seek to impose wide prohibitions.

Wherever it came from, if it means that in the countryside it would no longer be possible for housewives and others to have their meat brought to them in the remote areas, I am not supporting it. I feel quite sure that many of my hon. Friends take the same view.

As will be clear from my accent, I come from Wales. I am satisfied that in such areas this provision would mean that people would have to go without meat from Saturday to Saturday because they would not be able to go by bus, in many cases five, six, or eight miles, to the nearest town. These vans have been catering for the needs of the people in those rural areas. We would be doing a great disservice by insisting on this provision.

It is up to us to see that the food is hygienic and not in any way contaminated; that is our responsibility. It is not our responsibility to withhold this service from the people in the rural areas who have enjoyed it for generations and who, in my opinion, are fully entitled to it. If this means prohibition, I for one shall not support it.

5.30 p.m.

The Committee divided yesterday on the question whether this part of the Bill would oblige the Minister to do anything. Whatever the effect of that decision and I am not sure that it made an enormous amount of difference—the Committee definitely decided that this did not oblige the Minister to make any regulations except such as were thought expedient. It therefore seems to me that the question is, what powers is the Minister taking?

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) said—and I agree—that it made no difference whatever to the powers, that the powers were there anyway under the general words, and that all he objected to was the specific reference to this kind of prohibition. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) that we should not, and I am sure that no hon. Member wishes to, prevent the sale of meat from vehicles under proper conditions. But this was not put in and recommended by competent and expert people for nothing. I suggest that what was really intended is perfectly clear, and I think that there has been a minor slip in the way the thing was expressed.

If we added "regulating" here, or if we had, as we have in the next subsection, "prohibiting or regulating," everyone would agree that there would be no need to amend anything. I should not think that the hon. Member for Newbury would object to it in that form. It does not make any real difference to the powers. I am doubtful whether the words "or regulating" are necessary, but they make it clear. I would point out that when we get to the next subsection the very first words in it are:
"Regulations under this section may make different provisions in relation to different classes of business."
I should have thought that probably the right inference on the whole thing was that we could absolutely prohibit some classes of sale within this subsection and others would be prohibited only in certain circumstances.

It would surely be much better to put in the words "or regulating" and to drop this Amendment on the assurance, which I feel certain the Parliamentary Secretary will give, that he will put in "prohibiting or regulating" on Report stage. Then everyone would be satisfied; both the people who do not want to see this kind of thing altogether and deliberately omitted at this stage—as if it meant the Committee were sanctioning something that they do not want to sanction—and also hon. Members who, properly and rightly, feel that we do not want to interfere with sales from vehicles, particularly in rural areas, provided that there are proper safeguards about them in the regulations.

I wish to support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and to assuage the fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams). But first I would say that it will not do to come to the Committee and say, "We will throw overboard this provision." This provision has been in this Bill for nearly 12 months. For nearly 12 months the Government have said that this is right and proper. I do not object to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) putting down an Amendment, but after the Government have defended this for 12 months, the Parliamentary Secretary says, "I do not see the need for this and we will drop it."

There is a good reason for it being in, and I would remind him of that reason. As he indicated, there are authoritative recommendations about this. I accept at once on my own behalf that we have not been as vigilant as we might have been. We should have moved an Amendment "prohibiting or regulating" To assuage the fears of my hon. Friend, I would say that this does not compel the Minister to do anything. It is to enable the Minister to exercise his powers. Suppose there were a typhoid epidemic and it were believed that the typhoid was being spread in this way. Would my hon. Friend think it right and proper that the Minister should have such power?

I should imagine that there must be ample powers under Ministry of Health regulations somewhere to provide for that. But, if some Minister wishes to introduce prohibition, he can do so under this subsection, and that is what I do not want.

Surely my hon. Friend would agree that if the Minister proposes to exercise certain powers, it is better that the public should be aware of those powers, rather than that they should be hidden away among general powers. That is the purpose of these subsections.

The reason for this is that it was believed that there might be circumstances in which it would be right to prohibit, and it was believed by the Government for 12 months that this was not covered by the generality of powers in subsection (1). We have here nothing to pursuade us that it is so covered. If the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied, I cannot see why we should not give him an assurance that at a later stage we will move to amend by inserting the words, "or regulating," after "prohibiting." What is wrong about this subsection? If it is unnecessary, we should have some adequate explanation from the Government. This has gone through another place and been justified as necessary. It was put in on the recommendations received from bodies which have inquired into this.

It could be argued that every one of the provisions under subsection (2) are covered by subsection (1), but I have explained the purpose here. It is to make it quite clear that among the generality of powers are these specific powers. It is felt that for the sale of food from vehicles, stalls and such-like places there should be the power to prohibit and, I would suggest, "or regulate," the sale of food
"peculiarly susceptible to infection."
I would not for a moment doubt the good sense of the Minister. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may do so, but I do not. They have their 1922 Committee in which to express such doubts, but in open forum I express no doubt about the Minister, and I do not think the alarm of my hon. Friend is justified. I do not think that here there is any question of exercising a general prohibition. It could be done, but only by giving a general power can we give him power to act in particular circumstances which we cannot anticipate.

Because he is a man of considerable medical reputation, I should have expected the Parliamentary Secretary to say that it is appreciated that a risk might lie here; that while those who moved this Amendment have made a fair point in saying that this is too absolute in providing only for prohibiting, he would not accept the Amendment, but that later he would move to insert "or regulating" after "prohibiting."

May I ask the Minister why, if he was prepared to accept the Amendment, he was not prepared to tell us that food which is offered for sale in these conditions will be subject to special regulations? We should get an assurance from the Minister that he will introduce regulations covering this type of store, vehicle or stall and providing for reasonably hygienic precautions to be taken. For example, in this case he should insist on the food being covered properly, preferably by pre-wrapping and so on.

If the Minister would give an assurance of that nature, we should be in a better position to accept the Amendment. A number of my hon. Friends are anxious to ensure that there should be no impeding of the reasonable opportunities afforded to people to purchase commodities in this way. I have a fairly wide experience of the kind of customer to whom reference has been made. As we are dealing with the question of clean food, we must be most cautious about the way in which we allow food to be sold. We would like the Minister to give an undertaking that certain conditions will be set down covering the sale from this type of vehicle or stall of the commodities referred to.

I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates the size of the problem. Up to now, we have discussed it as a problem of the rural areas. There are far more travelling shops in the new housing estates in the big towns than there are in the rural areas. This is a far bigger problem than some hon. Members appreciate. We want to ensure that the travelling shops are of a good standard.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 43, at the end, to insert:

(h) for prohibiting the sale of any fish for human consumption or the use of any fish in the preparation of fish products unless it has been previously washed with wholesome water.

Perhaps it would be convenient to consider at the same time the next four Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). They are: In page 6, line 43, at end, insert:

(h) for prohibiting or regulating the sale for human consumption of any meat, meat products, fish or fish products not enclosed in a wrapper or container and the exposure of such foods without wrappers or containers.
In line 43, at end, insert:
(h) for imposing requirements as to the transport of meat, meat products, fish or fish products.
In line 43, at end, insert:
(h) for requiring that food not required for immediate consumption shall be properly stored and reasonably protected from all forms of contamination and infestation.
In line 43, at end, insert:
(h) for securing the proper treatment and storage of all foods which have been cooked or partly cooked and which are not required for immediate consumption.
Also there is the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell): In line 43, at end, insert:
(h) for ensuring that meat is adequately covered during all stages of transit between slaughterhouse and retail shop

5.45 p.m.

This series of Amendments has been put down because we know that the Minister has not thought fit to have these matters covered by the regulations although they are in the code. When we consider the proposed draft, we see that there is some cover in the regulations, in that it is stated that food:

"… consisting of or containing meat, fish, eggs, milk (except cheese), dried milk or condensed milk shall. after cooling as aforesaid, me stored at a temperature not exceeding 50° F."
Why has there been a change from 40° F. in the first tentative regulation to 50° F.? No doubt there is a technical explanation. It may be difficult to ask the trade to bring their products down to 40° as compared with 50°.

These matters are of such importance that they should not be left to the code which, of course, is a purely voluntary matter. They should be in the regulations. It may be that the Minister will reply, as he has done so frequently, perhaps rightly, by referring again to Clause 6 (1) and pointing out that there powers are taken on many of these questions including:
"… the sale of food for human consumption or the importation, preparation, transport, storage, packaging, exposure for sale…"
and so on. We have to point out that we have no way in which to persuade him to take any specific action. The Clause says that he may do so, and then it qualifies even the word "may" by the words:
"… as appear to them to be expedient …"
That is the usual form and we have already discussed it.

The trade itself would gladly accept all the matters mentioned in the Amendment. Earlier today I quoted the opinion of the National Caterers Federation. I have a document containing their views point by point on these questions. I do not think that it is necessary to read it. The Parliamentary Secretary probably has a copy. Literally every point is covered. They would accept all that we ask for here. They want cleanliness. They want goods to be decently wrapped, with no chance of infection. They want containers to be properly secured, cleansed and sterilised and they want suitable material used.

Obviously they have looked very carefully at the report of the working party and have taken all the best advice. If that is their view, we are within our rights in urging the Ministers to accept the Amendment. I ask the Government to say that, at least, they will accept the Amendment in principle.

The object of the Amendment in my name is to try to get provisions inserted in the Bill or the regulations to deal with the covering of meat during transit from slaughterhouses to retail shops. The manner in which carcases of meat are left completely uncovered in transit is shocking. We see them being unloaded from a van outside a market or a butcher's shop, possibly with a dust cart next to it, with the dustmen tipping dustbins into the cart and creating a cloud of dust. Something ought to be done to prevent that from happening, even though it may be rather difficult to do so. There is nothing in the Bill, nor can I find anything in the regulations, specifying the covering of meat during transport. It is high time this country improved the conditions in which meat is handled in these circumstances, even though it may take a little time for the trade to adjust itself to the change.

Meat is not the only substance which is carried in vehicles while uncovered. Perhaps the carriage of such goods as cakes and pastries is even more dangerous because they have already been cooked and are taken into cafés ready for immediate human consumption, whereas meat has subsequently to be cooked, which I understand will kill any germs which may have been collected. I believe that all food ought to be covered during transport and should not be left open to possible contamination by germs from dust carts or any other bacteria which it may pick up.

The Minister should include in the regulations requirements dealing with the covering of food and should not leave them to the code of practice, which may or may not be accepted by traders. Investigations into outbreaks of food poisoning have shown that most outbreaks originated from persons touching food with dirty hands. Nevertheless, there is a considerable amount of food poisoning in the country arising from the contamination of food in other ways, and this is due to the fact that the food is not properly covered.

When food is not in use it should be properly stored in order to protect it from contamination and infestation. If it is left exposed, dust is liable to fall upon it, and in the dust there are germs which can grow in the food and which can be responsible for subsequent food poisoning. When it is left uncovered, insects, particularly flies, may alight upon it and contaminate it with food poisoning germs. Mice, rats, dogs and cats can contaminate it, too. I am pleased to see that many foodshops nowadays display notices requesting people not to take their dogs into the shops, and I hope that practice will spread, but even if all dogs are kept out of foodshops, as I think ought to be the case, the food should nevertheless be covered to prevent contamination in the other ways which I have mentioned.

Perhaps one of the greatest dangers to food which is not properly covered is that it may be contaminated by the coughs and sneezes of food handlers or customers. If food is not in use it should be kept in refrigerators, cupboards or cases. This is such an important matter that it should be in the Regulations and, in order to ensure that, I hope that the Minister will accept these Amendments.

I want to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell). The way in which meat is carried to the retail shops from the slaughterhouses is disgraceful. During the war these conditions were necessary because of the long distance from the slaughterhouses to the shops and the lack of sufficient vehicles, but we have now left that stage and I think steps should be taken to see that those conditions do not continue. In particular, offals should be brought from the slaughterhouse to the retail shop in dust-proof containers.

It is very important that we should take such steps at present because in our discussion of recent legislation there was a strong demand from some quarters for what was called a moderate concentration of slaughterhouses. I have not been able to discover from those concerned what they meant by "moderate concentration" —whether they meant two miles or 50 miles—but I gather that they suggest a distance of about 15 to 20 miles from the slaughterhouse to the shop. If that is the intention, then it is more than ever essential that it should be made compulsory for those who carry food that distance to prevent contamination.

If we have a hot summer in this country once again—and I hope we shall —the dangers which we shall face unless such steps are taken will be high. I hope my hon. Friend will see that meat is properly protected during transit from the slaughterhouses to the retail shops, whether it is transported by rail or by van.

I will confine my remarks to the Amendment to which my name is attached, which includes the words,

"for imposing requirements as to the transport of meat, meat products, fish or fish products."
To a great extent this covers the same ground as the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), which has been supported by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin), but it goes a little further than that Amendment; whereas that Amendment is concerned only with the covering of food, my Amendment is concerned also with the vehicles being used.

In his reply, the Parliamentary Secretary will ask whether this point is covered by Clause 6 (1). I must admit that that subsection contains the word "transport" and that subsection 6 (4) refers to vehicles, but one of the weaknesses of the 1938 Act was that the comparable section—that is, Section 8 (1)—was too general in its terms, and I feel that subsection 6 (1) is, again, too general. We tried yesterday to make it a little more specific but were unsuccessful. Under that subsection:
"The Ministers may make such regulations as appear to them to be expedient for securing the observance of sanitary and cleanly conditions and practices in connection with the sale of food for human consumption or the importation, preparation, transport, storage, packaging, exposure for sale, service or delivery of food intended for sale or sold for human consumption.…"
It is very indefinite, and the terms are far too general. Indeed, the Government recognise that they are very general terms, because subsection (2) begins:
"(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing subsection,"
Therefore, I think that in this matter of the transport of meat, meat products, fish and fish products, it is important that we should have very definite regulations.

6.0 p.m.

Concerning food, it is important that we should have the most hygienic conditions right from the beginning until the food reaches the consumer, because if there is any breakdown in those hygienic conditions at any stage, whatever we may do at any other stage may be rendered nugatory. We must not only have the most hygienic slaughterhouses and regulations requiring the most hygienic conditions in retail shops, but, if we do not also insist upon hygienic conditions in transport from slaughterhouses to the retail shops, whatever we have done in other ways may be of no use whatever.

I do not know whether other hon. Members have had complaints such as have been brought to my notice about transport at the present time. We all know that we very often had grounds for complaint under the system of control about some of the vehicles used for the transport of meat, but, since decontrol was brought about, these conditions have become far worse. Only the other day, my attention was drawn by a friend to the fact that he had actually seen meat being taken away from a slaughterhouse and placed in the boot of the butcher's motor car. My informant said that it was quite evident from the state of the boot that the motor car had been at the seaside at the weekend.

What is happening at present is that butchers are using any vehicles they possess and putting meat into them, and it is very important that we should have regulations to provide that, where meat is transported from slaughterhouses to either wholesalers or retailers, its handling is governed by very definite regulations. Therefore, I hope that in this case the Parliamentary Secretary will not say that this point is covered in Clause 6 (1). We want something far more definite than is indicated merely by the word "transport"; we should have an assurance from the Minister that he will make definite regulations covering the transport of meat, meat products, fish and fish products.

I should like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) in respect of the first Amendment which he has moved, which would require that any fish for human consumption shall, prior to sale, have been washed not only in water, but in wholesome water. We are here concerned with a matter of some substance, and it is necessary to specify what is required in the regulations rather than to say that all these matters are covered in Clause 6 (1) or that they are mentioned in a code of practice.

I should think that every housewife will, in any circumstances, wash the fish before she uses it, but I would urge the necessity for the fishmonger to wash it. I base my principal claim for this provision on the fact that this country, with its very low standards of food hygiene, is almost the only one in the world which follows the horrible practice of fish boxes being used over and over again. It is one of the very few countries in the world in which that state of affairs continues. I believe that we should see that proper precautions are taken, and I therefore ask that these matters shall be specified in the regulations.

I am sorry that we are discussing all these Amendments together, because there is quite a lot to be said on several of them, and they are all of vital importance on the issue of clean food.

I have endeavoured in the course of recent years to take an interest in this matter. I have raised it twice on the Motion for the Adjournment in this House, and have been assured that steps would be taken to see that the fullest regard was given to the provision of clean food. I have also brought to the notice of the Minister from time to time the very keen interest taken in the matter in my constituency by the medical officer of health. I have also seen myself in the United States the steps which are taken in order to secure the provision of food in a covered and clean condition.

What we are asking in these Amendments is not beyond the power of enforcement. On the contrary, I have seen every one of these points covered by regulations which are in force in the United States. They differ in some States, because in some there are regulations of a much stricter nature, and they are enforceable with very severe penalties in many instances.

May I first deal with the first of this series of Amendments? As far as I know, it is not the general practice in the fish trade always to wash fish before sale, but we must insist upon this being carried out in a more definite sense. A code of practice is only a document drawing people's attention to what they ought to do, whereas the regulations are something quite different, and I assume that the Minister proposes to enforce them. Therefore, I think that all these proposals should be put into effect by means of regulations.

Regarding the second Amendment, which is concerned with wrappers or containers, I know the difficulty about putting it into practice, but I wonder if the Minister would be prepared to consider an alternative arrangement for hygienic storage and display; for example, covered-in shelves, refrigerated cabinets and so on? It is possible to enforce that kind of thing, and I am sure that the Minister knows that that has already been brought into effect in many large stores.

I should also like to refer to the Amendment seeking to enforce certain requirements in regard to the transport of meat and fish. It cannot be denied that it is highly desirable that there should be a regulation to that effect. Indeed, there is already a reference to such a provision in the draft regulations. Why not make it compulsory in such a regulation drafted in accordance with the Act and quickly brought into effect? I do not see why the Minister should look so astonished—I am not suggesting anything—

What surprises me was that the hon. Gentleman said that he knew that the power was there and then went on to suggest that the power should be altered.

No. What is not specified in a regulation made now can be carried out at a later date by another regulation, whereas what we are anxious to see is that these regulations shall contain these provisions, irrespective of whether the Minister wants them or not. That is what we are driving at. That is the difference between what the Minister said and what we want. We want some action, since the Minister must make regulations for certain purposes.

I think the other Amendments are also directed to what is perfectly feasible, and I hope that, when the Minister has considered them and has heard the arguments for them, he will realise that the vast majority of the people of this country are anxious that he should now define what ought to be done. It should not be left even to a chance decision of the Minister from time to time. Therefore, I hope that the Minister of Food will be able to accept these Amendments.

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West {Mr. Janner) reveals a misunderstanding about this position. It was proposed earlier that the word "shall" should govern both Clause 6 (1) and (2). Rightly or wrongly, the Committee decided otherwise. Had the word "shall" been included as governing Clause 6 (2), there would have been a good case for listing the various items upon which the Minister should make regulations.

As matters stand, the Minister may make regulations which are governed in general terms by Clause 6 (1) and in more specific terms in certain respects by Clause 6 (2). I want to make it abundantly clear that the power to make regulations on any of the subjects referred to in the Amendments exists today, and whether we add these Amendments or not is immaterial. I hope that the Committee will not add these or any other words, because they are unnecessary..

The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) came to the point which is really in people's minds when he asked, "Will the Minister use the powers which admittedly he possesses to make regulations on these various topics?" As the Committee knows, the final form of the regulations is not yet determined but the present mind is revealed under a number of headings. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) made reference, for example. to butchers' vans, the vehicles used for the transport of meat; draft Regulation 29 seeks to deal with that point. Indeed, it refers particularly to the problem which the hon. Member had in mind of the character of the floor to be used in any such van. I am not defending or advocating the particular form of words used. I am saying that the power exists and that these Amendments are irrelevant. Consideration is now being given to this matter—I admit that it is not the final form—of what should be included in the regulations.

My right hon. Friend will give very careful consideration to the suggestions that have been made. In part it can be said that the subjects are dealt with in the draft regulations; for example, Regulations 29, 30, 24, and 6 (a) in a general sense deal with some of the points. I hope that hon. Members who have a particular interest will make their suggestions. The bodies representing trades and industries, the associations of local authorities, and other expert bodies are looking at the present draft. We shall do our utmost in the regulations to meet as best we can the various points which are put forward.

I am not here and now guaranteeing what will be in the final regulations, because they are the subject of consultation. I sincerely ask hon. Members who have particular views to convey them to my right hon. Friend, when those views will be most carefully considered. The power exists but some Members have doubts as to whether they go far enough. This is not the moment to consider that. I ask the Committee not to add what I referred to earlier as "forms of particularization" which do not add anything to the Minister's powers, and which are irrelevant.

6.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that his right hon. Friend will consider any representations made to him about the draft regulations. I think he is seized of our main purpose in putting these Amendments on the Paper, which was really to suggest matters which we thought were proper to go into the draft regulations. In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I think my hon. Friends would be satisfied and would not wish to press these Amendments to the point of writing them into the Bill.

We are reassured to know that the final form of the regulations has not yet been determined. I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will direct their attention to the HANSARD report of our discussions, and that their Department will endeavour to meet as far as possible the wishes which we have expressed in these Amendments.

I will make one small point but I do not think it is necessary to labour it.

In an earlier Amendment we mentioned the question of wrapping. I assume that the Parliamentary Secretary has not mentioned it because the matter is being considered in connection with a possible Amendment. That is rather different from the other matters that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. It seemed when I gave the assurance to the hon. Gentleman that Clause 6 (1) was possibly inapplicable.

Yes, that is how I understand the matter. I appreciate what the Parliamentary Secretary has said. With that further assurance I hope that my hon. Friends will be willing to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn so that we may pass on to the next Amendment.

On a point of order. We have had a number of references in the debate yesterday and today to certain draft regulations. These regulations have apparently been communicated to various Members of the Committee. They appear in a public document. The difficulty is that many of us, including myself, have not seen these draft regulations and are thereby impeded in the discharge of our Parliamentary duties by references which convey something to those who have seen the regulations and nothing to those who have not seen them.

I have just listened to the Parliamentary Secretary referring to "Regulation 29" For all I know, he may be referring to regulations about the pickling of toucans, or about any other subject. I read on page 44 of Erskine May that documents of this sort should be laid on the Table of the House. This was asked for yesterday. A number of us are really at a disadvantage. May I ask what steps are going to be taken to remedy that matter? Secondly, may we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he will not encourage this kind of thing?

Further to that point of order. I accept some share of responsibility. The Minister has been most helpful in this regard. We have quarrelled about the contents of the regulations, but the Minister and his predecessor have not shown the slightest reluctance about making the draft regulations available. That was not a duty placed upon them, but from the beginning, at the time of the first discussions, they have given us the draft regulations. We have had full access to them.

With regard to the present draft regulations, I was given a number of copies. If my hon. Friends have not received copies, it is I who have been remiss. All they need do, as I still have a few copies left, is to ask me for a copy. I should like to make it quite clear that whatever difference of opinion there may be or may have been about the contents of the draft regulations, the Department has never shown the slightest reluctance in affording us access to them.

Further to that point of order. If this is a convenient time—in the middle of an Amendment —to discuss the matter of the machinery of the House, I would like to say that I think that the hon. Member is taking too narrow a view of the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), because there is also the point of view of the public at large. When, if they go to the Stationery Office—

Is the hon. Member raising another point of order altogether?

No, Sir Gordon, I am extending the point about Members within this House to those who have no access to these regulations, but who—

The only point is whether the Minister is bound to lay these regulations on the Table. It is quite clear that he is not so bound, and, also, that draft regulations are not really State papers in the proper sense of the term.

I wish to say in supplementation of what was said by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that I am, of course, most anxious that everybody should have these draft regulations. We placed copies of the previous regulations in the Library. I am not sure whether copies of the last lot are in the Library, though they will be very shortly. If there is anything more that we can do to make them more readily available, we shall be only too happy to do so.

I, of course, completely accept your Ruling, Sir Gordon, but I wish to say that from the point of view of backbench Members it is not so important that these documents should be handed to Front Bench Members as it is that they should be laid upon the Table of the House. That is all I wish to say.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 43, at the end, to insert:

(3) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions the Ministers shall publish a code of practice regarding food hygiene in catering premises and codes of practice regarding such other classes of business as appears to them to be necessary or expedient in the interests of public health or otherwise for the protection of the public.
When my hon. Friends and I first considered this matter of legislation with a view to trying to improve the standard of hygiene in catering establishments and food premises throughout the country—which we did about four years ago—we at once realised that it would be necessary to have regulations in addition to a Bill. There are so many points which need to be covered that we recognised that regulations would have to be made so that the Bill itself should not contain such an enormous amount of scientific material. The regulations will need changing from time to time, and it is easy for a Minister to do that, whereas it would be difficult to make the alterations in the Measure.

We on this side of the Committee want the Bill and we want the regulations. When we had the Second Reading of the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary informed the House—and this was the first that I had heard of it—that it was the intention of the Minister also to draw up a code of practice. The Parliamentary Secretary explained precisely why that was to be done, and we on this side of the House saw the reasonableness of his arguments and accepted his decision.

I think that the idea of having a code of practice is an excellent one. Unlike my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), I have been fortunate in obtaining a copy of the draft regulations and of the draft code of practice. If, by way of example, I may quote two of the points mentioned in the code of practice, I think the Committee will agree how wise it is to have such a code rather than to put these points into regulations.

The first is No. 4 in the code, which states:
"New entrants to the industry should be given instruction in the principles of hygiene and all persons employed in the food trade should be encouraged to attend classes and lectures on food hygiene."
The Parliamentary Secretary, I am sure, will realise how very pleased I was to see that that matter had been mentioned in the draft code of practice.

However, I am sure that the Committee will agree that it should not be in the regulations, because the infringement of anything contained in regulations renders a person liable to a penalty. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary and I both agree that while education in hygiene for food handlers is extremely important, it should be on a voluntary basis, and that persons should certainly not be liable to heavy penalties for the non-fulfilment of that wise advice.

The second point is No. 7 in the code which states:
"All persons engaged in the preparation of food should wear a clean washable head covering which effectively covers the hair."
That gives us another example of something that it was very wise of the Minister to mention, and I suggest that the code is the right place for it. It is most desirable that food handlers should wear a head covering, but I think it is expecting rather too much, if for one reason or another they fail to do so, that they should be liable to such heavy penalties as they would be if the matter were covered by the regulations.

For the reasons that I have given, we on this side of the Committee warmly welcome the Government's idea of having a code of practice, though I am not quite certain whether the Minister has any authority to draw up such a code. But even if he has, I suggest that this Amendment should be accepted in order to stress the importance of the code. We are trying to be helpful to the Government in this Amendment. As I have explained to the Committee, we approve the Government's idea of a code of practice, but think that it should be specifically mentioned in the Bill.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) has spoken as he has done. A code is an essential part of the work that we are proposing to do. There is just one doubt, and for that reason I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to press the matter any further at this moment. It is not a doubt as to whether there should be a code. It is just a doubt as to whether it would be more effective if published by a Minister or more effective if published by others, with such help as the Minister can give.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, for many years I was the chairman of the Central Council for Health Education, which is a body that acts as the agency for local authorities in the matter of their health education work. Among those experienced in that kind of work, there is very often a feeling that when a code is a Government code it is less effective than when it is published under the aegis of some body such as the Central Council or the Royal Sanitary Institute, or one of the other many representative bodies set up for that purpose.

It might be that the Minister is the appropriate person. The only doubt that remains—and we should like a little further time in which to consider it—is whether it should be done by direct action of the Minister or by some other body, with the Minister's blessing. Apart from that, I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said.

6.30 p.m.

I appreciate the point which the Parliamentary Secretary has made. Quite frankly, when the Catering Trade Working Party's Report came out I had some doubts about the code of practice. I thought it would be difficult to have a code without the enforcement of the regulations, but now that we have an approved code of practice as well as the regulations I think the case has been made out for it. There is quite clearly a very good case for such a code as supporting, and ancillary to, the regulations.

As to whether it should be a Government responsibility or that of another body, I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there should perhaps be some further time for thought. However, I should have thought that, having gone so far to overcome that hurdle, and having produced this code after obvious consultation with the trade, the case was made out that the Government could, in fact, bear responsibility for the code of practice. If the Parliamentary Secretary feels that, between now and Report, there should be further consultations and discussions with other bodies interested in hygiene, we would by all means accept that. I am sure my hon. Friends would not wish, in those circumstances, to press this Amendment at this stage.

I should have thought that a code of practice that was issued by the Minister would have been more effective than one issued by some outside body, but in view of the fact—

Before the hon. Member asks leave to withdraw the Amendment—as I think he is about to do—can I not say a word on this matter, Sir Charles? I have never been allowed to speak, although I have been endeavouring to do so.

If, when the hon. Member for Batley and Morley has finished his speech, the hon. Lady stands up I shall call her.

I do not want the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment before I have had my say.

In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's promise to look into this point, and as we shall have an opportunity to consider it further on Report, I shall, in due course, beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

There has been so much billing and cooing between the Opposition and the Government Front Bench that I begin to be a little alarmed, because I am very anxious to know where British Railways come in. If the Amendment is finally included in the Bill, will British Railways come under Ministerial control or be regarded as some outside body whose conduct cannot be questioned because it is not a Ministerial responsibility?

So far as I can see, British Railways have already started a code, and if we are to have this code of practice—whether or not it is a Ministerial responsibility—I want to be quite certain that we are not to have any reduction in quality. Some time ago, British Railways were providing for people using the sleepers some perfectly loathsome little biscuits called "Dux." They were horrible little biscuits, very cheap—

Whatever their name, it does not affect the Amendment, which deals with how they are produced and handled and so on.

I am just coming to the handling, which is exactly my point.

British Railways have suddenly decided that they will handle the biscuits in a different way, so it seems to me that they have already seen the code of practice. First, on my representation, they withdrew these cheap little biscuits, and when, while we were discussing this Bill in the House of Commons, I travelled north, I suddenly found these perfectly loathsome biscuits had been put into miserable little paper bags on which were the words "Good Morning"

I can only say that if the code of practice is to permit of British Railways putting "Good Morning" on paper bags which contain inferior biscuits, I would have preferred better-class biscuits without the paper bag and the "Good Morning" I therefore want to know whether my hon. Friend is to have any control on what British Railways do. It will give me great pleasure if he will have.

May I ask the hon. Lady whether on the paper bags was printed "Good Morning, ducks"?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 10, to leave out paragraph (b).

I am not an expert on billing and cooing, but I should like to express the hope that the Solicitor-General is to reply to this matter and break his somewhat inscrutable silence. May I also take the opportunity to say to him that, apart from the poisonous political views which he shares with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am not the only person who is very glad to see him a Law Officer?

We all know him as a singularly happy combination of learning, good sense and courtesy, and his profession—as I dare say he himself sometimes suspects—esteems him very highly. Having said what I hope are those nice things, I can only add that I know him well enough to be quite certain that they will not have the faintest effect on his attitude to this Amendment.

If one reads subsection 3 (b), it will be seen that it follows the subsection dealing with the Minister's regulations, and those regulations are to
"make provision for the adjustment between owners and occupiers of the premises of expenses incurred in complying with any such requirements."
Those are, broadly speaking, clean food requirements. Quite honestly and frankly I really do not know what it means. What does "adjustment" mean? My fear is that it is not merely a question of whether the Minister's regulations will provide some convenient means of payment if there are any pecuniary liabilities or anything like that, but that the intention is that, with the powers given in the Bill, Ministers may vary the law in the matter according to what they think to be right in regard to complying with these requirements.

If, as at present it seems to me, that is the real proposal, I feel certain that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be the first person to admit that it is a very remarkable innovation in the law. There are, of course, legal provisions which may deal with many of these cases. In the Landlord and Tenant Act there are provisions about alterations, and there are the ordinary provisions in common law that, in a given case, there will be legal obligations as between the persons concerned, and those legal obligations, if not already known to the persons concerned, can, if necessary, be ascertained in court. Apparently they are to be adjusted. What exactly does that mean?

When I look at the history of this business my suspicions about what is going on are aggravated. There was—indeed, until this Bill becomes law there still is—a very simple provision in Section 13 of the principal Act to the effect that expenses may be recovered in certain cases as a civil debt. That is an entirely different matter,

That is a mere question of procedure, and does not affect the question whether or not they are recoverable in law. At any rate, whether it does or does not, it is a quite clear and definite provision in the Act itself, and to that, of course, no one has any objection in principle. If we were told what is to be done with these expenses and were asked to accept an appropriate provision about them, I should not be objecting, but in this case that is not what we are being asked to do. That Section is, in fact, going to be repealed.

In the Factories Act, 1937, and in the Baking Industry (Hours of Work) Act, 1938, a rather similar question arose—that is to say, the question of altering or adapting premises in some way to comply with the requirements of those Acts. There was a very definite provision that the matter should go to the county court and that the adjustment or alteration of the rights of parties should be made by the county court judge under the provisions of those two Acts. The provisions are broadly similar.

The Factories Act, under the side heading "Power of county court to modify agreements" provided:
"If by reason of an agreement between the owner and the occupier of premises… the said owner or occupier is prevented from carrying out any structural or other alterations in the premises which are necessary to enable him to comply with the provisions of this Act… he may apply… to the county court, and the court, after hearing the parties… may make such an order setting aside or modifying the terms of the agreement as the court considers just and equitable in the circumstances of the case."
That is an adjustment of the rights of the parties and an adjustment of the incidence of the expenses; it might be more than that, but it is, at any rate, made by the county court.

I dare say the Solicitor-General will be able to give us some other instances, but, speaking for myself, I know of no case in which Ministers have been given a completely general power to adjust the incidence of expenses or to adjust ordinary common law rights without any indication of the lines upon which the adjustment ought to proceed. I suggest that this is a highly undesirable innovation, and that it ought to be replaced by something which indicates what is the right thing to do, and which further indicates that it is to be done in the open in a court and not by a brace of Ministers through regulations.

6.45 p.m.

Even if for some reason or another it is more convenient, or even right, to leave this matter to Ministerial decision, we ought to be given a very clear indication of what Ministerial decisions are to be in given circumstances, and it ought not to be left to a Ministerial statement here. Something ought to be put into the Bill itself to indicate the principles upon which those decisions are to be made.

As matters stand at present, it is not at all clear that anybody is going to be heard at all. The Ministers, by regulation, may make provision for the adjustment between owners and occupiers of premises. They will be dealing with a whole variety of different rights and circumstances; it is perfectly open to them to make general decisions in the regulations, and even to give themselves power to make particular decisions, and, so far as I can see, no one can do anything about it. I hope that my suspicions are exaggerated. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to satisfy the Committee that this is a necessary and a fair provision and not the dangerous innovation which at present it appears to me to be.

I should like to add a few words in support of what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). When I first read this paragraph (b) it filled me with considerable apprehension. The problem, as I understand it, is this. It is at its worst in the case where there is an already existing tenancy, where a landlord has let and a tenant has taken premises which may be the subject of requirements under regulations made under this Bill, before they knew that any such Bill was likely to become law.

They will already have made their bargain. They will already have entered into a lease. Now, out of the blue, there will come to them directions to the effect, perhaps, that a kitchen has to be built on or, in the case of catering premises, that additional lavatories are to be built. The question is, who ought to bear the expense?

The first thing that I do, as the hon. and learned Gentleman did, is to look to other statutes which have posed similar problems. The earliest statute which occurred to me was the Licensing Act, 1902. In that Act, for the first time, licensing justices were empowered, not by an edict in the form of a regulation which applies all over the country but when dealing with individual houses at licensing sessions, suddenly to say, "We shall not renew the licence of this house unless something is done," and to decide on different requirements for different houses.

When that power was given to the licensing justices 52 years ago, no provision was made in that statute stating how the expense was to be shared between owner and occupier, landlord and tenant, owner and mortgagee and also in the case of all the other possible relationships which might be involved. It occurred to me that that might have resulted in litigation in a number of cases, but although I have searched diligently, I have not been able to find that the interpretation has been raised at all, except in a single case, and that a rather abstruse one on the interpretation of a marriage settlement.

Those who have studied books on licensing law know that if there is any doubt, parties always do litigate when the cases concern licensed premises. If they have not litigated, it seems to me that the best thing that Parliament and Ministers can do is to leave landlords and tenants to reach a commonsense solution when they are required by regulation to spend money on premises, and that, by and large, they will reach a better solution in each case than we can possibly achieve in general terms.

My hon. and learned Friend will know how complicated leases can be, particularly if they are of business premises. One can picture the difficulties that will arise in respect of a food shop or cafe which is part of a large block which includes offices, other shops, flats, staircases, entrance halls and so on. Where alterations have to be made the question will arise not only whether the landlord or the tenant should pay, but as to the extent to which neighbouring occupiers are affected. Alterations may be required to the building next door, above, or below.

If we are to interfere with the ordinary course of business bargaining which goes on when such a requirement is made known, the only possible way to do so is to say that if the parties affected by such a regulation cannot agree together they must all lay their problems before some form of tribunal—the obvious one would be the county court—and say, "This is the problem; decide what is fair and reasonable between us." There are plenty of precedents for imposing such a task upon the county court; it has been done in the landlord and tenant legislation which we have dealt with this Session.

I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will consider this question very carefully before he imposes upon Ministers the task of making regulations laying down the rules which will do justice in every one of the many hundreds of varied cases which will arise as a result of the regulations to be made under the previous paragraph.

I hope that the Committee will allow me to depart from the matter in hand just to express my gratitude to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) for the kind personal reference he made to me. I appreciate it very much, and it would be churlish not to notice it.

With due respect to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Higgs), I am bound to say that, although there is a great deal in their criticism of this paragraph as it now stands, I hope that I can remove at least some of their anxieties. First, it is in no sense the intention that the Ministers should, by regulation, and quite outside the law, seek to make some decision adjusting the rights of the parties. That has never been the intention, and it is not now. The intention is that, by regulation, these problems should be handed over to a court of justice to do what that court thinks is, in the whole of the circumstances, just and equitable.

I do not for one moment want to bind the Government to what court of justice should decide, because there is a choice here between a court of summary jurisdiction—which is the appropriate court under the Food and Drugs Act, 1938—and a county court, which, as both hon. Members have noticed, is the appropriate court in much modern legislation. At the moment, I should prefer the matter of the appropriate court to remain a question for discussion.

It is always a matter of opinion how much one should—if I may avoid technical language—clutter up a statute by putting in detail. I ask the Committee to take the view that it might well be for the convenience of the public that the legislation dealing with the sorting out of the rights of parties—the question whether the owner or the occupier should bear the expense—should be grouped together in one batch of regulations. In that case they would presumably be easy to refer to.

The real matter of challenge between the desire of the hon. and learned Gentleman and the provisions of the Bill as it now stands is, aye or no, ought the principles to be applied by the court in making the adjustment—which is a word I shall seek to explain in a moment—to be embodied in the text of the statute or in the text of regulations. I submit that this is a case where it would be quite convenient to deal with the matter by regulations.

I submit that the word "adjustment" in this context means "apportionment of the money, plus whatever consideration has to be given to the state of contract between owner and occupier which the court may have to modify or say shall cease to have effect in so far as it is inconsistent with the terms of the court's order." One wants to see a form of words covering both factors—the distribution of the expense between the people concerned and the examination of, and, if necessary, change in, their contractual rights by the court, when it makes the order about the distribution of money.

Having said those things, I should like to make a concession. I cannot accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment because it would leave this statute somewhat enucleated in this connection, but I can undertake to look at this matter very carefully before Report in order to see whether I cannot improve the form of words in a way which will make it quite clear that it is in no sense suggested that the rights of the parties in this matter should be settled by anyone but a court of law.

I should like to say a word or two before taking a certain course. I am afraid that on one point the hon. and learned Gentleman did not satisfy me. He referred to the fact that the Bill says that the regulations

" may… make provision for the adjustment…"
and so on, and he advised the Committee that the word "adjustment" there involves some alteration in the legal rights of the parties. The language as it is at present simply says that the two Ministers may adjust the legal rights. That is what it comes to, and that is open to all the objections that occurred to his hon. Friend and myself. I am sure that both his hon. Friend and myself accept his statement that there is no intention that the Ministers shall do that—the intention is that the Ministers shall lay down machinery for adjustment by the appropriate court—but that intention must surely be expressed in the Bill.

I suggested a few cases to the Minister, and if he looks at them he will find that they are very similar to the present case. There is a rather useful one in the Factory Act dealing with much the same kind of thing. I am not asking for a statement in the Bill as to what should be done. That would be open to objections. But there must be a definite statement that although the Ministers may lay down the machinery, the adjustment, if involving any alteration in legal rights—as it does—must be made by a court. I should have thought that a county court would be the most appropriate one. That is the substantial point, and that is the whole root of our objection. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman wish to interrupt?

7.0 p.m.

I was only going to help the hon. and learned Gentleman. I did not make myself plain. I will give an undertaking before Report to seek for a form of words which will make it quite clear that a court of law and not some decree of the Minister is going to adjust the rights. I do not want at present to say what court of law, but I am entirely with the hon. and learned Gentleman about that.

On that assurance, for which I warmly thank the hon. and learned Gentleman, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 12, at the end, to insert:

(c) provide, subject to such limitations and safeguards as may be specified, for conferring, in relation to particular premises, exemptions from the operation of specified provisions contained in regulations made for the purposes of paragraph (a) or paragraph (h) of the foregoing subsection while there is in force a certificate of the local authority to the effect that compliance with those provisions cannot reasonably be required with respect to the premises or any activities carried on there.
This additional paragraph enables the Minister to include in the regulations dealing with premises, buildings and equipment, a provision for local authorities to grant certificates of exemption in certain circumstances; that is to say, exemption from the requirement to comply with the regulations. The circumstances in which we think that it would be a good plan to give local authorities the power to issue certificates of exemption are cases where the literal compliance with specific regulations would be unreasonable.

The regulations will be drafted fairly widely, couched in pretty general terms, and will, for instance, deal with all food establishments or all catering establishments or all of some other category. We think that there will be cases of building and equipment where it will not be reasonable to comply literally with the regulations.

The kind of case we are thinking of is a canteen on a building site on which a big building is going up; or, a different kind of case, a youth hostel in a rural area. Those are the kinds of cases in which it would be very difficult indeed to comply literally with the regulations, unless the regulations were watered down very much; it would be very difficult in those cases to attain the standard we want to aim at by the regulations.

The Amendment will enable us to see that the regulations are more stringent than they otherwise would be. If we did not have any exemption at all the regulations would have to be watered down. The local authorities are the responsible authorities for these functions, and I think we should feel that it is appropriate to trust them to grant these certificates only in cases such as I have mentioned in which exemption would,I think, be appropriate.

Would this proposed exemption apply to private slaughterhouses in certain circumstances?

I am not sure. I will find out. The exemption will be only in cases in which a local authority is satisfied that it would be unreasonable to expect the owner or occupier of the premises to comply literally with the regulations. I should not have thought myself that it could have applied to slaughterhouses, which, after all, are permanent buildings.

In principle, I am not quarrelling with the Minister in seeking powers oto secure exceptions, in certain circumstances, to the application of the regulations as described in this subsection. I see the difficulty with which the Minister is faced in the application of the main regulations inflexibly, and I do not quarrel at all in principle with providing for exemptions under certain safeguards, but the limitation the Minister has set upon the application of the exception from the sweep of the regulations is not expressed in the Amendment. One fear

I have is that the issuing of a certificate by a local authority may go on recurring for a period, which would completely defeat in practice the purpose the Minister has in mind, which is to allow reasonable time for the occupiers of such premises where food is prepared, and so on, to put their houses in order before any action is taken against them for not complying with the regulations.

I have in mind the state of many private slaughterhouses, for which exemption may be sought by means of certificates from local authorities, and although in principle the provision for a certificate may be all right, if it is issued within the very strict limitation, it lends itself to a great deal of abuse unless the Minister makes it perfectly clear that a time limit will be imposed for the operation of the limitation and that ultimately, at some reasonable date, all premises will comply with the regulation as provided for in subsection (2).

We cannot be enthusiastic about this Amendment, but I think the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is far better to seek higher standards and allow for exceptions than to have regulations which provide only for the lowest common denominator. While we do not want exceptions, it is better to anticipate local authorities allowing exemptions, and at the same time to maintain high standards. On this side of the Committee we accept the Amendment and appreciate the purpose of it.

In reply to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), I would draw his attention to the Slaughterhouses Act we passed in July, from which it appears that there is no evading the byelaws when a local authority has made them and the Minister has approved them. This Clause in this Bill, therefore, cannot apply to slaughterhouses, because slaughterhouses, whether public or private, are covered by the Slaughterhouses Act

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 23, at the end, to insert:

(6) (a) For the purpose of giving advice to the Ministers in the making of Regulations and Codes of Practice under this section, there shall be constituted a council to be called the Central Food Hygiene Council;
(b) the Council shall consist of a chairman who shall be appointed by the Ministers and of such other members as may be appointed by the Ministers to represent the interests of the different sections of the food industry and any such other interests (including those of persons employed in the industry) as the Ministers may consider to be affected;
(c) before appointing to the Council a member to represent any such interests as aforesaid, the Ministers shall consult such bodies, if any, as appear to them to be representative of the interests concerned.

With this Amendment we may also consider that in the name of the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), in page 7, line 23, at the end, to insert:

(6) Local clean food committees shall be established, representative of local authority, catering trade and consumer interests. to consider cases of dispute arising out of the Regulations made under this section and to report their opinion to the Central Food Hygiene Council;
also the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey), in Clause 8, page 9, to leave out lines 31 to 35, and to insert:
(5) Before making any orders under this section the Ministers shall consult with the Central Food Hygiene Council and such representative organisations as they think fit;
also the new Clause (Food Hygiene Advisory Committee) in the name of the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan):
(1) There shall be constituted a committee. to be called "the Food Hygiene Advisory Committee," to give advice and assistance to the Minister in connection with the discharge of his functions under this Act and to perform any other duties allotted to them under this Act.
(2) The provisions of the Schedule (Constitution, &c., of Food Hygiene Advisory Committee) to this Act shall have effect with respect to the constitution of the said Committee and other matters relating to the Committee.
(3) The Minister may from time to time refer to the said Committee for consideration and advice such questions relating to the operation of this Act as he thinks fit (including questions as to the advisability of amending this Act).
(4) The Minister shall furnish the Committee with such information as they may reasonably require for the proper discharge of their functions under this Act;
also the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Constitution of Food Research Advisory Council):
(1) For the purpose of giving advice to the Ministers about the addition of any substances to food as an ingredient in the preparation of food or the abstraction of any constituent from or the subjection of food to any other process or treatment there shall be constituted a Council to be called the Food Research Advisory Council (hereinafter in this Act referred to as "the Advisory Council").
(2) The Advisory Council shall consist of a chairman and such other members as may be appointed by the Ministers.
(3) The Advisory Council shall appoint a person employed by them to act as secretary to the Advisory Council.
(4) Subject to the approval of the Ministers, the Advisory Council shall have power to do all or any of the following things—
  • (a) to carry on research and experiment for the purpose of giving advice in accordance with the provisions of this section;
  • (b) to give financial assistance by way of grant for the carrying on of such research and experiment; and
  • (c) to provide by means of publicity and advice and instruction information about such research and experiment and generally to make known the advice given to the Ministers in accordance with the provisions of this section;
  • also the new Schedule in the name of the hon. Member for Reigate: