HC Deb 27 May 1870 vol 201 cc1499-524

rose, pursuant to Notice, to move:— That this House is of opinion that the present state of the Law as regards the use of False Weights and Measures, and the prevention and punishing of adulteration of Food, Drink, and Drugs, is most unsatisfactory, and demands the early attention of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord said, he had brought forward a similar Motion to the present one last year, and withdrew it only on the understanding that the Government would deal with that portion of the question which related to the use of false weights and measures as soon as the Report of the Royal Commission on Weights and Measures was published. That Report, he believed, would shortly appear; and he presumed the Government were acquainted with its recommendations. The object of his present Motion was to obtain from the Government a definite statement of what they meant to do on that question and the other kindred subject embraced in his Notice. As far as the use of false weights and measures was concerned, although he could not say that things were going from bad to worse, they had certainly not improved. He did not propose now to go at any considerable length into the statistics with regard to false weights and measures, because he did so last year; but he thought he might appeal to the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), if they had not, after the perusal of those statistics, arrived at the same conclusion that he had—namely, that when in parishes like St. Pancras and the Strand there were no convictions at all, and very few in parishes of almost equal area and population, there must either be an amount of honesty in those districts, which was very much to be valued because unexpected, or else the law was ineffective in its administration and in the penalties it imposed. But in order to show the working of the law, he would read some very valuable evidence recently given by Mr. Martyn Roberts before the Standards Commission. Mr. Martyn Roberts said— By the system of inspection now in operation much facility is given to fraud. The inspector goes his rounds with cart, horse, and police attendants, giving full notice of his approach; fraudulent tradesmen hasten to conceal their false weights and bring out a good set for inspection; and, as soon as the officer's back is turned, these weights are put safely away and the false ones brought out for the next poor customer. The same thing happens when the police attempt to detect and seize false weights: they make an imposing progress from shop to shop—the country is well alarmed, warnings run from place to place, and all dangerous weights are put safely away. To show the necessity which existed for an alteration in the law, he might refer to the information obtained by the Standards Department. In the Report of that Department, dated July, 1868, and signed by Mr. Chisholm, there was this statement— I have reason to believe that the information thus obtained, together with other information furnished to the Department from other sources, and laid before the Standards Commission, will demonstrate the existence of many imperfections in the present system of inspection, and the necessity of introducing material changes and improvement in this system and in the laws by which it is regulated. He now passed from this portion of the subject to a more monstrous and more crying evil—namely, the adulteration of food, drink, and drugs. Last year he endeavoured to show how widespread was adulteration throughout this country; and he compared our laws on this subject with the laws of other countries in Europe, for the purpose of showing that the latter were more effectual for the suppression of fraud. He believed he succeeded in convincing the House, though he did not succeed in convincing the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, which, perhaps, was not to be wondered at, although the arguments he brought forward on that occasion had remained, as they were then, uncontradicted. Indeed, they had been strengthened by Returns which he had moved for. The first Return he had moved for was for the number of convictions during the previous three years in the Metropolitan District under the Adulteration Act of 1860, and to that requisition the reply was that there had been no conviction during the previous three years—for a very good reason, for, as far as he could make out, there had been none since the Act was passed nine years ago. The second Return was for the number of convictions under the Revenue Acts in the metropolis during the same time. From it he learnt that in the year 1868 there were only five convictions. Those had been for the adulteration of beer. And here he must observe that, as the penalties inflicted by magistrates for breaches of the Revenue Laws were generally remitted on appeal, sometimes to the amount of one-half, it was impossible for the magistrates to look forward to any of those penalties being duly enforced. To show the House how utterly null and void the law was, he would quote the opinion of a gentleman who was competent to form an opinion, and whose opinion represented that of the scientific portion of the community. He alluded to Dr. Letheby, who said— Parliament has, therefore, attempted to deal with the matter by legislation, as in the Act for preventing the adulteration of articles of food or drink of 1860; but as the Act is only permissive, little or no effect has been given to it. Even in those places, as in the City of London, where it has been put in operation, and public analysts have been appointed, no good has resulted from it, and it really stands upon the statute book a dead letter. Last year he brought those and several other facts before the House. He was then accused of unintentional exaggeration—a somewhat serious charge, be- cause it implied that a Member of the House of Commons made a statement without having given himself the trouble of finding out whether it was accurate or not. What he did state was that the quantity of a certain noxious drug, cocculus Indicus, imported into this country in the years 1866–7–8 was, for the first of these years, 394 cwt.; for the second, 689 cwt,; for the third, 1,064 cwt. In 1869, though the importation fell off a little in quantity, it reached the large amount of 820 cwt. Taking the average of the four years, more than 850 cwt., or 42 tons, had been imported annually, and he might add that this fact was not likely to be contradicted, because he had obtained the Return from the Customs. Certainly there was a missing link in his statement, and he was obliged to an hon. Friend of his who, when he sat down, remarked—"You have shown that so much cocculus Indicus has been imported, but you have not shown that it has been used in the adulteration of beer." Well, he had written to Dr. Letheby, with whom he had no personal acquaintance, to ask him his opinion as to how much of the cocculus Indicus was used in adulterating beer, and how much was used as medicine. The reply was— With respect to the question you have put as to the use of cocculus Indicus in medicine, I believe that little or none of it is ever used medicinally, there being only an ointment of it; but that the whole of the 850 cwt., annually imported on an average during the last four years, is used for the adulteration of beer and porter. There is a class of persons, colled brewers' druggists, who regularly deal in the article, and there are many books, called 'Guides to Publicans,' which give explicit instructions for the use of it. But the chief adulterators of beer are the publicans, who convert two butts of beer into three by the aid of the brewers' druggists, who supply them with liquorice, spruce, and cocculus Indicus. He did not think that in the debate of last year there was any difference of opinion among hon. Gentlemen as to the fact of there being adulteration; but in taking up the cudgels to defend the existing law hon. Members had used some of the most extraordinary arguments he had ever listened to. The ex-Member for Stafford (Mr. Pochin) said he thought that there was no harm in mixing alum with bread, because Professor Liebig had stated that the ordinary mixture of alum in bread, as practised in this country, was wholesome. The arguments used on that occasion went, in effect, to this—that there was, perhaps, considerable harm in poisoning people, but very little harm in cheating them; and as far as he could gather from his tone, the opinion of the President of the Board of Trade went very much to endorse that notion. The right hon. Gentleman said— My own impression with regard to this adulteration is that it arises from the very great, and perhaps inevitable, competition in business; and that, to a large extent, it is promoted by the ignorance of customers. As the ignorance of customers generally is diminishing, we may hope that before long the adulteration of food may also diminish."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 729.] He did not quote those words for the purpose of taunting the right hon. Gentleman, who, unfortunately, was absent from his place, and whose absence from it was a great loss; but he thought it necessary to make the quotation, because the right hon. Gentleman spoke as the head of a great Department, and as his words had never been contradicted by any Member of the Government, they must be taken as expressing the maturely-formed opinion of the Government. And what did that opinion amount to? Why this—that the Government thought themselves perfectly excused from protecting ignorant customers against fraud. But that doctrine, if carried out to its full extent, would lead to the disbanding of the police and the handing over of the subjects of Her Majesty to the tender mercies of burglars, garrotters, and assassins. Who were the ignorant customers whom the right hon. Gentleman thought had no title to protection? Were they the rich, brought up in the lap of luxury, to know good food from bad; or were they the poor—the artizan, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, or the widow, content if only she could give a bit of unadulterated bread, a cup of pure milk, or a glass of wholesome beer to her large and perhaps suffering family? He laid great stress on the statement of the right hon. Gentleman because he thought it important that it should be answered. There was a very large class of persons, both in and out of the House, who attached great weight to any statement proceeding from such an influential authority, and they therefore believed that there was really very little harm in mixing ingredients with food provided they were not poisonous. Against that assumption he must protest to the utmost of his power. The practice of harmless adulteration, as it was called, like the use of false weights and measures, was neither more nor less than picking people's pockets, and the punishment that was awarded to the one should be awarded to the other. But was this so-called harmless adulteration really harmless? He had endeavoured to show how extensively beer was adulterated, and his statements upon that point were fully supported by the Reports of the Committee of that House which had sat to inquire into the subject, and of the Commissioners of the Board of Inland Revenue, and also by every speaker who had spoken upon this subject, from the Bishop of Exeter down to the poor labourer whom he had quoted last year as giving his evidence before the Malt Tax Committee. Again, the adulteration of tea had specially attracted the attention of the public during the last two or three months, and the following extract had appeared in the columns of a daily newspaper:— A decided gloom has come over our tea tables since the revelations made by Dr. Letheby regarding the 260 chests of Moning Congou of which six only were seized. The remainder were very quickly shuffled off between the wharfingers and the consignees, and curiosity anxiously speculates as to what they will do with it, seeing that the article is all made up of filthy débris mixed with the droppings of animals and all the mess of a Chinese gutter. But worse remains to be learned. The pensive public is informed by a trade newspaper that thousands of pounds of so-called 'tea' are annually sold at Mincing Lane, compared to which 'Moning' is really a superior sample. The commodity is proffered under the names of scented caper, gunpowder, and siftings, and consists of a very small proportion of the genuine leaf, the rest of the bulk being made up with silk worms excrement, warehouse dust, dirt of various kinds, and a solution of gum. This delightful compound sells to the retail dealer at 6d. per pound, and pays a duty as 'China mixture.' And, in adjudicating upon this case, on the 21st of March following, at the police court, Alderman Stone said— The preponderance of evidence as to the tea being unsound, unwholesome, and unfit for human food, was in favour of the complainant, and he should make the order for its destruction, but would restrain its operation until an appeal had been made to the Court of Queen's Bench, and the decision of that Court was known. And in the meantime Her Majesty's subjects were being cheated and poisoned to any extent. Then, as to butter—and here he must apologize for entering into these details; but he felt bound to do so, in order to meet the assertion that those who attempted to prove the existence of adulteration were guilty of extravagance, and that adulteration only extended to mixed pickles; they all had read an astonishing story in the newspapers of butter being manufactured to a large extent from Thames mud. He did not answer for the truth of that statement, and he hoped that the thing was not only improbable but impossible, and that the only foundation for the story was to be found in the imagination of the writer; but it was beyond dispute that butter was adulterated with large quantities of salt, water, and rancid fat. Sugar, again, was adulterated with sand—not, perhaps, so much in the West as in the East-end of London. And, lastly, he came to milk, the adulteration of which, no doubt, would be called harmless, mixed as it was with large quantities of water. Dr. Hassall and Professor Voelcker both characterized the milk sold in London "as a fraud of the gravest description;" and Dr. Letheby said, in a Report to the City Commissioners of Sewers, that "while a gallon of good milk contains about 9,400 grains of solid nutriment, the poor milk of London furnishes only from 6,800 to 7,000 grains of it," And upon whom did the loss arising from this so-called harmless adulteration fall? Why, it fell principally upon the old, the feeble, the poor, and the sick. He asked whether such a state of things was not fraught with the greatest mischief, and the question was—how was this great evil, the existence of which had been amply proved, to be met? He asserted that the mischief could only be properly dealt with by the Government taking up the subject, and by their bringing in a Bill to put a stop to adulteration. It had been said to him in private—"Oh, if you have these ideas upon the subject of adulteration, why don't you frame a Bill yourself, and endeavour to carry it through Parliament?" His answer to that observation was, that such an attempt had been made more than once, and had signally failed. Mr. Scholefield, who had taken great interest in the subject, had moved for and obtained a Committee to inquire into the extent of adulteration, and had subsequently twice brought in a Bill dealing with the question, which had been so mutilated before it passed that it was utterly worthless. Two hon. Members for Birmingham, one after the other, with praiseworthy diligence and energy, had also endeavoured to carry a Bill upon this subject through Parliament; but their Bills had never obtained a second reading, chiefly owing to the fact that every difficulty had been placed in their way, but also because Government had always thrown a wet blanket upon their attempts. Under these circumstances it was imperative that the Government should take up the matter. Of course, as an individual, he had formed an opinion as to how the evil should be met, and he had not the slightest objection to place his lucubrations, such as they were, at the disposal of the Government. In his opinion the amendments of the present law that were necessary were as follows:—First, the Bill should be compulsory and not permissive. The local authorities should be required to appoint, according to population and area, a sufficient number of inspectors of food, drink, and drugs exposed for sale, as well as a proportionate number of medical and chemical analysts. Secondly, there should also be a chief analyst appointed by the Board of Trade, to whom the dealer should be allowed to appeal, in ease of his feeling aggrieved by the report of the analysts appointed by the local authorities, and whose report should be final and conclusive. Thirdly, the local authorities should be required to take the necessary legal proceedings on the report of the local analyst, or in case of appeal, on the report of the chief analyst. Fourthly, provision should be made for the prevention of the sale of unsound, unwholesome, or adulterated food or drink and drugs at wholesale houses or by brokers, for, at the present time, the matter could not be dealt with. Then, as to the penalties to be inflicted upon the delinquents who might be convicted of breaking the law, Parliament could not do better than follow the example that had been set them by our ancestors. He did not say that he wished the pillory and flogging at the cart's tail to be reverted to; but still the principle contained in those punishments was the only true remedy for the offence. In the Assisa Panis, as set forth in the Liber Albus, it was laid down— If any default shall be found in the bread of a baker in the city, the first time let him be drawn upon a, hurdle from the Guildhall to his own house through the great streets where there be most people assembled, and through the great streets which are most dirty, with the faulty loaf hanging from his neck; if a second time he shall be found committing the same offence, let him be drawn from the Guildhall through the great street of Chepe in manner aforesaid to the pillory, and let him be put upon the pillory, and remain there at least one hour in the day; and the third time that such default shall be found, he shall be drawn, and the oven shall be pulled down, and the baker made to forswear the trade within the city for ever. A like punishment was awarded to butchers and vintners for fraudulent dealings; for it was stated that a butcher was paraded through the streets with his face to the horse's tail for selling measly bacon at market, and the next day he was set in the pillory with two great pieces of his measly bacon over his head, and a writing which set forth his crimes. And he believed the publication of the offence, as well as fine and imprisonment, to be the true punishment for its commission. The ancient punishments for the offence were therefore, in his opinion, severe, but in principle wise. Having said this much, he would leave his case in the hands of the House, feeling perfectly sure that they would do justice to it. No doubt, he should be told that there were many difficulties in the way of legislating upon this subject; but, with the enormous majority at the back of the Government, they need not be afraid of any difficulties which they might have to encounter. At all events, the Government might depend upon the support of his side of the House if they undertook the matter; and surely the most powerful Government since the days of Sir Robert Peel should not shrink from dealing with it. He also asked for the support of those who represented "working - class constituencies." The question peculiarly touched the interest of the labouring population. The rich could command the market; but the poor were too often tied by the bonds of debt to the tradesman around them. He had been told that a measure such as he had described would work badly in the interests of trade. He, however, was of a contrary opinion, for people would only be too glad to leave co-operative societies for the tradespeople who resided in their neighbourhood, when they were sure of getting unadulterated articles and full weight at cheap rates. One reason why action should be taken in this matter was, that the reputation of the country for honesty since the unfortunate crisis of 1866 had materially suffered abroad. It was not surprising that foreigners smiled at our setting up a peculiar claim for honesty when adulteration and the use of false weights were widespread throughout the land, and the law was such that, instead of punishing such offences, it rather encouraged their commission. He would not ask the Government to bring in a Bill on the subject this Session; but he expected some definite declaration from them—some pledge of action in the future. He should be sorry to speak in a menacing way, for his purpose was rather to entreat, nay to implore, the Government to take the matter into their consideration; but if he was unfortunately forced to divide, by the unsatisfactory answer he might receive from the Treasury Bench, he trusted independent Members would accompany him in the Lobby, and give distinct proof that they at least were the true friends of the labouring classes. He concluded by moving the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper.


said, he rose to second the Motion with much pleasure, but, he must acknowledge, without much hope. The present Home Secretary was not the first, and he feared would not be the last Minister to whom he should have to appeal on this subject. The efforts he had made to bring about an Amendment of the Law had reminded him of one striking a feather bed. He had already brought the question to the notice of three different Ministries. On the last occasion, in 1868, he had appealed to his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Cave), then Vice President of the Board of Trade, who promised to have the suggestions he then laid before him considered by the Standards Commission; but it did not appear from the very able Report of the Commissioners that they had dealt with the matter. They had contented themselves with abolishing Troy weight, but had not touched the larger question. The noble Lord (Lord Eustace Cecil) had so fully canvassed the subject of adulteration that he proposed to confine himself to the question of weights and measures. The state of the law was eminently unsatisfactory. When he first entered the House he found that the convictions for using false weights and measures in his own borough of Lambeth presented a high average—as high as five to one as compared with North London. He had inquired into this startling difference, and the explanation given to him was that in Lambeth the inspectors were appointed by the magistrates of Surrey, and paid in part by fees upon procuring convictions, while in the north of London a different system prevailed. That system, he believed, was about 600 years old. The evidence of Mr. Gibb, the vestry clerk of St. Pancras, in 1869, was, that in St. Pancras the vestrymen selected by lot 160 ratepayers, arbitrarily selected by their position on the rate-book, from whom they chose 63 to act on the leet jury, or annoyance jury, whose duty it was to examine the weights and measures. One-fourth of these jurymen were shopkeepers, liable to inspection themselves. The persons appointed as jurors divided themselves into four bodies, and marched round the parish in company with a beadle, who carried the standards of weights and measures, and the result of their labours sufficiently proved the unsatisfactory state of the law. In St. Pancras there were no convictions during a period in which there were 165 in Newington. It was intended that the Act passed in 1835, which enabled magistrates in quarter sessions to appoint proper inspectors, should be applicable to the whole country; but, unfortunately, by the last section the jurisdiction of the old Courts Leet was maintained. It would not, he thought, be too much to ask the Government, even with the largo amount of business they already had on their hands, to introduce a short measure abolishing the Courts Leet, and authorizing the magistrates in all parts of the country to appoint inspectors, and see that the inspection was properly carried out. On the general question he agreed with the noble Lord, that the only thing required to cure this public scandal was real publicity, and two years ago he suggested to his right hon. Friend opposite that it was in the power of the Government to give that publicity at once. There was nothing which fraudulent shopkeepers dreaded so much as publicity. In proof of this assertion, he would remark, that although the local Acts, applicable to St. Pancras and other northern parishes, contained a special clause enabling them to publish returns of the convictions, they hardly ever availed themselves of that power. It might, perhaps, be said, that the insertion of such returns in the ordinary newspapers might damage the proprietors. He, therefore, suggested that the Government should publish in the London Gazette the names of all persons convicted of using fraudulent weights and measures, and fined a certain amount—say £1 or upwards. He would further suggest that something like the French system should be adopted, and that a mark should be placed upon or near the premises of convicted persons for a fixed term. Such a system, he believed, might be at once carried out by the Government without getting an Act of Parliament passed. At present notices were put up in the streets with reference to cabs, postal arrangements, and other matters; and if the Government caused to be put up in each parish a board, to be called the "Rogue's Board," with a list of convicted tradesmen, these abominable practices would be almost entirely suppressed. We could not now revert to the old punishment of the pillory; but the modern pillory must be publicity of the kind he had described. He had great pleasure in seconding the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that the present state of the Law as regards the use of False Weights and Measures, and the prevention and punishing of adulteration of Food, Drink, and Drugs, is most unsatisfactory, and demands the early attention of Her Majesty's Government,"—(Lord Eustace Cecil,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.


said, the Motion divided itself into two parts—the first relating to the use of false weights and measures, and the second to the adulteration of food, drink, and drugs. The first of these subjects had been investigated by the Commission, which had not yet presented their final Report, although the evidence had been published; and in their Third Report they promised to consider the defects of the existing law and to suggest remedies for those defects. Now, he was informed that, although their final Report had not yet been pub- lished, they had fulfilled their promise, and had made recommendations for the amendment of the law. He readily admitted that the law was extremely defective. When Notice was given by the noble Lord (Lord Eustace Cecil) of the present Motion, he caused an independent inquiry to be instituted into the working of the law, and thus discovered many defects which must be removed. He believed he was not anticipating improperly the Report of the Commissioners, by saying that one point they specially dealt with was the necessity so strongly insisted upon by the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes) of doing away with the absurd, antiquated, and useless jurisdiction still retained in some parishes in London. He believed the noble Lord would say that he had, like the deity of old, "granted but half his prayer;" but he trusted he would not add "the rest dispersed in empty air." With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member that the Government might carry out some such scheme as he shadowed forth, he would remark that although, with regard to great political measures like the Irish Land Bill, the Government could successfully appeal to the loyal attachment of their own party, yet, on questions like the present, independent Members would scarcely be inclined to waive their own opinions as to the remedy to be provided, and a proposal to cover the country with inspectors, to inquire into the proceedings in every shop, would somewhat try the attachment of many followers of the Government. However, he frankly admitted that there did exist a very considerable evil. While making this admission, he would say, without complaining of the use his noble Friend made of the speech of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, that the noble Lord's remarks on that speech rather tended to mislead the House as to the right hon. Gentleman's meaning. His right hon. Friend did not deny that adulteration, even though it might not be noxious and poisonous, was a fraud which ought to be punished; but he said in mitigation of the evil that what was deficient in quality was sometimes compensated by the lowness of the price. The noble Lord had stated that milk was adulterated with water in the proportion of 6½ to 9. He was delighted to hear that the evil was so much less than he anticipated. But supposing the milk were supplied pure, there could be no doubt that the price would be higher than at present, and if the pathetic appeal of Liston to the milkwoman—to put his milk in one cup and the water in another—had been successful, there was no doubt that he would have had to pay as much for the small quantity of milk as he had before paid for the milk and water mixed together. He (Mr. Bruce) was not there, however, to defend any adulteration whether noxious or otherwise. In his opinion it was a very grave offence, and analogous to obtaining goods under false pretences. A man who sold a 3½ lb. loaf for a 4lb. loaf obtained money by a false pretence, and the same applied to one who sold as genuine a spurious article. This evil prevailed widely, and that the remedies hitherto applied were inadequate he freely admitted. This might be owing to the defects in our legislation on the subject, and his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) had brought forward a measure providing that every local body in the country should be compelled to employ an analyst. He confessed he did not see how the difficulty could be effectually grappled with except by the diligence of officials, whose duties it should be to inquire into these cases and to examine into all complaints which might be made to them. If his hon. Friend had pressed his Bill it would, no doubt, have received a candid consideration from the House. Here he might remark that the Government were not open to the charge made by the noble Lord that they cast impediments in the way of legislation by private Members. A very large proportion of the time of the House was in the hands of private Members, and these questions could be well dealt with by them. The Government had given the Bill of his hon. Friend (Mr. Muntz) every consideration, and were prepared to afford him every facility for proceeding with it next Session. He (Mr. Bruce) was not prepared, like the noble Lord, to sketch out the remedies. He was, however, prepared to admit the evil, and would undertake to give the matter his best consideration. The question of weights and measures had been referred to a Committee, and that Committee had made certain recommendations, which he hoped to be able soon—in all proba- bility next Session—to embody in a Bill. With respect to the other portion of the Question, he could not pledge himself to introduce a measure, the provisions of which he had not sufficiently considered; yet admitting, as he did, the evils which existed, it would, of course, be his duty to endeavour to provide a remedy.


as the only member of the Royal Commission on Standards who was also a Member of the House, would like to say a few words on this subject. He thought the noble Lord (Lord Eustace Cecil) had done excellent service in bringing the question before the House. It was one which required frequent and special attention from those who professed to legislate for the good of the people, especially for those in the lower grades of the social scale. What could be more inconsistent for them than to remove political disabilities, to insist upon education, to lay down strict rules as to the habitations of the people, to regulate the number of cubic feet of air which are to pass through their lungs, to insist upon the duty of landowners to provide fit and proper habitations for the labouring class, and yet to allow them, year after year, to be the victims of the grossest frauds—frauds which not only robbed them of a portion of that scanty food which too many had so much difficulty in procuring, but worse than that, frauds which, together with reduced quantity, gave them quality so bad that the food failed to afford them that nourishment so essential to enable them to perform their daily work? And even worse than that, which substituted for the wholesome stimulant—the refreshing beverage, compounds so noxious that a man who intended to do no more than take that moderate amount which persons in his position could do with impunity and advantage, was so overpowered by the poisonous drugs with which his liquor was adulterated that he proceeded to excesses which caused more than half the crimes of violence in the country, and excused the strong language of those philanthropic people inside and outside the House, who had proclaimed a crusade against the use of fermented liquors, which might be directed with more justice and better chance of success against the sale of these abominable poisons. He thought it was Sydney Smith who gave in former days an amusing catalogue of the taxable articles, from the materials of the cradle to those of the coffin, which a man was compelled to use during his passage through life; and, a few days ago, he saw in an American paper a similar estimate of the additional cost imposed upon almost every article of dress and use by the heavy duties of the United States. But those were taxes most part of which, at any rate, went to meet the exigencies of the State, and were, moreover, imposed on all alike; whereas these frauds, of which his noble Friend had given instances, had the great vice of protective duties—namely, that they went, not into the Exchequer, but into the pockets of individuals, and fell, moreover, almost exclusively on those classes which were least able to bear them. They heard a great deal in those days of the free breakfast table, and of the pressure of indirect taxation on the working classes. He wished the working classes were a little more alive to the amount of taxation levied upon them by some of the most violent declaimers in the cause of what was called financial reform in the shape of short quantity and bad quality. They heard, from time to time, denunciations of the extravagance of Governments, and elaborate calculations of the deduction from the wages of the labourer and artizan for useless pageants and bloated armaments. He should like to see a similar table of deductions from their wages by means of short weights and measures, by unwholesome meat and milk, adulterated bread, sugar mixed with potato flour and worse things, tea literally marts expers; besides the enormous cost to individuals and to the ratepayers on account of the intoxication, and crimes, the result of intoxication, caused by the sale of beer mixed with deleterious drugs. He saw, himself, a few days ago in a bye street, the driver of a coal cart diligently watering the sacks of coal or coke to increase their weight. Bread, the chief necessary of life, was perhaps most tampered with. One could hardly take up a local newspaper without seeing convictions for short weight. Latterly, there had been prosecutions for adulteration of bread, chiefly with alum, which was said, by the medical men who gave evidence, to be unwholesome and indigestible. In the Food Journal was an account of a sample of sugar received from Cheltenham— So fearfully adulterated (to use the words of the journal) with chromate of lead, that we wonder how the unfortunate partakers of it survived to tell the tale. It seemed to have been used to improve the colour of inferior sugar. Chromate of lead was also used in confectionery; and, for the satisfaction of those who liked such things, he might say that, in one of the cases before the Bench of magistrates, witnesses for the defence declared that cakes and buns could not be made without it. Alum was also used in cheap wines to give dryness and fix the colour. With regard to milk and cream, a paper published by the Royal Agricultural Society last year, stated that not only was the adulteration with water from 30 to 50 per cent, but the measures were 25 per cent short. And in that, as well as other cases, one of the worst consequences of the system was, that the whole trade became demoralized, and the man who wished to be a fair dealer declared that he was obliged to follow suit, otherwise he could not live. Well, then, the question was—"Is the law in fault, and, if so, how can it be amended?" He might say here that the Standards Commission had been considering this subject very carefully, and their Report, which would shortly be issued, went very fully into the question, especially that portion of it which related to fraudulent and incorrect weights and measures. He would remind his hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), who appeared very impatient in this matter, that he did not allow him to remain in Office long enough to give effect to his suggestions: and as to the Report of the Commissioners, his hon. Friend had only read their third Report; but if he waited till their fourth Report was in his hands, which would be in a few days, he would find that there was no foundation for his charge of their having neglected these points. The question, indeed, would be found fully gone into in the forthcoming Report of the Commission. It would not be proper for him to forestall this Report. But he might make this observation, that when it was stated—and no doubt truly stated—that the number of convictions for incorrect weights was not large, and that of these only a small proportion, variously stated at from 8 to 25 per cent of the whole, are for practices positively fraudulent, yet it must be remembered that, as had been accurately stated by the hon. Member for Frome, the inspection was carried on in many places in a wholly unsatisfactory manner, and this also should be borne in mind—namely, that the worst cases of fraud were not committed by means of false weights and measures—which were tolerably easy of detection, but by using correct weights and measures in a fraudulent way. The Irish law provided for those cases, and in certain instances inflicted imprisonment. In England there was no such provision, though in a few cases lately magistrates had convicted and imprisoned offenders of this class under the charge of obtaining money under false pretences. That, however, notwithstanding what had just been said by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, was generally considered to be somewhat straining the law. No doubt in all such cases a public inspector and prosecutor was requisite, with power to deal with such frauds. The poor who bought small packages of sugar and other commodities on a Saturday night in a crowded shop were great losers by these malpractices. The packets were already weighed and placed in readiness on the counter, and the buyers had no means of checking the weight, and even if they had, they had no money to prosecute, and being generally in debt to the shop, dared not complain. Consequently, Mr. Scholefield's Act was almost wholly inoperative, as he had ventured to predict it would be when it was passing through the House. Then, again, punishment by fine was in most cases inadequate. Imprisonment had lately been inflicted with excellent effect in the case of sellers of diseased meat, and the publication of the names of offenders, either according to the French system by a placard, like those detailing offences against decency and order, which were suspended on the park gates and in railway stations, or in the newspapers, as was done in some metropolitan parishes, would act as a most wholesome check to fraudulent tradesmen. But, then, on the other hand, care must be taken that these are real cases of fraud. He must say that tradesmen had reason to complain of the indiscriminate administration of the law in many cases; and he thought that magistrates should dismiss many of the trivial cases on which they now convicted, for to punish a man for incorrect weights when the error was against himself was manifestly absurd. Again, small traders complained that purchasers would insist upon the "turn of the scale," as it was called, and, therefore, tradesmen were obliged to counter-balance that by a draught in their favour, just as when some extra-punctual Paterfamilias kept all his clocks five minutes in advance, in which case, of course, his household soon found it out, and allowed for it, and more besides. Small tradesmen also said, with less justice, that their bad debts were so many that they must protect themselves by giving short weight or lowered quality. That, however, would scarcely apply to such cases as the pint of ale, just filling half a tumbler, at which hon. Members would probably grumble next week at Epsom. There were, however, some purchasers who, by their own proceedings, did much to cause, and almost justify, fraud. He had spoken of the "turn of the scale," and he had heard, too, that tenders for supplying milk at 2d. a quart had been accepted by Boards of Guardians—a price at which genuine milk could not possibly be sold. He did not know whether his noble Friend intended to take a Division or not. In the prospect of the speedy publication of the Report of the Commission he should hardly advise him to do so, though he should certainly support him; because he thought he (Mr. Cave) had said enough to show that there could be no doubt of the absolute truth of his proposition, and of the existence of practices highly injurious to the poor, and discreditable to a large number of the trading classes—practices which, in the interest of the humble purchaser, as well as the honest seller, it was incumbent on the Government to abate by every means in its power.


said, he was glad to hear that the Government had given consideration to his Bill, which he would take care to reintroduce early next Session. The first question was that of weights and measures. The people had to complain, not only of false weights and measures, but also of the variety of weights and measures. They had Avoirdupois weight and Troy weight, and Apothecaries weight, and Long weight and Short weight, and he did not know how many other weights. It was impossible that the working classes should understand all these weights and mea- sures. In addition to that, a bag of wheat in some counties contained three bushels, and in others four; and in one county a bushel contained 60 lbs., and in another 70 lbs. It seemed to him that, in a civilized country, the people might surely agree upon some definite standard, and he could not see any reason why the French system should not be adopted. The question of adulteration, however, was a much more serious one than many hon. Members might be disposed to believe, for it was not only a matter of cheating, but in some cases one of life or death. He told the House, in moving the second reading of the Bill which he had now withdrawn, that two-thirds of the people were plundered and one-third poisoned; but he found he had understated the case, and that he should have said all were plundered and two-thirds of them poisoned. All of the latter class might not die; but in many cases a very injurious effect was produced upon them by the poisonous ingredients which they consumed. This was essentially a poor man's question, for the wealthier classes could take care of themselves, as they had the power of dealing with whom they pleased; but the poor were compelled to deal with those to whom they owed money, the greater number of them being in debt. In towns the matter was bad, but in agricultural districts the matter was worse. He had heard it said that the working classes ought not to be in debt, and should lay by something to provide for a rainy day; but did hon. Members ever think what it was to have to keep a wife and three or four children on 10s. or 12s. per week? How could they save any money to meet the emergencies to which they were liable? As to adulteration, he found it stated in The Lancet that an examination was lately made of articles purchased at shops in London. Taking the article of coffee, that purchased at the West-end shops was pure; but out of samples from 27 shops at the East-end, 23 contained only 25 per cent of coffee, the rest being composed of equal parts of beans, crusts of bread, and brick dust. A similar article was sold in the poorer quarters of Paris, and French medical men said that wherever gastric fever prevailed they could trace the sale of that most deleterious mixture. When he was engaged in commerce some years ago, a traveller in the drug trade called at his office and left a price list. Being asked about discount he said that there was none allowed in London, but 25 per cent was allowed to country dealers and 50 per cent for export. The purity of the article was according to the price, so that a physician in Australia would have to prescribe eight grains to produce a result equal to four grains given in London or six in the country towns. A friend of his made an analysis of blue pills he had purchased. Of late years blue pills had become fashionable amongst the working classes, and it might surprise hon. Members to hear that many of the blue pills which were sold in the poorer districts were made of slate filings and blue clay. He came now to the question of beer, which was most important. It appeared that the Shropshire magistrates of quarter sessions, with Sir Baldwin Leighton as chairman, appointed a committee to inquire into the causes of the increase of drunkenness, to which their attention had been turned. That committee reported that there could be no doubt whatever that many cases of drunkenness, of assault, and of other offences of a kindred nature arose, to a considerable extent, not from the quantity, but the quality of the malt liquors consumed, and that the so-called drunkard, who was brought up for punishment, often owed his degradation not so much to his intemperate habits as to the misconduct of others, who most richly deserved the penalties of the law. They added that the ingredients used in brewing malt liquor were malt and hops; that any foreign matter found in it should be proof of adulteration; and that it was well known that cocculus lndicus was frequently used. But the wealthier classes had also their share of the poisoning; for instance, it was notorious that verdigris was used in pickles. That was an old-fashioned story, but he would give them an approved mixture for port wine—45 gallons of rough cider, six gallons of brandy, tincture of logwood sufficient to colour, and three gallons of decoction of sloes. He heard that in the month of February last a baker in Cardiff was summoned, under Mr. Scholefield's Act, for making bread, not with alum but with plaster of Paris; he was convicted, and fined £5. He threw down the money on the table, saying that a week would make it up again. Now, if that gentleman, instead of living in Wales, had lived on the banks of the Euphrates he would have been nailed by the ear to his own door-post until the going down of the sun. What was wanted was a good system of inspection and analysis, and a stringent enforcement of severe laws against adulteration. The difficulty in dealing with this matter was not so enormous that it could not be met by Her Majesty's Government. We had a whole network of Excise officers all over the country; they had plenty of time, and if instructed to act now and then they would be able to cope with the difficulty. In Paris alone there were 60 men employed in going around constantly examining the various articles sold, and if a person was convicted they did not insert his name in The Gazette which his poor customers were never likely to see, but they put up "adulterated" on a board in his shop, and if he took the board away a policeman was placed there for a month at his expense. That was what we wanted here, and with all his love for liberty he would like to see a little of Imperialism in this country in reference to this subject. This might be called a social evil. Medical men assured him that cocculus Indicus, which was much used in adulteration, very often seriously affected the brain and spine. He trusted the matter would receive the attention of the Government, and that hon. Gentlemen would be found in that House to bring the subject forward until it should. He had found by experience that the only way to get anything done was by importunity, and as the widow obtained all she wanted by importunity, so the House would get in the same way whatever they required from Her Majesty's Government to put an end to this system.


said, that though he fully agreed with the first part of his noble Friend's (Lord Eustace Cecil's) Motion, and admitted that the state of the law was most unsatisfactory, yet, in the concluding portion, which called upon the Government to give their early attention to the subject, if that meant immediate legislation, he could not concur. The Royal Commission, which was engaged in consolidating all the sanitary laws, of which he was Chairman, had not yet reported, and if the Government were to attempt to deal with the question now, they would probably by-and-by have to legislate on it over again. The second part of the subject was one essentially for the local authorities of the country, and not the Imperial Government to carry out. If they were of opinion that the local authorities all over the country should deal with the matter, Parliament would find absolutely nothing to be done but to alter the word "may" in the existing law into "must," and the Act of 1860 would be perfectly adequate to the requirements of the case. The Act of 1860 empowered all vestries and district Boards in the metropolis, the courts of quarter sessions in the country, and the town councils in boroughs to appoint analysts to analyze suspected food—and any person might bring it to be analyzed—to fine the guilty, and to publish their names after a second conviction. Therefore, every possible provision was made, if the word "may" were only turned into "must." The Sanitary Act of 1866 also made it the duty of the inspectors of nuisances, not only to examine suspected food, but to enter premises where it was likely to be found; and, if any were found unfit for consumption, to destroy it. The Pharmacy Act for registering the sale of poisons gave considerable control over those who sold such things as cocculus Indicus. From the evidence taken before the Commission, it appeared that wherever the analysts had made use of their powers, the adulteration of food rapidly diminished. Under these circumstances, he should be sorry if the Government were prematurely to undertake to pass a measure on the subject, for this simple reason, that it might only complicate the law.


said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was averse to immediate legislation, and yet he appeared desirous of having it, for he had. stated that all that was required was to change "may" in the Act of 1860 into "must." If the Secretary of State for the Home Department were to introduce that change, he would make the Act of Mr. Scholefield operative where it was now a dead letter. He disliked permissive measures, believing they were never effective; and he had never voted for one of them in his life. Nobody was desirous of putting the Act of 1860 into execution, because, in the first place, it was very expensive to do so. The Government might legislate with perfect ease on the whole subject, and place in the hand of the magistrates the powers now exercised by leet juries. A Bill of two short clauses might dispose of the entire question, and it might pass both Houses in as many minutes. Education was, no doubt, a most excellent thing; but the body and mind might be reduced by bad food to such a state as to be incapable of benefiting by education. Therefore, he would suggest that, before pressing on the Education Bill, the Government should put the children of the country into a fit condition to derive advantage from it.


said, he wished to call attention to the strong language embodied in the Report of the Committee, of which lie had been a member, on the subject. He deplored the fact that the only result of that Committee had been the passing of a Permissive Bill by the Government, which was practically a dead letter. He certainly thought that when hon. Gentlemen had devoted so much time and labour to a question of such importance to the community at large, more attention ought to be paid to their recommendations. He agreed with the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), that two clauses effectively drawn would accomplish the object they had in view. He might be asked—"Then why do you not bring in a Bill?" To this, he must reply, that were he to do so, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would immediately, in all probability, cut it to pieces, on the ground that it would in some way affect the Revenue.


said, no one could deplore the adulteration of food more than respectable tradesmen did. He believed, from his experience as a magistrate, that the question of false weights might be easily dealt with by the Government; but the subject of adulteration could not be dealt with so easily, because the first question was what was adulteration? There were, for instance, various classes of sugar, paying different rates of duty. If the first class, paying the highest duty, was pure sugar, all the others, paying less duty, must necessarily be more or less adulterated—or rather there must be less saccharine matter in them. He had no hesitation in saying that tea was an article very little adulterated, and of that adulteration not 1 per cent of the adulteration occurred in this country. With regard to sugar a highly respectable tradesman had recently suffered much in consequence of a parcel sent by him to one of the workhouses being pronounced adulterated. Immediately on his being informed of the fact he obtained another sample from, the docks, and after considerable trouble and expense he satisfactorily proved that the sugar he had supplied was in precisely the same state as when it was brought into this country. It was hard that if the Government called that article sugar, and received duty for it as such before it left the docks, a respectable tradesman should be taken before a police-court on a charge of adulteration, and put to an expense of £200 to clear his character, as clear it the man did in the case to which he referred, but without obtaining any redress. He knew a case some years ago, when pepper was subject to a high duty, where an exciseman found in a ground sample some 8 or 9 per cent of foreign matter—wood and meal mixed in. The tradesman, who was fined £100 for such offence by the Commissioners, came to him for advice. On their going to the docks they were fortunate enough to find some of the same bulk remaining, and a package being obtained and carefully analyzed, it was found to contain exactly the same proportion of foreign material as the pepper which the officer had discovered to be adulterated. Under the circumstances the Excise did not enforce the penalty; but the tradesman was put to a great expense, and if he had not been a man in good circumstances his character must have suffered. The Government, he thought, ought not to receive duty on goods, and allow them to go out of the docks, if they were not satisfied that the articles were fit for human consumption, and as a practical man, he asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he brought in a Bill on that subject next Session, to take that point into his consideration.


said, it was a mistake to suppose that beer was almost universally adulterated. He repudiated the notion on the part of the brewers, and he firmly believed, after a very long experience, there was not one in a hundred publicans—he thought he might add not one in a thousand—who ever adulterated. It was next to impossible to adulterate ale without its being detected, and as to the use of cocculus Indicus it was all a mistake. He brewed 2,000 barrels of ale daily, and he appealed to the hon. Member (Lord Eustace Cecil) to say how it was possible for him to cart sufficient cocculus Indicus to his premises to adulterate that quantity of ale without detection. It was, in fact, a joke. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ms Budget speech referred to what he had been told about turning the New River into the beer cask. It was quite possible the flavour of the New River water might improve the beer; but he did not believe a word the right hon. Gentleman was told upon that subject. The right hon. Gentleman went even beyond that, and said that if a tax on beer was substituted for the malt duty brewers would brew the strongest possible beer, export it, make four barrels out of one, and cheat the Revenue to an unheard-of extent; but the thing was absurd. The Excise officers could tell almost to a grain of malt how much was put into a barrel of beer. Speaking on behalf of the body with which he was connected he had no hesitation in saying that in the event of any measure being adopted by Parliament which would diminish adulteration of every description, he was convinced that no class would derive so much advantage from such a measure as the respectable publicans of this country.


said, he would beg leave to withdraw his Amendment. He did so because it seemed to be the opinion of the House that a monstrous evil in the way of adulteration did exist, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department had promised to consider the subject.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.